The Adventures of my FurKid – part 1

I am “Mom” to an orange ‘FurKid’ called Pringles.  Yes, just like the can of chips and no, I didn’t name him, he came pre-named, as we adopted him when he was about a year and a half old.  He’s a 100% pure ginger Mackerel Tabby, even the tip of his tail is a pale shade of creamy ginger!  He has no white on his chest or tummy either, just light and dark ginger spots.

Now, those of you who have met Pringles will know that he’s quite a character, and he immediately knows that if he’s being called “Pringles” instead of “Catty”, that he’s in some serious trouble!

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My FurKid was born sometime around February 2007, and the first few weeks of his little life were tough.  He was found in the bush on the Bluff (in Durban, South Africa), along with a few of his siblings.  The little kitties were only a few weeks old, and something horrible had happened to mommy cat.  The family who found the kittens took them home to bottle feed and hand-raise, as they were still really young and unable to feed themselves.  Once the kitties were weaned and old enough for new homes, most of the kittens were given up for adoption, but Pringles remained.

When he was about one-and-a-half years old, his human family decided to emigrate, and an ad for his adoption was put out.  I’d always wanted a ginger cat, and when I saw the advert on our work noticeboard, I asked my hubby nicely if I could please get this kitty.  Approval was granted, and I went around to meet the family and see Pringles for the first time.  There had been no one else interested in adopting him and he was now desperate for a new home.  I agreed to adopt him on condition that he was neutered, microchipped and vaccinated.

Three days later, his ‘ex-Mom’ said her goodbyes, dropping him off at the Vet in the morning to have all of the above done.  Later that afternoon, I drove to the Vet and collected one very groggy, very sleepy kitty.  Our first night together was strange, for both of us.  Hubby was away competing in the Fish River Canoe Marathon and I’d never had a cat before.  I had no idea if he knew how to use a litter box, and being an ex-feral, I assumed that he was used to just doing ‘his business’ out in the garden.  He was still very wobbly from all the anaesthetic and he refused to eat or drink.  I kept waking up every couple of hours during the night to check on him (even though he was sleeping on the bed with me) and would gently carry him over to the litter box and then across to his water bowl and eventually, in the early hours of the morning, he finally drank a little water.  The following day he used the litter box for the first time, and all was well, and that was the beginning of his adventures.

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We lived in a first floor apartment, although there was easy access to the garden from our level, as the building was built below street level and the pedestrian walkway entered the building right where our apartment was.  It was easy for Pringles to just follow the short corridor from our apartment out into the garden.  A week after he’d first arrived, he still didn’t want to go out into the ‘big, scary garden’, preferring to rather hide inside.  Catty (as he was now known) often used to sit on the lounge window sill that faced out to sea, and on this particular day he had other plans and decided to jump!  It wouldn’t have been such a problem if we were on the ground floor, but being on the first floor, it was a long way down to the grassy area below.  I happened to be sitting in the lounge reading, when I saw movement out the corner of my eye.  I looked up just in time to see his little furry bum and tail disappearing off the window ledge!  My heart hit my stomach.  I couldn’t believe he had jumped!  My first thought was that my kitty had broken all his legs or injured himself really badly.

Fearfully, I looked out the window, only to find him trying to come home the same way as he’d left!  The silly sausage was fine, but he ended up going into our downstairs neighbours lounge window as he couldn’t get back up to ours.  Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on which way you look at it) they weren’t at home.  It took me another half hour to coax Pringles out of their flat, by rattling catnip and treat bags and calling him.  I had to leave a note in the neighbours postbox explaining why there were sandy cat paw prints all over their window sill, and over the following years, their little daughter and her friend (who also lived in the block) would become good friends with “Sprinkles”.  I’d often come home from work in the evening to find one or both them waiting for me, only to have them ask if they could come in and feed “Sprinkles” his evening meal, or if I knew where the “Orange Cat” was hiding because they wanted to play with him.

