Timothy’s Tale

Written by Alta Pretorius and photography by Strike a Pose Photography

When a tiny kitten dragged itself out from under a truck engine at a scrapyard in Hercules Industrial, Pretoria North, nobody could have predicted just what was in store for him – or the people who would take up his cause...

A shaky start

On the morning of 2 February this year, I received a call from people at a scrapyard: a kitten of about five weeks old had crawled out from under a huge engine, meowing all the way. They immediately noticed there was something wrong with his leg. Although he walked on it fine, it was crusty and pus oozed from under scabs.

When I arrived to fetch him, this little ginger guy purred from the moment I touched him but, despite his friendliness, I knew he was in terrible shape. He was so very thin, covered in grease, and his hind leg had clearly been hurt pretty badly by someone or something.

I rushed to the nearest vet. To my dismay, he informed me that the leg tissue was dead and that amputation would be the only thing to do – but he didn’t do amputations. He didn’t clean the paw, didn’t give him antibiotics or even a simple antiseptic ointment. Urgh, my heart! I decided to go to another vet in the north of Pretoria and managed to get an appointment for later that afternoon. We came home and I cleaned his coat, fed him some good food and just loved him. When he started grooming himself, I noticed blood seeping from under the scab on his leg; no dead tissue bleeds.

Total despair

Off we went to another. This time, I was told that the paw was, in fact, dead; necrosis had set in and they couldn’t do much for him either. They advised that there was a specialist who could perform the amputation but apart from the fact that it would be very expensive, the kitten was just too small to survive. They suggested that it would be better to put him to sleep. With the warm little body purring contentedly against me, I knew I couldn’t make that decision. Although cats may also purr from pain, I knew this wasn’t the reason in this case.

I was warned that septicemia might set in, which could kill him too. This time he was administered anti-inflammatories and antibiotics, although the paw wasn’t cleaned. When I asked the reason for this and why it would bleed if the tissue was “dead”, they explained that some tissue might still be alive and that they felt it was better to keep the scabbing intact. Samu (as I’d named him) and I went home. I was both angry and in total despair.

Little Samu played that afternoon, over the furniture, under the tables – crazy cat that he is – and not once did I see him avoid using the leg or showing any discomfort. He was a normal, happy, playful kitten… just with a big “eina”. And he loved life. He loved every minute of being with a family and was absolutely “full of beans”. I was not going to give up on him.

Saving Samu’s leg

The next morning, I contacted Dr Anita Schwan – a vet who also uses homeopathic remedies – from Heatherdale Animal Clinic in Akasia. She’s helped me with rescues before and I hoped she might have a solution or could just stop infection from spreading. As soon as she saw the little scrap of ginger in my arms, she set me at ease; it was simple: “We will save this leg.” Samu’s future was certain.

Under anaesthetic, she cleaned his leg and removed the scabbing to reveal… a beautiful (albeit raw) red paw, blood flowing everywhere – not a single piece of dead tissue in sight. The tissue was very much alive! It seemed as if there’d been something tied around the leg that had cut into the skin, and that his leg might have been broken but had healed on its own; all his toes were missing. They used light therapy to promote blood flow and accelerate heeling. His tiny, toe-less paw was slathered in ointment and gently bandaged.

Every day for 10 days, Samu and I had to visit Heatherdale Animal Clinic for bandage changes; thereafter every second day for a week. Each bandage change was painful for him but it had to be done. Each bandage change also showed how beautifully the paw was healing. Calendula ointment was applied every time and he also had calendula (a healing, soothing herb) in his food – all natural. It took a long time and hard work to heal and some scabbing is still visible, but heal it did. And Samu – now Timmy – took it all in his stride.

It is with huge thanks to both Dr Anita Schwan and Dr Carmen Booyse of Heatherdale Animal Clinic that this brave little kitten is with us today. He is an amazing little guy and now he has a wonderful home in which to grow old.

Isabel Bowden, Samu’s new owner shares…

Timmy came to us when the wounds of losing our beloved German Shepherd were still very raw. Timmy was supposed to be a mate for Numi, who at that stage was the only kitten. Such a small cat with a hood on his head (the collar to prevent him harming the healing leg) scared the living daylights out of Numi, who had never seen anything like him – ever. The more Numi ran away, the more Timmy chased and then the games began.

Timmy also immediately got on with our girl dog Nicky, who loves everyone, so that was a match made in heaven. We were amazed at how quickly Timmy became part of the household; he crept into our hearts immediately and is now firmly ensconced as our baby. He has the most lovable character with the sweetest nature. Numi loves him. Nicky loves him. We all love him.