AB’s sweet life

3rd Oct, 2018

Theresa’s granddaughter, Morgan, with AB

Written by Tracey Hartley, Feral Cat Rescue Trust

Professional photography by Ilze-Meri Photography

The friendly white-and-ginger cat breezed into the area around a business in New Germany, near Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, searching for company and food. Unfortunately, those he sought attention from were not as friendly…

Dumped in the sugar cane

The people at the business didn’t want a cat around, no matter how friendly he may be. They chased him, threw things at him, and made life thoroughly unpleasant.

Undaunted, the cat stuck around until feral cat feeder/carer Theresa Wallace decided that, as this sociable soul was simply not safe, he’d have to be trapped and taken to the SPCA for rehoming. A plan was made, a cage obtained and all was on track to uplift the cat.

Then, to our absolute horror, the people tasked with taking the cat safely to the SPCA callously decided to dump him in the sugar cane plantation in Mt Edgecombe, a vast rural and industrial area.

Missing in Mt Edgecombe

We were absolutely livid – and very worried. Sugar cane plantations can be infested with ticks and snakes, and when it’s time to harvest the cane, the machines pose a great danger to a small cat. We demanded that they draw us a detailed map so that we could try and find him and get him to safety. With the map, we eventually found the spot where they’d dumped him.

There, we found an opened sachet of cat food that these individuals had left for him (“to help him start a new life”), but, of the cat, there was not a whisker to be seen.

A needle in a haystack

We rallied some kind volunteers and began scouring the plantation. We gave flyers to anyone and everyone, and left food in the hopes that he was still around.

Days passed with no sign of the cat, and with so many other cats to help, I was busy non-stop. It was after a long day (which started with me trapping cats at 6AM) that I decided: enough is enough – I needed a rest. I switched my phone off but almost immediately switched it back on as I remembered I had to message someone.  

Coincidentally, just as I switched it on, a call came through from the Gateway Municipal Depot in Umhlanga where I feed a small feral colony.

I assumed it was the security guard who assists us calling to say the food had run out. My heart sank at the thought of traipsing back up that hill after such a long day. But that’s not what he wanted to discuss: a new cat had arrived – and it was crying like a baby. This isn’t normal behaviour for feral cats, so I was pretty sure a tame cat had been dumped.

Of course, I had to go and check it out…

Spitting image

Unfortunately, when I arrived, the cat was nowhere to be found. So, between us, we called for it, hoping it was tame enough to respond. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, came a very loud MEOW. And, lo and behold, the cat appeared – a big white-and-ginger cat.

I had to look twice: I was gobsmacked to realise that this cat was the absolute spitting image of the white-and-ginger boy I’d been searching for in Mt Edgecombe’s sugar plantation for five days. Could it be the same cat?

Our missing boy

The cat was scooped up and safely locked inside a carrier; I rushed home with him so I could compare him to the pictures. I snapped a few pics of my own and sent them to Theresa, who’d been feeding him. We pored over the pictures and saw that the markings all matched; we could only conclude that this was indeed our missing boy.

What makes this so amazing is that these two places are five kilometres apart, through open wasteland and across a busy major highway. My theory is that the smart chap hitched a ride from the Municipal Depot very near to where he’d been dumped, all the way to the Umhlanga Depot. There’s no other logical explanation, especially with the busy N2 highway cutting right through between the two depots.

He wolfed down a hearty meal, was dewormed and debugged as he was full of ticks, and then blissfully passed out in a warm bed. The very next day he was snipped and then went off to his new home – with none other than the feral feeder/carer who’d first noticed him, Theresa Wallace. And he’s a very happy lad to this very day.   


By Theresa Wallace, AB’s original carer/feeder and now owner

I’m passionate about caring for cats in need, and when I first saw AB, as he’s now named, I knew he really needed help. It was devastating when he was dumped (and so scared for Tracey’s safety while she was looking for him in those remote places – thank you so much Tracey!), and I was very relieved when we found him safe and sound.

Moving in – and bringing friends

I wasn’t allowed to have pets, but when my landlord, Dee, heard AB’s story, he was accepted with open arms. The first night he cried non-stop and I didn’t get any sleep. He cried for the first few weeks after I got him, so I took to calling him Baby, which, once he was settled, we changed to AB.

It wasn’t long before he adapted so much that, in the evenings while I was watching TV with dimmed lights, he’d invite guests.

AB began bringing other feral cats, showing them right to his food and water and then jumping on a counter to watch them eat. When they were done, he let them leave. This happened so often that I always made sure I bought enough dry and wet food for the night visitors. To me this was unbelievable!  

Together again

About a year later, I had to leave KZN to work in Cape Town, where I’d be living in a small fourth-floor apartment. I just couldn’t do that to AB, but, thankfully, my daughter, Chantel, is a huge animal lover and she didn’t hesitate to take AB in.  

But now, at last, we are all together again – mom, daughter, grandkids Keagan and Morgan, and, of course, AB. They all adore him. AB does have another playmate – a little cheeky Chihuahua called Jinx – but AB decides on playtimes, of course. 

Chantel adores him: “Between my mom and I, we always have abandoned fur children who become part of our family. AB’s story is proof that he is meant to be in our lives.

“AB is such an awesome boy! He has such a laid-back attitude, and the kids and I always joke about what accent he should have had – it must be that Durban surfer “hey, dude” tone. He’s a real sweetie pie and we love him.”