Written by Jenni Hunter and Lize Müller – co-founders of Feral Cat Assist Heidelberg
Professional photography by Chantal D Photography
It all started in February 2020, less than a month before COVID Lockdown, when Jenni Hunter, co-founder of Feral Cat Assist Heidelberg, was contacted about a mother and kittens seen around a house in a local township. From what the caller said, it was clear that the little family was in danger and desperately needed help. On the very next morning, Jenni and her husband, Paul, set off to the location where the mom and kittens had been spotted.
After quite a search, the kittens were found, but the bewildered mother cat, who was watching from a safe distance, fled and disappeared. The occupant of the house, who was already leaving a tiny bit of food out, promised to keep a watchful eye and notify Jenni when the mother returned to look for her kittens. Unfortunately, circumstances and the area didn’t allow for traps to be left out for the mom, so with the beautiful babies (three little gingers and one pitch-black kitten) safely tucked inside a carrier, Jenni reluctantly left the township. She continued to follow up on any sightings of the mom, but two days rolled on to four, then a week into two weeks, and still no sign of her. We feared that something awful might have happened to her.
While her babies appeared healthy, heartbreakingly, three of them were lost to fading kitten syndrome, and only one little redhead survived to find a wonderful home – a small consolation. Then, in July 2020, another call came through.
The mother cat was alive and had returned to the yard where she had the kittens. Jenni rushed over, once again with long-suffering Paul in tow, and there she was, hiding in the furthest corner under a bed. Jenni then learnt that she’d been seen a few days earlier, accompanied by another adult, which was reportedly stoned to death by youths. The news brought a sense of urgency. With much effort and determination, Paul managed to grab her with a towel and the mission was accomplished; she was going into foster care to be socialised and hopefully homed.
Having fostered her kittens, it went without saying that Jenni was going to foster her too. Much to Jenni’s surprise, after a day of rest and some settling in, the young lady turned out to be anything but feral! Oh, she did have a mind of her own and an independent spirit, but she demanded attention when she wanted it and was clearly the queen of her castle. Not a single dog didn’t get a steely look or feisty swipe of one of those paws. All, of course, preceded by an ominous rumble from deep in the throat. All cats are beautiful and unique, but she was simply stunning, with the most eye-catching markings on her gorgeous coat – a head-turner of note, and she knew it.
Looking at her, we understood why her babies were so very beautiful; all the sadder that they couldn’t all be saved. She needed a name, and when we considered her Bengal-type markings, we thought something exotic would be ideal. But guess what stuck at the end of the day? Polly!
Her photo shoot was a breeze, albeit rather hard work. She was a busybody of note, and when her Facebook adoption appeal went up, everyone sat up and took notice. Polly has become a real-life Cinderella who’s her own special package and born from the humblest of beginnings #rescuesrock!
Within a matter of hours, applications were streaming in, but none of them fitted the bill. Polly needed her own person: someone who didn’t want a lap cat, someone who’d appreciate her spirit, her independence and spunk. That person was Hayley Hutchons! When we received her email asking about Polly, we knew. In December 2018, Hayley Hutchons had an approved application and home-check. She was going to adopt Sprinkles, an adorably sweet little tortoiseshell kitten, and then tragedy struck when Sprinkles lost her fight against a sudden and unexplained illness. Hayley was heartbroken. Sprinkles was meant for her, and she decided not to adopt another kitten; such a wonderfully loving home, and we decided to file the application form, because perhaps one day…
Along came Polly. She was meant for Hayley.
Hayley Hutchons, Polly’s new owner, shares…
Polly is the sweetest little girl! Obviously coming from the terrible background, it’s taken her time to build up trust. When we brought her home, we let her settle in our spare room for a few weeks. She’d run and hide under the bed, and if we tried to give her love, she’d hiss at us.
We continued, every day, to build up her trust and speak to her sweetly. She loves being touched on her back and tail and will allow me to pet her for a few minutes at a time and then sometimes would attack my hand, as obviously she had no idea what this whole touching and loving thing was…
After the settling-in period, I then left the door open and kept all the doors and windows closed so that she could explore the house. Oh boy, did she love coming out and seeing everything.
We have two big dogs, one small-breed dog, and a Bengal cat. This was a bit tough, as the dogs wanted to play, and she’d hiss and run back under the bed. But, after much getting to know each other, they’re all happy friends now, except for Tinkerbell, my Bengal girl. She still gives Polly a lot of dirty looks and saunters past her, so hopefully this friendship will still build.
Polly has her favourite spots, and once I started leaving the windows open, she began exploring but still staying close to the house. She does go outside but loves being inside a lot. When I speak to her and call her, she has the cutest little meow noises that sound like she’s talking to me. Nowadays, Polly will even let me pick her up a little and rub her tummy now. We’re slowly, slowly getting there.
She’s honestly the sweetest, most beautiful little girl, and I believe that the more love and affection we give her, the more used to it she’ll become.
We love having her around and are so blessed to have her as part of our little family. We’re so happy we could bring her into a home where she receives a warm bed, lots of food and love, and she completes our lives too.