Written by Cherece du Plessis, founder of Second Chance Sanctuary
Photography by The Shank Tank
On Christmas Eve 2015, a filthy, emaciated ginger kitten of no more than four weeks old was brought in to Second Chance Sanctuary in The Bluff, Durban. I could only see its back because of the way it was being held, but when they turned it around I was absolutely speechless. Both eyeballs had prolapsed (bulging out) and were caked with dirt and debris. The tiny face was completely covered with a black sludge that had dried, along with a bad fungal infection. I’ve seen many cases of neglect, but even I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! I was informed that the people who brought her in had tried to fix her themselves with home remedies.
There’s something about this kitten...
When I took that tiny scrap in my arms she just nudged me with her face and I fell completely and utterly in love. The owners had no experience with cats, let alone a case like this, and it took a lot of persuasion for them to sign her over to Second Chance, but, in the end, they agreed. In that moment I decided to give her the strongest name I could think of to see her through the most difficult time in her little life: Ragna, a Norse name meaning Warrior or Goddess.
She was rushed to the vet, who, although already closed for the morning, was luckily still in the area and raced back to the practice to help. When he saw the state of her, he immediately recommended euthanasia. I just said, “No, I will not give up on this one.” It’s extremely rare for me to go against veterinary recommendation, but, for some reason, I just knew that I had to try. Ragnar only weighed 300g, so surgery was out of the question; she was put on antibiotics and painkillers while we waited until she was at least 500g before we could look at surgery. I bought high-calorie food and decided to try my best to get her to gain weight.
At this point we weren’t sure she would survive, but we immediately sent out an appeal on Facebook for assistance with what we knew would be an expensive road ahead. Fortunately, many people were willing to assist, including two organisations that raise funds to assist other rescue organisations – Sandpaper Kisses Fundraising and Feeding the Furballs.
My decision not to euthanise her came under immense scrutiny by those who believed that she would be better off being put to sleep. I got into many fights and there were countless times when I cried and doubted myself… but Ragna was refusing to give up – and so would I. This brave girl was playful and explored everything, she was litterbox trained within a day, and she loved to cuddle and gave tons of kisses.
She began eating like I had never seen a kitten of her size eating before – she was fed every two hours and would finish a tin of high-calorie food a day. She had twice daily vet check-ups and injections and, when they saw that she was gaining 50g per day, they set the date for 29 December, with her weighing in at 550g. They reiterated how risky surgery would be and that it would be a lengthy operation; we discussed possible side effects – and there was just as high a risk.
People from all over the world started sending her messages of love and hope – this tiny ginger-and-white kitten had won a large fan base in just a couple of days.
The 29th of December was a day of extreme stress and worry: my little girl would be put under for a huge operation. The surgery would commence just after 11am, with two vets working – one just watching her breathing. An appeal was once again put up on Facebook – this time all we asked was that everyone send prayers, healing, love and light to her from 11am until I posted the update of the surgery. At 12:45, the vet called to inform me that my girl was waking up – the surgery was a success! I was so relieved and quickly posted an update.
But we weren’t out of the woods yet... On 30 December, she started showing the first signs of pneumonia – and we were back to her twice-daily vet visits. Despite everything, she could not be kept away from food and her spirit was strong, and so her body healed quickly. Her other senses started working better and she became more and more confident. Ragna was taken to work with me and had so many visitors, with everyone taking selfies and bragging on Facebook that they had met her. She was truly a New Year miracle, and she had decided that nothing would stop her.
Ragna has grown into a fun-loving teenage cat who loves life and plays all day long with her friends, acting like a clown and keeping everyone entertained. She is a true gem who has proved that she can overcome many obstacles, despite her disability. I am so glad that both Ragna and I never gave up.
Cherece and Ragna having a cuddle