Treating cold sores or fever blisters

Cold sores or fever blisters, whichever you choose to call them, they’re extremely painful! If you’re lucky enough to have avoided the dreaded virus that causes these blisters, or happen to carry the virus without actually suffering from the awful blisters, then this may not be of interest you. But, if you know of anyone who does suffer from them, or are interested in what I have to say, then please do continue reading. Something I mention in here may help to ease the pain of someone that you know. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, there’s a treatment summary at the bottom.

My family and close friends know that I’ve been suffering with this awful virus for many years and my earliest memory of having a blister is as young as nine or ten years old. Growing up with them wasn’t easy, as I was always being teased by siblings or cousins who were lucky enough never to experience one. Thankfully they don’t have to experience the pain and embarrassment of an outbreak.

imageDepending your immune system, the severity of the outbreaks will vary from small blisters that are hardly even noticeable; to huge, painful blisters (like I get) that leave you with a swollen, throbbing lip, enlarged glands and an aching jawbone!

On average, I have between 4 – 8 blisters per year, with some years being much worse than others. Over the last 20 years I’ve had around 70 blisters in total and have been keeping a ‘cold sore diary’ to try and figure out what triggers them, if it’s seasonal or diet related, etc.
My worst outbreak so far: 13 blisters in one month.
Most recent bad outbreak (over New Year 2014): 4 blisters developed in one day, all spread across my top lip!

For those still reading and don’t know much about this virus, there are two types of herpes simplex virus (HSV):
HSV-1 is the most common type, which causes facial herpes (sores on the mouth, nose, eyes or ears).
HSV-2 usually causes genital herpes.

Cross-infection can occur, although face-to-genital cross-infection is more common (causing genital HSV-1) than passing the virus from the genitals to the facial area. Apparently nearly half of genital herpes is caused by HSV-1 (the cold sore virus) being passed on through oral to genital contact.

The cold sore virus (HSV1) usually enters the body through a break in the skin, around or inside the mouth (or on the genitals) and is spread by touching the blister or sore, sharing eating utensils or drinking out the same cup or glass, kissing an infected person or coming into contact with the saliva of a person with a present blister. Scarily, most children who develop the blisters are infected through a kiss from a well-meaning adult who is unaware that they are still contagious. Often they have had a blister, which has then developed into a sore or a scab and they think that it’s now fine and that they are no longer contagious!

Remember, you are contagious from the first tingle until about two days after the blisters have healed completely.

Unfortunately, there is no cure (yet) and once you’re infected with the virus, it settles into a nearby nerve sheath (the trigeminal ganglion, if you get cold sores on your mouth) and remains there for the rest of your life. Most of the time, the virus lies dormant (inactive) and causes no symptoms, you won’t even know you have it. In some people the virus becomes active from time to time and this causes the virus to multiply and travel down the nerve sheath before appearing as cold sore blisters on the lips or around the mouth.

Some people have cold sore outbreaks often, while others only get them every now and then. No one knows exactly what causes the virus to become active, but there are a few things that seem to activate mine:

Menstruation (periods), trauma to the lips or mouth area, fever, excess exposure to sunlight, extreme weather conditions (heat or cold) or anything that lowers the immune system, like a cold, the flu or generally feeling “run down”. On occasion, excessive sugar or too much junk food has also caused the virus to flare up.

Over the years, I have tried everything from home remedies and “old wives tales” (which include applying egg white, paraffin and methylated spirits on the blisters) to natural remedies like aloe sap and tea tree oil; over the counter creams and even prescription antivirals! I have experimented with my diet as well, cutting out or adding foods to see what helps to improve the healing time and this is what I’ve found:

Contrary to popular belief, applying ice to the affected area does not stop a blister from forming (for me anyway, it may be different for others). It did soothe the area and helped with the swelling, but the blister still formed. Applying Acyclovir cream as soon as you feel that initial warning “tingle” or “prickly feeling” does help reduce the severity of the blister and if you catch it early enough, the blister may not even form. Unfortunately, I no longer get any warning “tingle” or “prickly feeling”, the blisters just seem to pop up. Maybe I’ve developed too much scar tissue over the years.

