Just Jasper

Written by Celeste Ann White 

In early April 2016, Cat Care Port Elizabeth (CCPE), an organisation caring for feral cats, came across a pale ginger-and-white cat with a horrific injury. It appeared that the cat had somehow gotten his left foreleg caught in his collar and, because the collar had a normal buckle and not a quick-release one, he’d been unable to get the leg back out again. The collar and buckle became embedded in the flesh under his “armpit”, causing massive infection and pain – and making life near impossible for him. It took CCPE three months to trap the terrified cat and get him the help he needed. And that’s when Celeste, Jasper’s new “mom”, first heard about him…

Adopting Jasper

I discovered Jasper’s story when my friend Lorna Barnard tagged me in one of their posts – with the fateful words that he looked like the cat for me! As they say, the rest is history.  

I decided that I had to meet Jasper, and I made an appointment to visit his foster parents, Nina Lockhart and Ezequiel Elefoso. I was full of anticipation but Jasper was not in the mood to co-operate and set up camp under the bed. After what seemed like hours, I told Nina that I’d try again another time. I took my time leaving and, just as I turned around, I saw that he’d slunk out from under the bed and was strolling around! I went straight back and, after a few minutes of persuasion, he popped out to meet me.

Although I really wanted to take him home with me, Jasper wasn’t ready to leave yet due to his injury. I went back to collect him a week later and what a pleasant surprise! He actually remembered me – and when it came to answering my call or his foster mummy’s, he came to me (in typical “cat betrayal fashion” after all Nina had done for him, including being tolerant of the terror attacks on her precious rescue cat Lexi). 

May 2016 saw the official adoption of Jasper into my multi-pawed furry household. Jasper demonstrated a bit of a split personality: love humans, terrorise other cats! But he met his match in Siam, whom I adopted from Cat Care years ago – she is the Queen Bee and “Supreme Ruler To Be Obeyed By All Beings”! So, after many initial hissy fits from the cats and multiple Googling by me of cat behaviourist Jackson Galaxy, Jasper learnt how to “kitten” – and the others learnt how to tolerate this new interloper into their Furry Kingdom.

Life could not continue as it was

But a grey cloud had entered into Jasper’s new world. His wound, which was thought to be in the last stages of healing at the time of his adoption, seemed to be regressing. A vet visit and some healing ointment followed but did not work. So, in June 2016, the wound was operated on again. 

What followed for the next four months were weekly visits to the vet to keep the wound clean and to safeguard the precious new growth of flesh. Victories were followed by bigger setbacks until his “personal physician” decided that life could not continue as it was. More drastic measures had to be taken. Jasper would stay at the vet indefinitely so that he could be monitored on a daily basis.

It’s important to note that while he spent months in a cage, he remained a happy chappy and drooled and purred during every visit (although he lost interest in petting and scratches to enjoy the lush food provided to him). Jasper stole the hearts of all who interacted with him at Walmer Veterinary Hospital. His sweet nature of unconditional love and tolerance made him a star. Soon it looked as though we were starting to win! Countless cleanings, dressings and surgeries later, we geared up to have him home for his first Christmas in his new abode!

One last try

And then it happened again: the fragile new skin did not hold. And so it was that his personal physician lost faith, I lost faith, others lost faith, and we came to the hard decision to fetch him home so that he could enjoy his last moments until the state of the wound dictated it was time for him to take that final nap. With heavy hearts, calls were made by Helen at CCPE to see if there was any other hope or something else that could be done. There wasn’t. But one last try was attempted. Without much hope of a different outcome, Jasper was operated on again and we gave the wound two weeks. 

The wound reacted pretty much as it had before. But there was a new twist: it held a little bit. And then it held a little bit more. After months of setbacks, a miracle had occurred – he was really healing this time. Two weeks later our miracle boy was all but healed, but stayed a little longer for observation.

On 28 January 2017, after five months of living at the vet and going through the hassle of changing his forwarding address, Jasper was finally home! 

On the mend

Another fortnight passed and all was well. It was time for a check-up, and for the first time in months the cone was to come off. All looked good and there was happiness all around; but, in those two short minutes, this determined kitty managed to lick himself raw, fortunately not on the lovely new skin but close enough to earn him a trip straight back to the “cone zone” – and a cortisone injection.

After months of not being able to groom his luscious locks he had quite a few tangles, so his personal nurse gave him a bit of a shave. He thanked them all by covering them in what was left of his shedding fur. On 18 February 2017 we finally bid adieu to the cone. He can now groom his fluffy happy tail all day long.

None of this would have been possible if not for all who donated to his ever-increasing vet’s bills, sent well wishes, and took such great care of him even when hope was all but lost.

Helen White of Cat Care Port Elizabeth (CCPE) shares…

Jasper was not a feral cat but would probably have become one if he’d survived long enough. That’s why CCPE stepped in to help. It took three months to trap him and he was close to the end when we finally got him to a vet. Amazingly, throughout his treatment he remained a happy cat and took in his stride whatever new treatment was tried. Not once did he hiss or try to bite those who were tending him. He knew they were trying to help.

In all the years we’ve been seeing to the needs of feral cats in Port Elizabeth, we’ve seen many cases of blatant cruelty and neglect, but never before have we seen the serious results of what a non-snap release buckle collar can do to a cat. And never before have we known such love and support from our members and friends – local and overseas. Jasper’s treatment was paid in full up until the time he went to his mom, Celeste. And there was even a little left over to sponsor the treatment of other cats in need.

We commend all those people who have the welfare of animals at heart and who have been involved in the rehabilitation of Jasper. And to Jasper and Celeste, we wish you very many years of health and happiness together. You both have a very special place in our hearts.