Written by Shuveny Bower-Louw
Professional photography by Strike A Pose Photography
It’s only once or twice in your life that you meet an animal that changes your world forever. Seventeen years ago, such an animal found his way into my life...
Throwing kittens into the river
It was 16h30 in the afternoon on the 21st of September 2000 and an urgent call had come from Friends of the Cat (based in Johannesburg). At that stage, we were actively working to help ferals and were taking in the abused and abandoned.
Someone had reported a man drowning kittens in the Jukskei River in the Fourways area of Gauteng. Horrified, my friend and I rushed from work to locate this individual as soon as possible.
We came across a man with a battered box; inside was a tortoiseshell mama cat and one teeny-tiny pitch-black kitten – all that was left of her litter. The sheer amount of rage that overtook me when I asked “WHY” and he answered that the mother cat kept falling pregnant so he decided she should watch him drown her babies, was enough to have me lose my mind for a moment.
I demanded to know how he thought it acceptable to have an animal and abuse it the way he was doing; he became aggressive and refused to let us take the cats, saying that they belonged to him and he could do whatever he wanted. The authorities were called in and, after a long wait, we were finally able to take mother and kitten.
Just a handful
We took the bedraggled black kitten out of the box and, if I say my heart dropped below my shoes, I’m not lying. I can’t remember how I managed to see through my tears, holding the neglected, flea-infested body of this tiny, undernourished kitten, not much more than a handful, covered in cigarette burn marks and a ring around his neck.
We rushed the family of two to a vet in Richmond; the drive back to Auckland Park was filled with tears and a nightmarish sense of utter disbelief.
Mommy cat was very scared of humans but, all the way to the vet, the kitten snuggled deep in my arms, not wanting to be placed into the cat box yet not afraid of me, despite his ordeals.
We named the mother cat Arora and the kitten Uthr Pendragon (a legendary king) – a strong name for a boy who survived against all odds.
My little shadow
The vet checked them over – they were undernourished, infested with worms and fleas, and in poor condition. Some of the kitten’s sores were severe and infected and oozed pus; the mother cat seemed to have some internal injuries, probably due to physical abuse. They were treated for parasites and their injuries, and then the real work began…
We needed to have these souls understand that not all humans are here to cause and inflict harm. That they can be good and kind.
Arora was adopted by my friend Derick and had some huge operations to repair her bladder and help her kidneys. She must have been kicked and had sustained a pinched nerve in her back that affected her digestive system. Despite trying everything, sadly, Arora crossed the rainbow bridge seven months later – but in the time she had with Derick she was loved and cared for like no other. She knew true happiness.
Uthr took a little time to come out of his shell, but I think he was so happy at being saved that he decided to “never let go” and became my little shadow. He was so attached to me that I don’t think he ever accepted the fact of his actually being a cat. Among the others – at that stage 20-odd cats – he would insist on drinking water from my glass and sitting on the table to eat his food; he was forever watching me.
A huge adjustment – and a special new friend
Six years ago, I met my now husband, Nick, and it was a huge adjustment for my “human-personality” cat to accept someone else sleeping in “his” spot. Uthr would persist in crawling between us, paws towards my husband, and then, in the middle of the night, extending his claws into Nick. It really made me laugh; Nick, not so much.
I always wanted human children and fell pregnant at a fairly late age. And my boy knew before I did; he would rest his nose on my belly button every day until baby was ready to be born. I think he was having a good conversation with my daughter while she waited to join the world.
When Beahnca was born, it was a difficult time and, when I was discharged, she stayed behind in the hospital due to liver dysfunction. On my return home, Uthr gave me one sniff, turned tail and disappeared. He hid most of the time, occasionally coming up and meowing plaintively, almost asking where his friend was.
Thankfully, after three days, baby Beahnca came home – and it was love at first sight for Uthr. He simply adored her. There was no need for a baby monitor – when the little human made a noise, he would run up and down the passage, calling to me, until I reached her and picked her up.
Uthr slept nights away in her cot and, as my daughter grew, he became the “nurse-maid”. He would play hide-and-seek with her, running around, and have her laughing out loud. In fact, one of Beahnca’s first words was: “Uta”.
Here for a reason
In the years gone by, Uthr Pendragon has welcomed many friends, human and feline alike. He is the mini-Panther that dwells in the house.
He carries with him the power of the old, the energy of 10,000 cats, and the wisdom of knowing that he was kept here for a reason. Visitors say that he “sends” energy towards them. Thus, he became my tell-tale: if the person is friendly and has a good soul, Uthr will come out to greet them.
Today, he is elderly but he still finds his way to my pillow, placing his paw on my head while I sleep. The joy, the trust and the companionship are forever mutual between us… seventeen years later, even stronger.