ZoviraxOnce the blister has formed, continue using a topical treatment cream (like Abreva, Denavir or Zovirax, available OTC at most pharmacies), as this will help dry out the blister. If it’s too sore to rub the cream in, just dab it onto the blister and leave it to soak in. Always wash your hands before and after touching the blister, to prevent infecting the blister or spreading the infection to other areas of your body (eyes, nose, ears, torso, etc). Personally, I prefer to use a clean cotton bud (Q-Tip) to apply the cream, it’s more hygienic and is useful if washing my hands is not an option. If you’re travelling, just pop a few cotton buds and the treatment cream into a small plastic ziploc bag.

There is another OTC ointment available in South Africa called Pharyherp (I’m not sure if it’s available elsewhere yet). My GP had me trial this for her just before we left SA. Instead of drying the blister out, this one drains the blister through osmosis and heals it from the inside while keeping it moist, which prevents cracking and bleeding once a scab has formed. Most people don’t realist that the sore is still contagious at when it’s at the scab stage, so avoid kissing anyone until is has completely healed.

Taking L-Lysine (an amino acid not produced by the body, but required to inhibit the virus) does help. It’s available at most pharmacies in the vitamin section. When I get a blister, I take an 1000mg at the onset, then 1000mg three times per day for three days. This seems to help a lot and reduces the size of the blister, as well as the healing time. L-Lysine is also helpful if you suffer from shingles and can be taken in the same way.

The virus seems to thrive on sugar and Arginine (another amino acid that is required for the virus to replicate). By cutting out all sugary foods and drinks and by reducing the intake of Arginine-rich foods (like nuts, peanut butter, seeds, beans, tuna fish, chicken and eggs), taking L-Lysine and using a topical cream, it is possible to reduce the severity and healing time of a large blister from two weeks to 4 – 8 days.

Anti-virals do help, but these are expensive and have to be prescribed by a doctor. They are taken like an antibiotic; a course of ten to fifteen tablets taken for 5 days, either twice or three times per day, depending on the strength of the tablets. With anti-virals, the course has to be started within 24-48 hours of a blister forming. I have tried both Zovirax (acyclovir tablets) and Famvir (famciclovir tablets) in the past and both work. In some people, these anti-virals may prevent future outbreaks, it all depends on how your body reacts to the treatment. (Note: Famvir is also prescribed for the treatment of shingles).

Covering cold sores with make-up can lead to the spread of the infection, especially if you’re not careful and I’ve found that the blister tends to become aggravated and often flares up even more. Rather avoid lipstick and draw attention away from your lips, towards your eyes by wearing black liquid or gel eyeliner or try going for a smokey-eyed look (sorry guys, this advise is for the ladies only, unless you wish to try the “guy liner” look or don’t mind wearing full make-up!).

imageIf you feel that you really do have to cover the blister (for a special occasion, wedding, etc), Abreva make a non-medicated patch called “AbrevaConceal“, which you stick on over the blister and then apply make-up onto the patch.


When you feel a blister starting, take 1000mg L-Lysine and apply acyclovir cream (every hour). Stop eating sugary foods and reduce arginine-rich foods. If the blister develops, continue using a topical treatment cream, take 1000mg L-Lysine three times per day for 3 days and take an anti-inflammatory if the swelling and pain is severe. Continue with the topical cream and only 1000mg L-Lysine per day from the 4th day, until the sore is completely healed. During the last few days, Isopropyl Alcohol can be applied to the scab to help dry it out quicker. Whatever you choose to do, don’t pick at the scab as you can still spread the virus.

As a preventative measure, use a moisturizing lip balm with an SPF15 or higher on a daily basis, like Blistex Moisture Max. It has an SPF15 and contains aloe vera and shea butter to prevent the lips from drying out.

Please note that I am not a medical professional.  This knowledge based on my own experience over the years and I hope that by sharing this info, it may possibly bring some relief to fellow cold sore suffers out there.

If you wish to read more about the Herpes Simplex Virus, have a look at this website:


100-days challenge – Days 26 to 50

Day 26: Glad that we live only half an hour or so from most beaches and get to go often.

