I am “Mom” to an orange ‘FurKid’ called Pringles. Yes, just like the can of chips and no, I didn’t name him! Unfortunately, he came pre-named. 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 ever seen Pringles will know that he’s quite a character and immediately knows that if he’s being called “Pringles” instead of “Catty”, that he’s in serious trouble!
My FurKid was born in February 2007 and the first few weeks of his life were rough. He was found in the bush on the Bluff (in Durban, South Africa) behind his first adopted family’s house, along with a few of his siblings. The kitties were only a few weeks old and were all lying next to the dead mommy cat, who they suspected had been poisoned. The family took pity on the little kitties, taking them home to bottle feed and hand-raise. Once the kitties were weaned and old enough for new homes, they were given up for adoption, but they chose to keep Pringles.
When he was 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 saw the ad on our work noticeboard. I asked my hubby nicely if I could please get this kitty and when approval was granted, 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 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 a very groggy, 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, he was used to just doing ‘his business’ in the garden. He was still very wobbly from the anaesthetic and wouldn’t eat or drink. I kept waking up every couple of hours during the night to check on him 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. The following day he used the litter box for the first time and all was well, but this was only the start of the adventure! We lived in a first floor flat, but 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 flat was. 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 grass below. I was sitting in the lounge reading when I saw movement out the corner of my eye. I looked up 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.
I fearfully 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 ended up going into our downstairs neighbours lounge window. Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on which way you look at it) they weren’t home. It took me another half hour to coax Pringles out of their flat, using catnip and calling him. I ended up leaving a note in their 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 find one or both them waiting for me in the evening when I got home from work, only to have them ask if they could come feed “Sprinkles” or if I knew where “the Orange Cat” was hiding.
After his flying leap, we soon realized that my Catty was ‘special’. Not only did he get up to mischief during the day, but he insisted on keeping us up at night! For the first 6 weeks, he woke up us every night, at least 3 to 4 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 and adjusted to his new home.
Things went great for a few months, until just before his second birthday, when he developed colic! 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). To this day, my Catty is still a hunter, but after suffering for a week with colic, he seems to be more careful. We would often wake up to find “Tops ‘n Tails” (the head & back legs) of the previous night’s snack in our passage or on our doormat! At least he’d learnt his lesson and now avoided the things that made him sick.
His “teenage years” presented with severe acne under his chin. This lasted about 4 months and cleared when I changed his water bowl from a plastic one to a stainless steel one. But this was not the end of our troubles. Up next was a bout of bladder infections that led to some serious 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, 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 and out in the garden on laundry days, but the bladder infections and stress from the 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 want to play anymore). The Vet put him onto anti-depressants – three times a day for two weeks, which meant me driving home during my lunch breaks to go and medicate my Catty! I don’t think I’ll ever live that one down. I still get teased about owning a cat that has had depression. 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 violently ‘stabbed’ the needle into Catty’s neck with a soft popping sound, as the needle penetrated the skin. I soon became used to this rather “violent” application of his injections, but I think my Catty has softened up a bit after many years of being spoilt.
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, only to have him then 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 them. It’s the easiest way to break up a cat fight without getting scratched to pieces.
This is only the tip of the iceberg … It gets worse, way worse! Read part 2