To the moon and back

12th Dec, 2018

Written by Yakima Waner

Professional photography by Strike a Pose Photography

This is the story of Moon and a foundation called Moon’s Rescues.

Moon was no bigger than my hand when I found her in April 2018. She was sitting all alone outside a small-town grocery shop two stores from our family business in the Brakpan CBD. I couldn’t, for one moment, believe that she was already weaned off her mother.

Expected to chase rats

I went to speak to the shop owners to find out more about the kitten. Tiny little Moon was expected to be a store cat that chases rats and mice – which would be close to her size or even bigger – from edible stock.

I approached her and was greeted with absolute love and tractor-sounding purrs. I asked the owners about her because I was concerned about her size and well-being as a town cat. I also believe that education is better than just confiscating an animal, as you cannot save them all but you can educate communities to learn to look after animals better in the future.

The owner assured me they were looking after her and feeding her the correct food. A few days later, I noticed that the little kitten was not being supervised properly and needed extra care; the owner agreed and I brought her home

Couldn’t keep her food down

The first time I fed Moon, she couldn’t keep the meal down; this continued to be problematic after most feedings.

My wonderful vet, Dr Johan van Eeden at the Crystal Park Vet, who’s always there for me, suggested we treat her for worms and that we slowly introduce her to solids. She was put on regular feedings of kitty milk and treated with dewormer.

But, despite this and close monitoring, she still couldn’t keep in a meal; she’d also started bringing up mucus, which concerned me.

At this point Dr Van Eeden suspected that Moon might have megaesophagus, a very rare condition in felines in which there is decreased or absent motility of the oesophagus, causing the cat to regurgitate its food. The condition is more commonly found in canines, where they’re fed at an upright position to help aid the food to go downwards.

X-rays confirmed the diagnosis; Moon did have megaesophagus. But worse news was to come: she also had a vascular ring anomaly called PRAA (Persistent Right Aortic Arch) that was causing the regurgitation. This beautiful soul needed vital surgery to have any chance of an extended life.

Read about another kitty with this condition: Our Nina’s Story 

The trouble with Moon

I remember the news as if it was today; I was broken, looking at this enchanting body of life gazing sweetly back at me. I still recall a blur of sound which was Dr Van Eeden stating her options. I knew I was never going to give up on her; I could never end a life filled with so much love and hope.

I knew Moon’s story had to be told and would help others in the future.

Moon was fed liquidised food and kitty milk every three hours at a 90-degree angle. The most difficult thing to endure for us during this period was witnessing her hunger. Even though we fed her and kept her sustained, all she wanted to do was to eat on her own.

The other major threat to Moon’s life was that, whenever she regurgitated, she was at risk of inhaling her food and developing aspiration pneumonia. We experienced such an episode when she was very little, but she pulled through like I’ve never seen any soul master before.

Urgent surgery needed

Moon needed urgent surgery before 16 weeks of age; the younger the better for recovery.

PRAA surgery is extremely expensive, as only the top veterinary surgeons in the country have the skills to perform it. I approached Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital in Pretoria asking if they’d be willing to do the surgery as a case study due to the rarity of the condition.

They declined, but an amazing woman – Sr Sarah Johnson, head of the small animals section Onderstepoort – referred me to a private clinic in Pretoria that would be better suited to assist me and might consider my proposal.

Surgery on film

I am a journalistic documentarian, and I concentrate on sharing stories of hope and change; Moon became one of my greatest stories. I proposed that I would document Moon’s journey while in the hospital showing what actually happens in a veterinary surgery and include it in the documentary: I AM MOON.

I contacted the referred vet – Valley Farm Animal Hospital in Pretoria – to which vets from all over the country refer their clients with pets needing major surgeries.

Operations Manager Julia Van Draanen responded with a dream-come-true response: they’d love to be a part of Moon’s journey. That moment was priceless and meant the world to me. She was happy to tell me that practice owner, Dr Tim Kraft, and one of his partners, Dr Adriaan Kitshoff (being the specialist surgeon), had discussed it and agreed that they’d assist with Moon’s procedure.

Filming Moon’s surgery was one of the most distinct shoots of my life. I saw Moon’s heart beat, and I knew that this soul had the strength of a lion and would pull through from such a colossal and invasive surgery.

I witnessed Dr Kitshoff the surgeon, Dr Zeiller the anaesthetist and the rest of the Valley Farm Animal Hospital team do the unimaginable. Weighing only 1.3kg, Moon was the smallest patient they’d ever treated in this theatre. Her life was in their hands, and the meticulous and remarkable skill they own is hidden behind closed doors to so many.

Chaos Moon

Moon woke up and astonished us all with her recovery; she truly is an angel. I was honoured to be able to film this display of medical kindness and will be sharing Moon’s story with the world when I release it today in honour of the International Day of Animal Rights recently celebrated on the 10th of December.

Today, Moon is the cause of all chaos and needs 24-hour supervision. Due to this, my mom and gran’s home became Moon’s new abode. She is the Evel Knievel of the house, always showing off with her double bed-clearing leaps.

She cannot stay still for a second and has brought new life into the lives of Oshkosh and Purr; Oshkosh being a young rescued Sphinx with a close resemblance to ET, and Purr being the first miniature Cornish Rex in South Africa at her best years yet – she turns 20 next year.

Moon has become a real diva with fans across the world, but she’ll always be our little Moon who proves to us every day that, in the darkest night, there is always light.

Watch "I AM MOON" on Vimeo here



I would like to thank every soul who supported Moon on her journey to health.

To my dear mother, Toi, my father, Ernest, and my grandmother, Catharina, who have always been there to aid with Moon’s recovery and keep a special eye on her today. Susan Beukes, who helped Moon with Scio treatment on the day of surgery, and Cecielia Grant, who is just always there for love and support. To every one of Moon’s fans who supported Moon and me on this journey, she’s touched so many people’s lives and I believe her story will change even more.

Moon has taught me one of the greatest life lessons: “Where there is love, there is hope”. Never forget that.