Sparky - back where he belongs

17th Feb, 2017

Written by Janet van der Vijver  and photographs by Des Featherstone and Lorraine Rabie

Sparky was a gift from my niece, who told me that he travelled in the engine of her neighbour’s car from Table View to Sanddrift some 10km away on Christmas Eve seven years ago. He was just a little kitten who’d found himself a very warm, cosy place to snuggle in. Unfortunately, it was in the engine of a stranger’s car and the stranger decided to drive back home after his Christmas celebrations – with Sparky clinging on for dear life!

When the car arrived home safely, the neighbour heard whimpering from his bonnet, only to open it up and find the terrified kitten in a total frenzy. It took five adults to catch him. They took him in and kept him safely overnight in a warm bed with a hot water bottle and lots of good food and treats.

He disappeared when the door was opened

Sparky, as we named him, was given to me and came to live with me in Sunningdale. He was incredibly scared at first but, after a few months of receiving lots of love, he became a warm-hearted, contented cat.

When I sold my home, he moved with me to my new rented home. For the next three years Sparky was safe and comfortable… and loved unconditionally.

Sadly, I then had to move again. And that’s when disaster struck. I placed him in my bathroom to keep him safe whilst the removal company moved all my furniture. Unbeknown to me, a removal worker decided to use the bathroom; the moment he opened the door, Sparky jumped sky high with fright and ran out of the house in an absolute frantic state! 

I was devastated. There was no way I could stay as the house had been sold; I had to leave and asked my neighbour to feed and watch out for him. For four months I went to my old home relentlessly, searching for him and calling his name. But to no avail. Eventually I was forced to give up hope, as it appeared that he had left the area and found a new home. I had many, many sleepless nights worrying about Sparky’s welfare. He’d had such a rotten start to life and I felt I needed to protect him at all times.

The best birthday present

Then, on the 27th of December 2016 (my daughter Tracy-Lee’s birthday), my friend and ex-neighbour Michel Gibson sent me a WhatsApp with a picture attached. She asked if the cat in the picture was my Sparky. When I looked at the picture she’d sent, I was absolutely blown away: IT WAS MY SPARKY! 

Tracy and I were both in tears; this was the very best birthday present EVER. We phoned animal rescuer Lorraine Rabie, who was the kind person who’d advertised that a stray cat (Sparky) was regularly eating at her home late in the evenings. The very next evening, Tracy and I went to Lorraine’s home to meet her. She is an absolute ANGEL! 

We were standing outside Lorraine’s home chatting when we heard a cat crying in the background. The cry was spine chilling, as if he was calling for Tracy and I, and it was heartbreaking. We waited a bit longer and then I saw him slowly coming toward us. It was him!

I told Tracy to stand dead still, because here, after over three years, was our Sparky. He was in our grasp again. I opened up the Redro fish paste (Sparky’s obsession) and his face looked up at me as if to say: “I know that sound!”

Catching Sparky (the second time)

I placed the fish paste across the road in the neighbour’s driveway. He nervously began to eat the Redro and ended up eating all the contents of the container. Tracy and I quietly knelt down next to him, trying to see if he would allow her to touch him. Although very skittish, he clearly recognised her scent. I then did the same thing and cried because he was allowing us to touch him and it felt like all my prayers had been answered. That’s when Tracy told me to open up my car door; she’d decided to catch him and bring him home. I did what she asked and she grabbed him and put him in my car. Sparky went crazy at first but eventually settled down. 

When we arrived home, he wouldn’t allow us to catch him to put him safely in Tracy’s bedroom, so he spent his first night back in a cosy bed in the garage. The following morning Tracy managed to tempt a very skinny Sparky into her bedroom – with the Redro fish paste.

A month later and he has fattened up beautifully – he now weighs five kilograms. He is extremely loving and is very protective over both Tracy and me. He’s taking his time to warm towards our dog Monty and Mr Tibbs, my other cat whom he used to love, but I am remaining positive. In time he will settle in perfectly, safe in the knowledge that he is loved and cared for, forever more.


I have to give sincere thanks to Michelle Gibson for sending me the “Lost & Found” advertisement; to Lorraine for feeding him for a very long time and looking for his owner; and to Lucky Lucy Foundation, for having him neutered, microchipped and tested for FeLV and FIV (thankfully he was negative).

We feel incredibly blessed to have our Sparky back home after more than three very long years. God is great and our prayers have been answered!