Written by Kel Gerriety
Professional photography by Strike a Pose Photography
A mother cat and her four-day-old kittens would have ended up in a box dumped alongside the road had nobody stepped in to help them. A foster was urgently needed and they had less than a week to find one.
This is the desperate plea that I came across on Facebook. As day after day went by and no one stepped forward to help out, I began to panic, picturing the defenceless little family in a box, discarded like trash. And so, the night before the owner planned to leave them outside, I said I would foster them.
Our guests did well, and, all too soon, the kittens were weened and ready for homes. We were luckily able to find a forever home for the mother cat and some of the kittens.
But two of the kittens had just captured our hearts – tabby boys Peach and Socks. We agreed to only keep one, and since Peach left the basket first and was the first kitten to follow us around and cuddle, we knew that he’d chosen us as his family.
Once mommy cat was homed, Socks also followed us around with the same devotion, love and cuddles. So, after months of going back and forth between potential homes, we decided that they were both an equal and important part of our family, so both had to stay.
The kittens bolted in opposite directions
On the 14th of January 2018 of this year, I popped the kittens into a cat carrier and took them to the vet for the “big snip”. The vet was waiting outside for me, and, as I had two young children in the car with me, he helped carry the box.
Then, to our horror, the cat carrier somehow slipped from our fingers. As it hit the ground, it broke open. Both Socks and Peach shot out and bolted in opposite directions.
I was utterly torn. Which kitten should I run after first? And where should I leave my human children while I did so?
Peach stopped in the middle of the street and tried to come back to me, but, by this stage, so many people had come out to assist that he panicked and ran off again. There were so many helpful people, from the vet and his wife to nearby neighbours, who joined in to help find Peach and Socks, to my sister who came to help with my children.
Peach came near me two more times that afternoon but always took off again, obviously scared.
That lady looking for her cats
By the time night came, I had to go home to my human babies, but, after they’d gone to bed, I returned to look for Peach and Socks.
I came back every day and night that first week. I put up flyers everywhere I could and handed them out to everyone; soon, even the security men knew I was “that lady looking for her cats”.
Before I knew it, it wasn’t just me looking anymore. Many people had heard about my story and I was receiving phone calls from people wishing me luck and photos of every tabby that could fit their descriptions.
Every time someone said: “I think I saw your cat”, I’d leap into my car and drive the 30-40 minutes to Lonehill, just in case it was one of them…but it never was.
I looked a little closer
As the months flew by I began to lose hope. Friends and family were saying: “They’re such loving cats; they must have found a home by now”, and “You need to accept that they’re gone now”.
And so, when I got a message asking “Is this Socks?”, accompanied by a photo of a tabby cat, my initial thought was: “No”.
But then I looked a little closer. The tabby cat in the picture had snow-white feet and looked older and fatter (somehow fatter!), but I was in no doubt: it was definitely my Socks!
Socks on the wall
I raced over as soon as I could. When I arrived, Elriiz Swart told me she’d been feeding him for months; she’d assumed he belonged to someone in the area, and since he was so friendly, she didn’t want to chase him off and let him come to her kitchen window and eat.
Her next-door neighbour, Cherrylee Powell, and her cattery assistant, Shene van Zyl, had also noticed him hanging around their cats. Just by chance, they saw him sitting on the wall one day and Shene recognised him as Socks. They phoned me and I met them in Elriiz’s garden where Socks was perched comfortably on the wall.
I called him and he strolled around the wall up to me, nibbled food right out of my hand and let me stroke him. He definitely recognised me and was clearly happy to see me.
Home sweet home
My heart sank when, in trying to catch Socks, we scared him off. Cherrylee and Shene set a cat trap for him, and a few nights later, to my joy, they caught him and we were reunited. He went straight to the vet for neutering, after which I took him home.
That night I let him settle down in one room in the house so he could calm down and feel safe. When I went in to see him, he immediately climbed all over me and eventually settled down to purr in my lap until he fell fast asleep. The next morning, when I let him out, he was delighted to come right out. He was happy to see the children and let them love him; he was happy to see everyone – even the dogs and I knew he’d missed us.
He still follows me around the house, comes when I call, and purrs loudly when we cuddle. Socks is finally home.
Peach at large
Peach tried three times on the day he escaped to come back to me, and judging by his brother’s reaction, he’ll be just as happy to be home. I didn’t think Socks would be coming back, and it took over five months to be reunited; that restores my faith that Peach will come home too.
Peach is a classic dark-grey tabby cat with almost no white; he has yellow-green eyes and a kink at the top of his tail, and he wasn’t neutered at the time of his escape. He’s very soft, very affectionate and isn’t afraid of water; he sits with people if they’re taking a bath – even kids.
Please, if you have seen Peach or feed him on occasion, or even took him in, please let me know – I’m worried sick about him, and he has a family that miss and love him very much.
A big thank you to everyone in the Lonehill community who never gave up on my kitties, and to everyone on Facebook who’d shared (and still share) Peach’s “lost” post – I’m grateful to each and every one of you.