Written and photographed by Louise Pinkham
The small, heavily pregnant grey tabby cat had been living in the Pretoria CBD and was due to give birth. It was Friday the 26th of March 2021 when I received a WhatsApp plea for assistance, accompanied by a photo. In it, her bulging belly didn’t look normal and she urgently needed help.
I wanted to rush to her aid, but I was due to head for Krugersdorp for the weekend, so I reached out to my daughter, Donna, for help. Late the following evening, she and my gardener headed into the Pretoria CBD – an area rife with crime – to the car park where the tabby had been seen.
Unfortunately, they had no luck in finding her so, on Sunday morning, whilst I was still away, my daughter and a dear friend, Chrisna du Toit, embarked on trying again.
As I arrived on the outskirts of Pretoria at 09h00, I received the call I wanted to hear: they’d successfully trapped the cat.
She was wild
I named this beautiful green-eyed girl Sapphire. She was wild, vicious, angry, starving, and her stomach was big enough to look like she was carrying at least five kittens.
On Monday evening, she went into labour. She gave birth to a tiny ginger-and-white babe but didn’t break the sac and ignored it. When I wanted to try to save the baby, she went ballistic and attacked my leg (for which now, in July, I still show the “war” wounds).
Sadly, the next two kittens she delivered were underdeveloped and were battling to breathe. With Sapphire in an unbelievable attack mode and in major distress there was no way I could even get close to them to see if I could help and, unfortunately, neither of them survived.
A visit to the veterinarian
Two days later, with much effort, after a mighty two-hour battle, I got Sapphire into a carrier to go to the vet. Her belly was still quite large, so I asked the vet to check if any there were any other babies. There were none, but it turned out that she had pyometra (uterine infection), which must have been causing her dreadful discomfort and had obviously harmed the kittens. She was then sterilised and cleaned up.
Although cats are generally excellent mothers, in some cases they will reject, ignore or even kill their kittens, usually due to extreme stress, illness, or sheer inexperience.
Moving on, “the taming of Sapphire” began… slowly but surely and with many attacks, many hisses, much eye contact from her saying, “I hate you, Human”. But she’s mine and I knew she’d settle. No matter how long it would take, I wouldn’t give up – I could see the gem within!
Six weeks in, I was able to touch her head for few seconds at a time.
A second vet visit
Things were going well, but on the 2nd of June 2021, I had to force her into the trap to get her to the vet. Why? Although she was eating very well, I was worried about her eyes as they seemed to be giving her trouble, and one of them had a dilated pupil and appeared misty. I was hoping that it was nothing to be concerned about, but, sadly, the vet diagnosed a bad ulceration deep in the eye. It would have to be removed (enucleated).
Sapphire immediately had surgery to remove her eye, as the alternative option of putting in drops five times a day into a wild cat’s eye, with no guarantee of full healing, was never going to work, and I didn’t want her to suffer a moment longer.
The stent and swab were removed the following Monday on the 7th of June, and by the Wednesday, the eye socket was looking good and she only had a bit of swelling to still go down. She was finally on the road to full recovery.
A different cat
I was really a proud “feral mum” during the visit to the vet to remove the stent – I was able to hold her down in the carrier whilst the veterinarian and nurse worked with her.
It was then that I realised why her taming was taking longer than normal: she’d been in such unbelievable pain with her eye. It’s as if I’d brought a different cat home after that eye-removal surgery. In fact, a small ulcer had been noticed in the other eye during this visit (it had been a little weepy) but, being my much calmer pain-free girl, I was able to put drops in and didn’t have to opt for removal.
Since being home, my gorgeous girl has realised that I am her mommy, and this is her home. My beautiful Sapphire will now be a one-eyed, healthy, happy beauty living her life as a Pinkham – I did not and will not give up on her. She’s accepted my touch and love.