Written by Natasha Swart
In February 2009, I walked into Paws from Heaven, a cat shelter in Johannesburg, looking to adopt a kitten. As I walked past one of the cages, my eye caught this beautiful fluffy cat staring straight at me. Curious, I asked if I could go into the cage to pet him. He climbed onto my lap, and it was love and cuddles at first sight. I knew I had to have him. We adopted each other that day, and instead of adopting a kitten, I welcomed a two-year-old fluffy blue-eyed red point Siamese into my life.
After a successful home-check, they called to confirm that he’d been chipped and that they’d updated the chip records with my details. My boy was ready to be welcomed home!
Let me fill you in a little about my boy… my Noffie’s key phrase is “I dare”. He’s always cheerful and very talkative. Clumsy, speedy, has a rangy look, and loves the outdoors. He hates to feel constricted and enjoys complete freedom. He’s also a happy hunter who, on many occasions, has brought me “presents”. He’s been my furry companion for many years now and has moved residence many times with me.
In April of last year, my husband and I adopted a puppy. Our Smirnoff was coming to eat and leaving to roam the garden as he usually did. By October, he wasn’t coming home very often, but because of his free spirit, I couldn’t really lock him inside. Then, one day, he just vanished. That’s when I became really concerned, posting a missing cat post and video all over the relevant Lost and Found Pet Groups in the Southern Suburbs on Facebook.
Unfortunately, I received no feedback, and I was completely heartbroken with no real closure of what had actually happened to our Smirnoff. My husband said that because he was an old cat that he might have gone into the mountains to pass peacefully, but I knew in my heart that it couldn’t be. I always hoped and prayed for his safe return one day.
In the middle of March, I was sitting in the living room looking at a photo of him and said to my husband that I was still pining for him and wished I had closure. That’s when a Facebook notification came up on my phone from Lost Pets Southern Suburbs Cape Town Group and avid animal rescuer and networker Morag Wade Mackay.
I was confronted with a photo of a cat that had been hit by a car and had been taken to the emergency hospital, and I instantly recognised him as Smirnoff. My husband promptly phoned Cape Animal Medical Clini. He spoke to Steven Moss, the night receptionist on duty at the time, who gave us more details. We immediately raced over there, photos in hand, to confirm his identification.
It really was a shock and deeply saddened me to see the condition he was in. Roxanne MacEwan was the nurse on duty when we arrived that evening; she was extremely helpful and compassionate. I was elated to be reunited with my boy. We collected him three days later and have been nursing him further to full and complete recovery since. The lesson that this has taught me is that I need to lock my boy inside from now on, as he’s getting rather old. My husband has plans to build Smirnoff a catio when we’re financially able to, as we know how much of a free spirit he is, and we respect his love of the outdoors.
I’d like to say a heartfelt thank you to all key role players who made our reunion possible. To Saige Robinson, the kind person who found him in Diep River, 32km away from where we live in Fish Hoek, and took him straight to CAMC in Kenilworth. (The question still remains as to how Smirnoff even got there!) A big thank you to Gina Anstey, the vet at CAMC primarily responsible for his care, and a special thank you to Morag Wade Mackay, who never gave up and continued sharing his lost post.
Morag Mackay shares her side of Smirnoff’s incredible story…
It all started with a post without a picture…
Since 2017, after my first successful reunion of a cat lost in Llandudno and found six months later in Hout Bay, I decided to start my own database of lost and found dogs and cats. Since then I’ve successfully reunited six dogs and eight cats with their owners, the latest being Smirnoff.
I also decided to start saving posts without pictures in the hope that I could match a pictured found cat to a picture-less missing post.
I read the found post with no picture placed by Saige Robinson in March 2020 and started going through my database. And there was a possibility… a cat called Smirnoff had gone missing in Fish Hoek that could be him, but further posts said that he’d been found. What a relief! Later, a post appeared for October 2019 that he’d gone walkabout again, and this time no found post. Then a picture of the recent found cat was shared.
I promptly went back to the picture of Smirnoff lost and then found again in April 2019 and the October 2019 missing post and zoomed in and out on his face markings. The newly found injured kitty was a mess but not enough to take away the single darker ginger stripe going up from his right eye. The odds were not good, though. Lost kitty was from Fish Hoek, and messed-up found kitty was in Diep River! Lost kitty was chipped, and found injured kitty wasn’t. And it had been six months.
I rarely consider the distance between a lost and found area and vice versa, as I don’t doubt a cat’s ability to travel. And some cats enjoy car rides and some cats are beautiful enough to be stolen. The other thing is that although Smirnoff was chipped and the injured kitty wasn’t, chips are known to migrate and might not be picked up on the first scan, so I sent through my suggested post of Smirnoff to CAMC in Kenilworth and immediately sent the photo of the found kitty to Natasha and crossed my fingers.
My jaw dropped when I saw the notification that the injured kitty at CAMC was, in fact, the missing Smirnoff. All things considered, it just goes to show that shared info is not always accurate, that chips do migrate or become faulty, and that body markings might change, but there’s always one spot in the marking that will catch your eye.
A most recent post shows a recovered Smirnoff; although markedly thinner, he appears well healed and comfortable in being at home again. I may have matched the likeness, but if it wasn’t for Saige Robinson, who found him injured in the streets of Diep River and took him to CAMC in Kenilworth, then this would not be a happy “tail”.
So many people made this reunion possible – Saige Robinson, CAMC, me, and the many shares that alerted the owners to disregard the area and chip info and go and see for themselves whether it was indeed their Smirnoff. Every time I see an update, I feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Thank you, thank you, thank you!