Lilly – a long way from home

22nd Apr, 2020

Written by Lenalie Naude, Roxanne Grobler  – Kennel Manager, SPCA Springs, and Taryn Mundell

Lenalie Naude, Lilly’s rescuer, shares…

On the 27th of February, some of the workers called us because they’d seen something in the engineering department. They were not sure if it was a cat, because it didn’t look like the feral cats in the area. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the cat anywhere, because it was hiding away in the factory.

As I arrived at work on the 2nd of March, they called me – they’d spotted the cat between the laser machines.

A colleague, Jodie Louw, and I tried to get the cat out from under the machine where she was hiding. Eventually, she came out from under the laser machine and was so exhausted that we managed to catch her.

She was very dirty from the dust in the factory; one eye was closed shut, and she was breathing heavily. We immediately called the Springs SPCA and took her there in the hope that they’d be able to help. Because of the heavy breathing, we weren’t sure if she’d been hurt. She was in such a state that we thought they might have to put her to sleep.

Once we got her to the SPCA, Roxanne was already waiting to rush her to the vet.

She was scanned before she left, and we found she had a Virbac Back Home microchip. It was such a relief, because we knew they’d be able to find her owner.

A little while later, I received a call from Roxanne asking if we’d transported anything from Durban, because the cat was actually from there and had been missing for two weeks. It was unbelievable that she could have travelled that far.

Afterwards, we discovered that one of our workers had seen her climbing out of one of the vehicles that had been transported to us from Durban. The only thing we could think was that she must have hidden in one of the panel vans until it stopped at our plant in Springs.

Jodie and I have been to visit Lilly at the vet a few times to see how she’s doing and to give her some love.

Lilly was in such a bad state, and we felt so sorry for her – it must have been a scary ordeal being away from home. She’s such a friendly cat, and I hope she makes a quick and full recovery.

Roxanne Grobler, shares…

Lilly was brought into us by Lelanie Naude and Jodie from a company called Angelo Kater Motor Trimmers. She was breathing pretty heavily, seemed severely dehydrated and one eye was completely shut with what could only be described as “gunk”. It sounded like she had liquid in her lungs.

I asked my receptionist to scan her, as I could see she was not any usual domestic cat, while I quickly pulled the bakkie around to dash her off to the vet. As I pulled up, Lebo told me that she did have a Virbac Back Home microchip.

I grabbed the microchip number and rushed off. While Dr Newby and I examined the cat, the receptionist looked up the microchip number and quickly contacted the owner. She then called Dr Newby to discuss the cat’s condition with the owner; I still remember the look of shock on his face when the owner told him that the cat was from Durban and had been missing for two weeks.

After being told to go ahead and treat “Lilly”, we went back into the examination room and the doctor put her on a drip and put her away.

I phoned Lelanie to ask her how this could have happened. She explained that a lot of their business takes place in Durban, and one of their drivers had seen Lilly dash out of one of the vehicles. It was safe to assume she unknowingly hitched a ride.

Taryn Mundell, Lilly’s owner, shares…

Lilly is a Blue Point Siamese and is my “child”; for the last seven years it’s always just been the two of us. She’s an indoor cat; a snob, if you can call her that. She doesn’t venture outside, doesn’t climb trees, and never brings me any grim “treats”, unlike her sister, Jasmine, who’s a bit of a wild child!

When I got home after a wonderful Valentine’s weekend away in Cape Town with my fiancé to find my baby MIA on the Monday, I was in an instant panic. I was planning to move house the following weekend, so it was very possible she’d been spooked by all the boxes about.

Over the next two weeks, I became a crazy cat lady who went repetitively to neighbouring houses looking for my lost cat. I looked in bushes, under structures, inside tool sheds, garages and even under three different houses.

I was so desperate that I set up a cat trap in two different houses.

When I received the message to say “the cat is in the trap”, I got so excited I leapt around my office like a mad person and rushed home to go and collect her. To my disappointment, however, it wasn’t her, but a feral male cat, whom I then dropped off at the SPCA with a heavy heart.

Days turned into nights, and each day it became more and more painful to accept that my baby girl wasn’t coming home. It was as though she’d evaporated into thin air.