Looking for birds

After his flying leap, we soon realized that my Catty was a little rascal.  Not only did he get up to mischief during the day, but he insisted on keeping us up at night, too! For the first 6 weeks, he woke up us every night, at least three to four times per night, meowing for no apparent reason. We began to feel the same way that new parents must feel when they bring a new baby home … extremely tired and horribly sleep deprived! But thankfully, the sleepless nights eventually ended once Catty had settled down into his new surroundings and adjusted to his new home.

Things went great for a few months, until just before his second birthday, when the poor boy developed a bad case of colic.  He didn’t want to eat or drink, he was lethargic, and his little tummy was bloated and swollen, so off to the Vet we went and I was told that the colic was caused by him eating the head of a particular type of Gecko (a lizard).  How do you stop a cat from hunting certain lizards?  To this day, my Catty is still a hunter, but after suffering for a week with colic, he seems to be more selective about what he eats.  After that, we would often wake up to find “Tops ‘n Tails” (the head & back legs) of the previous night’s snack in our hallway or on our doormat.  At least he’d learnt his lesson on his own, and now avoided the things that made him sick.

His “teenage years” presented with a case of severe acne underneath his chin.  This lasted about 4 months and only cleared up after trying numerous things and happened to be a as simple as swapping his water bowl from a plastic one to a stainless steel one.  But this was not the end of our medical troubles, up next was a bout of bladder infections that led to some serious feline depression.  Most ginger cats are male, but you do get a few rare ginger females. The one problem with ginger males, is that these cats are prone to getting crystals in their urine, which then cause recurring bladder infections, and my kitty was no exception.

After three bladder infections in less than two months, numerous Vet visits and medication,  and lots of TLC, the Vet finally put him onto prescription cat food. Pringles still came and went as he pleased and had free reign of the garden. The kids in the block would play with him during the day and I’d play with him every evening, as well as out in the garden on weekends and laundry days, but the stress from all the bladder infections, Vet visits, and medication had obviously taken their toll on his little body and he became horribly depressed, to a point where he wasn’t eating, would hardly drink and didn’t even want to play anymore.  The Vet put him onto anti-depressant tablets three times a day for two weeks, which meant me driving home from work during my lunch breaks to go and medicate my Catty.  I don’t think I’ll ever live that one down, and  I still get teased about owning a cat that has had depression.

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Being a domesticated feral, his skin is thicker than a normal domestic cat’s skin and our Vet often struggled to give him injections.  During our very first Vet visit, I noticed the Vet having difficulty getting the needle in.  The Vet asked me if Pringles was a feral and when my response was yes, he told me that I may want to look away.  This was when he ‘stabbed’ the vaccination needle into Catty’s neck.  I soon became used to this rather violent application of his injections, but I think my Catty has softened up after many years of being spoilt, as his vaccinations are nowhere near as “violent” any more.

He may be rough and tough, but he’s definitely a “Mommy’s boy” and often comes off second-best when fighting with other cats.  More often than not, he’s the one who starts the fight, and his favourite trick is to yowl and meow until I go outside to investigate and see what’s going on, only to have him hide behind my legs.  It’s almost as if to say to his opponent “Ha ha, I’ve got back-up”, as I’m usually armed with a tumbler of water to toss on the cats.  It’s the easiest way to break up a cat fight without getting scratched to pieces, and neither kitty gets harmed.

Catty under the tree

I can’t remember if it was our second or third Christmas with Pringles, but one year he woke us up around 3am with a tinkling crash and a yowl.  The silly cat had decided to climb up our Christmas tree in the early hours of the morning, and as he neared the top, the tree became top heavy and toppled over with him still in it.  Cat, tree, baubles and all, came tumbling down onto the carpet.  We turned on the light to find a wide-eyed, bushy tailed Catty trapped under tinsel, tree, and baubles.  Needless to say, he’s never attempted to climb the tree again, but does love to sleep underneath it.

This is only the tip of the iceberg.  His antics get funnier in part 2

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