The Tale of Toban


Written by Melanie Sohn and photography by Emma O'Brien and Elzhet Robbertse

Four years ago, I discovered an established colony of feral cats in the parking area of my previous work place. As I’ve always adored animals, I started feeding the cats in the early mornings and again before returning home late in the afternoons. I also provided fresh water daily. The cats were shy and cautious around me and most kept their distance. But there was one – a large male tabby with a beautiful coat – whose striking looks and tame nature caught my attention.

Within three or four days, he allowed me to stroke his glorious coat and this beautiful boy captured my heart almost instantly. What struck me then was that, unlike his colony counterparts, he never appeared feral and his intelligence and gentleness were unlike the other feral felines. He would follow me after feeding time, and slept in a plant pot. It broke my heart to leave him outside as I continued with my work or left for home in the afternoons.

I decided to take him for sterilisation and vaccinations (as I had done with other members of the colony) with the intention of returning him to his colony. I wondered if I’d need a trap to transport him – while he may have been friendly, I still had no idea how he would react when confined and then transported. However, to my surprise and delight, he allowed me to gently pick him up and put him in the cat carrier. He was also a champ in the car, not making a sound, and seemed totally relaxed when we arrived at The Society for Animals in Distress. 

Following his sterilisation, my partner and I went to fetch him; we found him alert, sitting upright and sweet-faced in his cage. Again, this gentle soul touched my heart and something in me connected with his lovely nature. During the car ride back to the office to drop him, my partner suddenly suggested we keep him. I guess he had as deep an effect on her as he’d had on me. While the idea excited me, I was very nervous…

I initially had no intention of adopting him. He was a very large male and, with two female cats at home, I feared disrupting their peaceful dynamic and putting my girls at risk of injury or any diseases. The prospect of his possibly spraying in our home was also distasteful. Yet, I decided to follow my heart, take a leap of faith and see how he would adapt to our family and home.  

After taking him home and letting him settle in the bathroom for a few days, we slowly started introducing him to our female cats (while keeping him in the carrier). As was his serene nature, he sat calmly, looking at our girls with gentle, intelligent eyes as they growled and hissed at him. After about two weeks of keeping them separated, we nervously decided to open the carrier and let him out. Again, we were pleasantly surprised when he jumped out and the cats sniffed each other without incident. 

He soon found the bed and made himself comfortable. It was as if he’d always been there – no fights or incidents at all. Sure, our girls’ noses were out of joint for a while, but they soon settled down and our gentle boy just ignored them. We had him virus tested but, thankfully, the results came back negative. He also had Giardia (a parasite causing diarrhoea), which was treated.

We named him Toban, because the name sounds wise, gentle and intelligent. It’s an old-soul kind of name and our Toban is most definitely an old soul. He’s the first male cat I have ever had; to this day, he hasn’t sprayed and has never attempted to jump the wall of our garden to wander. His favourite place in the world is sprawled out on our bed, sleeping and stretching contentedly. 

He went from living off scraps and sleeping in a plant pot, to being the king of our household. He settled into our home as seamlessly as he settled in our hearts. Sometimes, when I lie on my bed and stroke his beautiful coat and feel such love and calmness with this Zen-like creature, I think of how lucky I am to have found him. Then I look into those enquiring, big, beautiful eyes and it hits me: he found me… and I thank God every day that he did.