Written by Jenni Davies
Photography by Lindsay Young
Four-week-old Toby and his three siblings were dumped on the doorstep of a veterinary practice one chilly night in October 2017. Cindy Washington, who fosters kittens for Capetonians Against Animal Abuse, received the call for help and rushed out to fetch the little orphans and took them home to foster.
On getting them home, it soon became apparent that the kittens weren’t well at all. Aside from being dehydrated, they had severe diarrhoea. It was so bad that one of the kittens passed away while the other three fought for their lives. One of the smallest kittens, a grey tabby named Toby, was particularly badly affected.
The kittens were treated with antibiotics, immune support supplements and probiotics and, slowly but surely, they showed signs of improvement.
But Toby was slower to respond and, just as his tummy was starting to settle, he went down with snuffles.
The snuffles hit him hard
With his immune system compromised by his bout with diarrhoea, the snuffles hit him hard. The vet treated him with another antibiotic and immune boosters but still Toby struggled to stay ahead.
The tiny kitten’s nose was blocked and his eyes were constantly “glued” together from the amount of discharge; four times a day, Cindy gently bathed and cleaned his eyes and applied protective eye ointment. He also didn’t really want to eat and his stripy coat was rough and scruffy. All in all, Toby was a sad sight.
But, rather than being miserable, Toby’s gorgeous personality shone through. He was always delighted to have company and cuddles; he was a really good-natured fellow and clearly had a strong will to survive.
Eventually, Toby turned the corner and his health began to improve steadily – he was stronger and more talkative. But his eyes still looked mucky and one of them appeared to be blind, a possible complication of severe snuffles.
By then “the squonky kitten”, as he’d been dubbed, had crept firmly into Cindy’s heart. So, when a visit to the vet for his check-up delivered drastic news, Cindy was heartbroken.
The vet diagnosed Toby as having a Munchkins deformity – his front legs bowed outwards like two brackets and he was much shorter than he should have been. Whether this was caused by genetics or malnutrition was unknown, but the chances of them improving were slim. Although he shouldn’t have trouble walking or jumping, it could make it harder to rehome him.
What’s more, his eye would need to be removed since it appeared to be completely blind. Fortunately, cats adjust very quickly to having only one eye, but it was still sad to accept.
Toby wasn’t yet strong enough to undergo surgery. He was given a month in which to improve and the op was scheduled for the end of January, health permitting. The vet asked Cindy to continue with his immune boosters and healthy food (and he received additional treats like extra lean mince, boiled chicken and steamed fish) until it was time to take him back.
In the month that followed, Toby absolutely flourished. He gained weight, his coat condition improved, and he was full of the joys of life. He absolutely loved people – the moment anyone came near his cage, he was up and looking for attention. He purred like a tractor, kneaded the ground with his crooked little paws, and was overjoyed at every drop of love that came his way.
To strengthen his front legs, Cindy encouraged him to climb up her trouser leg, and to play and pounce. He began interacting with the other foster kittens and loved having kitty company. The change in Toby, from terribly sick to happy and bouncy, was heart-warming.
Everyone who met him fell in love with this funny-looking “squonky kitten” with the unforgettable character. But a big question mark hung over his head: who would want to adopt a one-eyed, crooked-legged kitten who might need special care in future? Cindy decided that if nobody stepped forward, he would become a permanent family member.
A miracle for Toby
The end of January came quickly. Toby had become the most lovable, friendly, sociable and just plain amazing kitten around. He loved everybody and, promisingly, many people offered to adopt him. But first he had one more hurdle to overcome – the dreaded surgery which would leave him with only one eye.
He was checked in at the vet practice for his operation the following day. But the op didn’t happen. A check-up revealed that, rather than being blind in the eye, Toby actually appeared to have partial vision. Better yet, as the eyeball grows with age, there’s a good chance that, although he’ll never have 100% vision, his eyesight could improve and the blind spot could move down further, allowing him to see more through that eye. The result – no eye removal operation.
The cherry on top? The vet was amazed to see that his front legs had improved so much that they were almost normal; they were stronger and straighter. Toby had the official “all clear” to be adopted – or stay with Cindy.
He’s The One
Cindy had fallen in love with little Toby and longed to keep him, but, in the end, the decision was made that if someone special wanted to adopt Toby with his partial vision and not-quite-perfect front legs, then so be it.
Not long after, an amazing family – the Selliers – visited to adopt a kitten. Among the many others, they immediately decided that Toby was The One. And, so that he wouldn’t be lonely, they decided to adopt a black female kitten too.
One strict home check later, and Toby and Gobbolino found themselves in the lap of luxury. Toby has made great progress in making himself at home, and both kittens are very much loved. While this special squonky kitten will always have a place in Cindy’s heart, she couldn’t be happier that he’s found his very own happily ever after.
By Catherine Sellier, Toby’s mom
We are fortunate to have had cats and dogs as part of our life for 30 years.
Our darling Sweep went to sleep forever on the 30th of December 2017 and I said: “That’s it. No more pets.” But we soon realised that our home was too quiet without them. My sons, Patrick and Matthew, investigated and found Cindy. She, as we have come to discover, is the most special person – kitties are a huge part of her life and, more importantly, abandoned kitties.
On Sunday the 28th of January 2018, we visited Cindy’s home with the intention of adopting a new member of the Sellier family. What a home this amazing lady has, filled with cats and kittens. She took us to a large room at the back with many kittens and, as we walked in, Toby made his presence known. “Pick me. Pick me!” he said.
It was love at first sight.
Cindy was upfront about his problems but that only made him even more endearing. We absolutely adored him. We’ve always had at least two cats – they need a buddy to discuss things with. Cindy was fostering a number of other vulnerable little kitties. As we walked out, a gorgeous black kitten caught my eye. I’m a librarian and Gobbolino (The Witch’s Cat) looked at me and said, “You know I have to come home with you.” She just had to be a friend for Toby.
We were nervous about the home visit because we’d fallen in love – the thought of not bringing home these little babies was not worth thinking about. But there was no need for concern and, two days later, Patrick brought our new babies home.
A special kitten
Toby is the most special kitty we’ve ever had. His blindness is made up for by his hearing and he has more energy than any kitten we’ve ever owned. Matthew seems to be his favourite – when Matthew opens his bedroom door, Toby hears and bounds to see him, and today Toby sat outside the bathroom waiting for Matthew to come out. He even loves sitting on Matt’s head.
He is just the most incredible little guy. We’re looking forward to many years of love and happiness from Toby and his sidekick, Gobbolino.