Written by Louise Pinkham, Founder of the Black Cat Group
Photography by Jaco SaPet-Nel
This cat doesn’t belong here. This was the message that popped up on the Black Cat Group about a beautiful long-haired tabby cat found among the feral cat colony at the Brackenhurst Municipality in Alberton. It seemed that she’d been there for three years, and it was thought that she may have been dumped or had gotten lost.
Not a feral
The Black Cat Group is a networking and volunteering WhatsApp group composed of animal lovers around South Africa. On Thursday evening at 17h51 on the 18th of September 2018, a forwarded message was sent by BCG member Ursula Hope.
The message was from Ana Bibis and described a beautiful, friendly female stray cat.
Ana’s message read: “Do you, by any chance, know someone who can foster this baby or, even better, give her a loving home. She is the sweetest baby ever. So lovable all she wants is to be loved. She lives with some feral cats at the Alberton Municipal offices but she doesn't belong there. There is a lady that feeds them there. She was sterilised today with two other cats (Dianne Killian kindly arranged and sponsored it)… she doesn’t belong there; she is not a feral. I will fetch her if there is a home. Please can you see what you can do?”
Black Cat Group to the rescue!
The following evening, Eleanor Jonker in Durban, some 600km away, contacted Louise Pinkham to offer a home to the out-of-place stray, which she would name Sage Hope Jonker.
From then on, it felt like the phone erupted with excitement and plans to get Sage’s journey started. Over the next two days it was all systems go – Ana had collected Sage, got her vaccinated and with the help of Dalene Erasmus, CemAir sponsored the flight to Durban (nogal sitting in the cockpit with the pilot!). And, on Friday the 21st of September, just four days after Ana had sent out her plea for help, Sage arrived safely in Durban where Eleanor was waiting to welcome her home.
Our hearts were all pounding in unison with excitement for the difference that had been offered for this lovely little lady. The Black Cat Group facilitated and supported this transfer and huge thanks go to the Johannesburg-based team for changing Sage’s life.
Ursula Hope shares…
From the moment I received Ana’s message, things were already changing for sweet Sage. I immediately sent it to the Black Cat Group and we began discussing how we could help. The following day Louise posted her and Eleanor kindly offered to adopt her. We then started to find ways of getting her to Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.
I immediately thought of Dalene Erasmus of SPCA Lower South (KZN) and all the amazing work she does through CemAir. I asked her if she’d be able to assist with getting Sage to her new mommy… and the rest is history.
Sage was welcomed aboard and flew as a guest in the cockpit with the captain and received plenty of cuddles from the staff. This little Cinderella cat went from rags to riches in a matter of just three days, thanks to a network of animal lovers.
Sage, go well, sweetie – and be blessed forever with your new family.
Out of this world
By Eleanor Jonker, Sage’s new owner
It all started on the Black Cat Group. Messages were coming in all the time: kitties lost, kitties found, kitties in need of homes… so many kitties in need. My heart sank because I couldn’t help foster as I’m in Durban; I actually felt quite helpless.
I’ll take her
That’s when Ana posted this little fluff ball. I zoomed in on her picture and just knew I had to have her. They were discussing her, saying she’s not feral and that she didn’t belong there, and, well, out of nowhere I said I would take her… but I’m in Durban. Ursula said she’d speak to fellow animal rescuer and advocate Dalene Erasmus. I was so excited that I offered to pay for the flight.
Sage’s face was something out of this world, and all I wanted was to just hold her and let her know that she’d never have to be outside in the horrid weather; would never have to feel fear for anything again.
The plans were all in place, but then, when it was time for them to uplift Sage, Ana said they couldn’t find her. Of course, I panicked, but I had to stay positive that she would come back… which she did. It was my happiest moment, I can tell you!
Once trapped, Sage went home with Ana, “the guardian angel of ferals”; she needed her vaccinations, etc. and then we waited for the flight confirmation.
Flight time trouble
When I finally got the confirmation that she was flying in the following Friday, panic set in and all I could see were obstacles: I had a double-shift at work and no one wanted to swop, and my vehicle wouldn’t make it to the airport, so I had to organise a car. But I would do whatever it took to get to Margate on time to get my baby, Sage Hope Jonker.
Trust me when I say that on the Friday when she arrived, it felt like everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. On top of an hour-and-a-half drive, traffic was diverted, setting me back another 25 minutes.
All the while I was chatting with Dalene to let her know that I was, by then, running an hour late, and I was so worried about where Sage would go if wasn’t there on time to collect her!
Just in time
Well, as a Godsend, just as I was totally panicking, I received a message: the flight had been delayed. As it turned out, I arrived just as the plane landed. I was so relieved and happy that I could be there to fetch her personally. I waited at the gates, my stomach in knots from anticipation. People asked: “Is that your cat?”, while someone said: “Shame, she’s been crying all the way here!” But Sage was a lucky passenger – she sat up front with the captain in the cockpit. How privileged does one cat get?
The time came for our first meeting – she on one side of the carrier door, I on the other. I was a bundle of nerves: what if she didn’t like me? But I’d fallen in love with the first sight of her photo!
When they brought her to me all I wanted to do was take her out and hold her. But I knew she would run, so I just spoke to her, getting quite emotional because the stress of getting to her had made it all worthwhile. My heart was so warm with love. We hurriedly took photos with the staff, and finally we were on our way home. Sage had plenty to say and “spoke” to me; I put music on and she was calm as can be in the car all the way home.
I had made the right decision
I’d made up a room just for her with everything she needed and, on our arrival, I put her inside and stayed with her for about two hours. I couldn’t believe how she was so loveable with a total stranger; she just wanted affection. I knew I’d made the right decision. It was all worth it.
When she was left on her own she would cry, so I eventually decided to leave the door open and supervise the meet ‘n’ greets with my other cats. Some she didn’t have a problem with, some she hissed at, but within a day or so she’d settled in perfectly, and now they all get along fine.
Sage has the shortest legs, cutest face and is just a little fluff ball of love. She has her spot on the entrance table or bookshelf where she waits for me when I get home and makes the smallest of sounds to say: “Hi mommy, you’re back!”
I’m eternally grateful for the Black Cat Group and am proud to say that I’m one of them. They love and have so much compassion for animals in the challenging world we live in. It’s always so welcoming and heartwarming when homes and fosters are out there, even if limited by financial constraints. Often most of them drop everything to go through to help these babies. Thanks to them, Sage has brought my home so much joy. All I can say is: she’ll never ever have to live on the streets again.
About the Black Cat Group
The Black Cat Group is a group of like-minded animal lovers joining hands via WhatsApp to bring about change for animals, specifically cats, particularly in Gauteng Province.
The group started in response to a worrying trend which had emerged in a Pretoria neighbourhood: hobos were stealing or “finding” cats and standing at traffic lights with them to manipulate kind-hearted commuters into handing over money, claiming it was for cat food when actually it was for drugs. Everyone was worried about the cats’ well-being and safety.
Louise Pinkham, group administrator, was desperate to make a difference, and WhatsApp was easier to chat to contacts rather than Facebook in order to form a team of support.
One little black cat had been noticed, destined for a life of cruelty, restrained in one particular hobo’s arms each day. A reach-out on Facebook to a neighbourhood group was made. It was then seen on Facebook that the black cat had been rescued from the hobo by a lady named Christine; immediate contact was made and, so, the Black Cat Group began, inviting more people living in the neighbourhood who could also be our eyes. More people joined and the group has grown via personal invites.
Most of the group members have never met in person, but that doesn’t matter; this small group with big hearts puts animals first.