Born of fire

5th Dec, 2017

Written by Jenni Davies, Fisantekraal Animal Welfare

Photography by Kym Clayton Photography

A long, raw burn wound marked the right side of a tiny white-and-black kitten. One of her siblings had been killed; the others cowered from their rescuers, and their beautiful pastel calico mother was skin and bone.

This was the sight that greeted Fisantekraal Animal Welfare (FAW) volunteers Belinda van Tonder and Ursula Neethling one afternoon in February 2017 in Fisantekraal’s informal settlement. A concerned resident, fearing they’d all be killed, asked them to take the little family.

Foster family for the feline family

The FAW volunteers took the frightened cats to the vet where they were assured that, with treatment, time and some pain medicine, the burnt kitten would be just fine; the rest were thin and infested with fleas and worms but otherwise surprisingly healthy (probably because their mother had been feeding them so well). So, it was off to the foster mom, Cindy Washington.

For possibly the first time ever, the little family was somewhere warm, safe, and clean; bowls of delicious food awaited them. They were still so scared and huddled together in the darkest corner at the back of their pen but at least they stood a chance now.

On their own

But that night, trouble arose. Cindy was woken up by the sound of kittens squeaking and loud hisses. She rushed to the pen to find that the mother cat had turned on her kittens and was chasing them away. Sadly, when mother cats are uplifted with a litter and are under a great deal of stress, they occasionally reject their kittens. It seemed that she’d decided she’d done enough for them and, from now on, they were on their own.

Fortunately, at five weeks old, the four little ones were able to eat solid food so the mother cat was sent to an adult cat cattery to be rehomed while the kittens remained with Cindy.

Healing touch

The burnt kitten – a little girl – was named Kenna, meaning “born of fire”. The hope was that, as awful as what had happened was, it would be the start of a wonderful new life for her. As it turned out, it really was.

Every day, Cindy spent time with Kenna, cleaning her wound and then gently applying calendula cream (healing and soothing); after a week, she moved on to coconut oil massages. Initially, Kenna was utterly terrified and, despite the pain medicine, she fought against being touched. But her foster mom persevered and slowly, but surely, Kenna grew to love her treatment time. In fact, because of all the attention, she turned into one of the most loving, affectionate kittens imaginable.

Bit by bit, Kenna’s hair grew back and she looked beautiful with her “beauty spot” marking and round, golden eyes. She and her three siblings became a playful, rambunctious group who loved attention. It was time to find them homes.

Fabulous forever home

Beverley Bower had followed Kenna’s story on Facebook and, when the time came for her to find a forever home, she decided that the home for Kenna was with her family. This now-confident and friendly little lady marched into her new family’s life and crawled right into their hearts.

Today, she is a playful, healthy and happy cat who is definitely Queen Bee in the household. From terrified, burnt kitten to super-confident cat, this fab feline really was born of fire – into a wonderful new life.

Beverley Bower, Kenna’s new mom, shares…

Kenna has taken over the household and bosses (ambushes) both our two dogs and her half-brother around. She is, without a doubt, the most mischievous cat we have ever owned and is absolutely fearless!

She has now had to be rescued a good few times out of various trees, but it doesn’t stop her or slow her down – she loves the outdoors and runs absolutely wild. She’s also a real food thief so nothing can be left out on the kitchen counters. In fact, we’ve had to clear our kitchen shelves as she thinks they are there for her benefit to lie on. Her new hobby is teasing the two dogs from next door – from the safety of her kitchen window. She’s smart enough not to go around to that side of the house outside, but from the inside, she is Queen. She’s definitely not a stupid kitty.

She can be really sweet when she wants to and my daughter loves her to bits, but – oh my goodness! – that naughty streak of hers is a mile wide.   

Fisantekraal Animal Welfare is a township-based organisation helping the animals of Fisantekraal and surrounds, just outside Durbanville, Western Cape. For more information, visit their website at, email, call 084 519 0380 and follow them on Facebook @FAWAnimals.