Written by Deidre Terblanche and photography by Hilette Hatting
The last time I’d seen my little black-and-white cat, Tinkerbelle, was for breakfast on Saturday, 24 January (2015). We’d had workers in our yard all day; she’s very scared of them so we assumed she’d just decided to hide from them for a while. But it would be 10 days before we saw her again. Despite hunting high and low, knocking on doors, hunting through yards, leaving no stone unturned, there was no sign of Tinkerbelle. And then, on Monday, 2 February, it rained…
A meow in the dark
Because of the wet weather, I fed our dogs in a hardly used storage room at the back of our garden. While dishing up, I heard faint meowing; I called and heard it again. It sounded like the meowing came from either our ceiling or the next-door garage’s ceiling – a deserted, creepy property with no electricity that joins the storage room. The only way to get in and see what could be done was to break our ceiling open. This was terrifying, but, armed with candles, I did exactly that – only to find there was no cat there.
Because of all the commotion, the cries by now were pitiful and I was in a state of despair; I just wanted to help but couldn’t. I phoned my husband (who was out of town), told him what was happening and that I believed it could be Tinkerbelle. His reply was very worrying: “There’s a double wall between the two adjoining buildings – sometimes people don’t close the walls up but leave a small opening between. Don’t tell me she could be in there?” He explained that the only way was to break open the wall itself... Well, a few minutes later, with his instructions and good wishes ringing in my ears, I was as ready as I’d ever be.
I quickly called my friend, Linda Robson, and filled her in on my wall-breaking plan. I told her that, if she didn’t hear from me by 23h00, she must get a search party out! It was 21h10.
My first thought was to break down the wall from our side. While I was busy, Linda arrived. Worried about me, she’d decided to face her fears of dark, forsaken places and come to help, armed with a torch!
Laden with a pickaxe, hand axe and torch, we crept to the back of the deserted property to find out where the meowing was coming from. While I prepared for the task ahead, Linda stuck her fingers through a small hole in the wall and got softly bitten; the cat was there! Peeping in, she saw a little black-and-white paw. It had to be Tinkerbelle…
I cautiously started pickaxing the bricks furthest away from the hole. Slowly but surely I got the first brick out, then changed to the hand axe. We were determined to rescue the cat but had to be so careful not to hurt her. At last, we saw a paw… then two back paws and a tail. It was Tinkerbelle!
Freed at last
After working for what felt like forever, we finally got to her. She was lying on her back between two rows of bricks that were no more than five centimetres apart. We gently tried to pull her out backwards, but she was totally stuck. We had to get another brick out, but, this time, we were much closer to her head, which Linda tried to cover whilst I chopped away. Another brick, then another and another and at last Tinkerbelle wriggled free. It was 23h30; we had been working for over two hours!
Tinkerbelle was ice cold. She was thin, covered in sand and goggas, her eyes and cheeks were wet, and her eyes were infected. Amazingly, she’d kept her beautiful velvet shine, as I discovered when I gently brushed her later on. She couldn’t walk at all for several hours, but, by 02h00 that morning, she started wobbling about. Two days later, she wobbled outside to lie in the sun, and a week later she shakily ran. She slept and ate a lot, quickly regaining her weight. Our vet cannot understand how she survived that long without water or having sustained any organ damage.
We had heard a cat meowing over the past few days but we couldn’t find the source and thought it was one of our other kitties. Who would ever think a cat is in a wall? Well, I have learned a very valuable lesson! We think she must have tried to get into the ceiling, but slipped down the verge and into the gap.
How did she stay alive for nearly 10 days without food, water or any warmth, lying on her back, stuck in a cold, dark hole? Maybe she heard us calling her every day and it kept her hopeful of being found. There could be many reasons, but to me this is a miracle; I’m convinced that God and the angels took care of her all that time.
Miracles do happen.