Then, on the 2 nd of March – exactly two weeks since her disappearance – I received a phone call from a Johannesburg number. I was expecting a telemarketer, but instead it was a lady from a vet in Springs. I asked, “Springfield, as in Springfield, Durban?” and she corrected me by saying, “No, Springs, Johannesburg.”

I listened intently as she told me that she had my baby girl, Lilly, with her and that she was alive! All my details had come up on their system when they scanned her for a microchip. They’d found my baby!

I requested a photo verification, just in case. Even though it was definitely her, I just couldn’t believe it. I received the photo, and it was her, but just very sad and sick-looking.

All I can say is how important it is to get your pets microchipped; it’s so easy to do and so effective. That’s what saved Lilly's life. I heard later that if she hadn’t had a chip, they would’ve put her to sleep, as she was in such bad condition.

She’d been found in a factory in a very industrial area in Springs. A very kind angel named Lelanie tried to catch her for a few days, but eventually by the Monday Lilly was so exhausted she made herself noticeable and was able to be caught. She was in a very bad state, skin and bones, with a very bad eye infection and heavy breathing. She was then taken to the Springs SPCA for assistance, where she was greeted by Roxanne who immediately scanned her and found all my details. Thereafter she was rushed to the nearest vet for medical care.

Diagnosed with an eye infection and pneumonia, she was immediately given antibiotics and put on a drip. By this stage, I just wanted her to hear my voice, as a mom’s voice always makes everything better, so I asked politely for a video call with my fur child. This was amazing and continued each day, and I could see her facial expressions pick up when she heard my voice. She was pulling through, knowing that she’d be reunited with me soon.

Lilly’s personal angel, Lelanie, went to visit my baby at the vet often, as she’d left a soft spot in her heart, and she sent me photos and updates whenever she could. She went out of her way to follow up and check that my fur child was ok, as she was so ill when found.

Lelanie was happy to report that Lilly’s eye had opened, and the infection was clearing up. A few days later, she was sitting up and “quite vocal”, which is excellent, as she’d been battling to breathe earlier on in the week.

For a total stranger to take time out of her busy day to travel to the local vet to visit my sick cat is unheard of, so she’s very special to me. She gave me the reassurance I needed that Lilly was going to make a full recovery and come home. 

By the end of the first week, Lilly was being nebulised three times a day and, according to Dr Newby, sounded like a heavy smoker. It was advised that she stay another week until her chest infection improved, as travelling with such a low immune system could be a deadly decision to make.

Out of the blue, I received a message on Facebook from a lady who lives in Springs offering me a place to stay if I needed accommodation when coming to fetch her. She’d been tracking the story and just wanted to help if she could – wow! This story really has proved that there’s so much love around us; it’s incredible.

Over the second week, Lilly’s health improved hugely, and she started eating and drinking on her own. My fiancé, Dale Johnson, and I decided to drive up to Johannesburg that weekend to fetch her personally and say thank you to her team of supporters. When we arrived at the vet practice on the Saturday, Lilly didn’t recognise me, as it had been over a month, and it was just a bit overwhelming for her. I hardly recognised her myself; she was skin and bones, her rib cage and spine sticking through the skin and excess skin hanging off her. I spent some time in her area behind closed doors where her cage was, and she slowly started nudging me and rubbing up against me and purring. She realised that I’d come to fetch her.

The following day it was time to take her home; her support crew all met me at the vet practice, and Dr Newby kindly offered to come open up for me so I could take her home. We all met, and I thanked everyone individually – not a single one of us in the doctor’s rooms that morning could believe her story! It was all too insane to be true, yet each one had played a vital part in her recovery.

We knew she was ready to go home when she hopped into her cat carrier herself and sat down. She was silent the whole trip home.

Once at home, my other cat, Jasmine, didn’t recognise her at all and avoided her for a few days. Lilly was home and happy to be home, too. She relaxed right away and snuggled right next to me that first night.

If this story can highlight two things, it would be the importance of microchipping your animal, especially if your fur child is an indoor pet. Anything can happen!

And, of course, the second is the love and support of all the animal networks in the area. The amount of support, friendship, love and help has been overwhelming.

I’d like to thank all my neighbours, vets, everyone who shared Lilly’s lost post on social media, WhatsApp groups and neighbourhood watch groups, and to those who helped look for my Lilly with me.

My heart is full again.