This is my life.

24th Mar, 2021

Narrated by Nonnies

Photography by Chris van Dyk

My name is Nonnies – now anyway. At some stage of my life, I was also called Mamma Kat. I was a street cat that had to fend for myself – living a free, wild and dangerous life, for a feral cat at least. This is my life.

Living in the bush

Around 2005, I moved into a bush on the land that’s today the Cape Gate Lifestyle Centre shopping mall in Brackenfell, Cape Town. When the mall opened, I hoped that shoppers would every now and then drop something for me to eat. In between, I had a few babies, but they were taken away from me by humans. But I stayed on.

A friendly lady, Aunty Petro Fick from Capetonians Against Animal Abuse (CAAA), noticed me and started to bring me food and fresh water every day. I had an encounter with a car – I fortunately survived, but most of my tail didn’t. Aunty Petro caught me and sterilised me so that I wouldn’t have any more babies, which was a big relief. Other than that, as a feral cat, I didn’t interact with people at all.

Too old for the streets

Then one day, Aunty Petro had an accident and broke a bone in her shoulder. She couldn’t come to feed us. Two new friendly ladies, Aunties Sulette Mostert and Estelle van Niekerk, started to bring me and the other feral cats at Cape Gate food and water.

About nine years later, in 2014, the good ladies decided that I was getting too old to stay on the street. Aunt Estelle’s husband, Uncle Willie, agreed that I could come and live with them.

The life of a feral or street cat depends on staying close enough to humans to get some food but otherwise staying far away from them. So, I didn’t make it easy for them to catch me, I can tell you that. I knew the good ladies very well but was still too scared of humans.

They even tried to catch me with a cat trap, but I was way too streetwise for them.

How a picnic basket saved the day

Aunty Petro, the one I trusted most, came up with a cunning plan. She came to me every day with a picnic basket with lovely bits of food. I loved it and even started to rub my body against her leg to show my appreciation – but didn’t allow her to touch me. Then one day, while she was taking out food, I was a little bit too relaxed… and she pushed me into the basket – and sat on it! I heard her calling Aunt Estelle to come and help.

Aunt Estelle took me to her house where I met Uncle Willie and their son, Sean. There, I had my own room with everything a cat could need: a clean kitty-litter box, a soft, warm blanket, delicious fresh food and clean water. For two weeks, I wasn’t allowed to leave the room (so I could get used to my new surroundings), but they popped in frequently, with a cat sister or brother for me to meet and to get used to. After two weeks, they opened the room door and allowed me to get to know the rest of the house, although I wasn’t allowed to leave the house and go to the garden (to keep me safe). It was then that they asked me if they could call me Nonnies.

I’ve been part of the family now for seven years.

Wrapped around my paw

Visitors think I’m too cute with my short tail. I soon learned to turn my back to them when they sit down on the couch and tickle them with my stumpy tail to get their attention for a head rub. Even Chris, the grumpy old man who doesn’t like animals on his lap – I quickly trained him. When he sits down, I confidently walk across his lap, turn around, and put only my two front legs on his lap. It works every time.

Only two humans are allowed to pick me up: Willie and Sean. The rest are welcome to stroke me, but otherwise, hands off! At night, I sleep tightly next to my adopted cat brothers and sisters. During the day, my favourite place is on the stoep, on one of the chairs.

Look at me now; who would guess that I’ve spent more than nine years as a feral on the streets? This is how an old cat that endured such a harsh life should retire… in comfort and love.

Estelle, Nonnies’s owner, adds…

To get a feral cat to trust and love you is the most fantastic experience in the world. We as a family have the greatest respect for them and allow them the freedom to adapt in their own time and at their own pace. The first time that they trust you for a rub is a humbling experience.

Nonnies brings so much love and laughter in our lives, and to see her play with her catnip mouse like a young kitten is awesome.


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