Written by Beth Dewar
Professional photography by Caroline Hartley Photography
Cinnamon, whom we fondly call “Bird” or “Little Bird”, thanks to his constant chirping, turned five in October 2018. A rescued kitten, our Little Bird was found in a roof space and taken to our local vet in 2013.
He looks a lot like Saffron, a cat we used to have who disappeared nine years ago. Saffron was an exceptionally friendly and loving cat, and it breaks my heart that we never found him. Pepper, Saffron’s biological sister, is still with us. I like to think Saffron is living it up with an old lady somewhere.
We were taking one of our dogs, Mason, to have x-rays when we first spotted our Little Bird at the vet’s practice. Mason has arthritis, but at that stage we didn’t know this. Whilst I fell for Cinnamon the moment I saw him, it took me a while to talk my husband into taking him home – about four hours, in fact! When we collected Mason later that day we also took The Bird home from Riverside Vet in Rondebosch.
Cinnamon has grown up with dogs, so he loves his canine brothers as much as he loves his feline sisters. At that point we had two dogs and two cats, although we’ve now added another dog to the pack since then.
Our Little Bird is quite the hunter and would often bring live birds in to show off his prowess. On one occasion, Cinnamon released a live bird under our bed on a Monday morning before work. He’s always purring, and if you move at all when he’s sitting on you or near you he chirps. “The Bird” and “Little Bird” have become natural nicknames for Cinnamon.
In October 2018, Cinnamon had his first seizure. It was 3am, and everyone was fast asleep, but our other pets alerted us to the emergency. Cinnamon was lying on his side in the hall with the three dogs and Pepper standing over him. We took him into the bedroom when he’d finished seizing – he was very limp and couldn’t stand. I was worried he’d gone blind, as he didn’t seem to see us. We rushed him to Panorama Vet. I held him the entire way there, and he cried all the time. He didn’t know where he was, but I thought keeping him close to my heartbeat could only help him. They kept him for the rest of the night and the following night, but they couldn’t find anything wrong with him. We took him home and kept an eye on him. We thought it could’ve been him eating something funny – and hopefully it wouldn’t happen again.
We moved house in early December 2018, and on that first night in our new home, he had four seizures. We were further out, so my husband phoned Panorama before we left home. Their 24-hour vet was in surgery, so they suggested taking him to Tygerberg Animal Hospital in Bellville. We did, and that’s where Cinnamon stayed for a few days as they started him on anti-seizure medication and conducted a few tests. During an examination with a specialist, Cinnamon underwent an MRI, and that’s when they discovered his brain tumour.
We’d been hoping for an epilepsy diagnosis, but this was not to be. The specialist asked us to consider a tumour removal surgery that could be done in Johannesburg. We considered all of our options and eventually chose to give Cinnamon the best chance we could, through surgery. He was happy, healthy, and had a high likelihood of recovery.
Luckily, we have pet insurance too, so we began working out the logistics and costs. Eventually, after booking flights, surgery dates, and making sure he was in the clear vaccination-wise, we put Cinnamon on the plane and sent him to Fourways Veterinary Hospital. Loading our Little Bird onto the plane was the hardest thing I’d ever done; I had no guarantee I’d see him again.
Thankfully, the operation was a success, and Cinnamon’s large brain tumour was removed. He’d been recovering well, but they were concerned about him flying again, so we travelled to Johannesburg to fetch him – we flew up and drove home.
He’s doing really well; it’s amazing to have him home after such an incredible experience. His feeding tube and stitches are out. He’s still on antibiotics but is very much himself, with lots of talking, purring and some taking of towels down from the bathroom rails and getting into treat bags! It’s insane to think his surgery was so recent.
But that’s our Bird!