Day 27: Grateful for Complimentary Passes to the House & Garden show. We were walking towards the event centre, when a stranger stopped his car and asked if we were going to the show. He gave us two tickets and drove off – he’d obviously given up on trying to find a parking!

Day 28: Grateful that I have the time to complete unfinished craft projects.

Day 29: Grateful that the man who cut my hair this morning was able to fix the botched job that the previous lady did!

Day 30:  Happiness is … a hot mug of Milo and a slice of freshly baked, homemade Banana Bread.  Mmmm.  *contented sigh*

Day 31:  Happiness is … Playing Hide n Seek with my Catty, only to have him pounce on me when I least expected it. This produced a fit of giggles from me and he turned into a scatty cat and ran around the house madly! Life wouldn’t be the same without him. 🐱

Day 32: Happiness is … Homemade pizza. It’s so therapeutic kneading dough and the end result is always worth the effort! Yum!

Day 33: Grateful for the helpful advice given to us by the knowledgable sales lady in the furniture store today … without her guidance, we would have ordered a table design that had the possibility of splitting or cracking in a year or two’s time!

Day 34: Grateful for the Roast Shop in our neighbourhood … Delicious roast pork for dinner and I didn’t have to cook!

Day 35: Grateful for modern technology … without it I wouldn’t be able to “chat” with friends on the other side of the world.

Day 36: Grateful for the wonderful weather that we’ve been having.

Day 37: Happiness is … the snooze button on my alarm. The extra 10 minutes was a nice treat this morning.

Day 38: Grateful for good customer service. Our complaint / issue was resolved promptly.

Day 39: Grateful that I’m healthy.

Day 40: Happiness is … sundowners on the deck with my hubby.

Day 41:  Happiness is … a new magazine and a cup of good coffee!

Day 42:  Grateful for 20 minutes of quiet time, so that I could meditate – it calms the mind and soothes frayed nerves.

Day 43:  Grateful for those peaceful few minutes right before I fall asleep … the house is silent and I can relax while listening to the crickets.

Day 44:  Happiness is … acting like a tourist and buying souvenirs.

Day 45:  Grateful that I got to see the town of Russell and a small section of the Bay of Islands.

Day 46:  Happiness is … a long, peaceful walk on the beach with my hubby.

Day 47:  Grateful that I got to see Cape Reinga (tip of the North Island) and the spot where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea.

Day 48: Happiness is … a long, solitary walk on the beach and finding 5 unbroken sand dollar shells.

Day 49: Grateful that I was able to see the giant Kauri tree, Tane Mahuta. What an awesome sight!

Day 50: Grateful for “me” time … A few hours of peaceful, quiet time to do whatever I feel like.

100-days challenge – Days 1 to 25

25 February 2014 – The start of my 100 days of gratitude / happiness challenge … 

Day 1:  My morning walk along the coastal path.  It’s so peaceful and relaxing listening the the birds.

Day 2:  Even though I don’t have kids of my own, the funny things that kids say is always guaranteed to produce a smile.  It may be something overheard in the supermarket, an ad on TV or an e-mail doing the rounds.   This is an ad I saw toady about what to do in the event of an earthquake … I just love the part about earthquakes causing salami’s (instead of tsunami’s).   It makes me smile each time I see it – just love the innocence and wild imaginations!

Day 3:  Grateful for home-cooked comfort food. A tasty meal and a full tummy really can make you feel better!

Day 4: My FurKid. I’m really grateful that I was able to bring him with me when we moved. Many people are not this lucky and have to give their pets away when they emigrate.

Day 5: Happiness is … A hot shower after a bad day.

Day 6: Grateful that I didn’t break any bones or sprain any joints. After what could have been a very nasty fall, I walked away with 8 bruises and a very stiff body. I feel extremely lucky … it could have been a lot worse!

Day 7: Painkillers and a hot bath to ease sore muscles. I haven’t appreciated a long soak in the tub this much in a long time.

Day 8: Grateful for the make-up training I did in SA (both courses) and the knowledge that I’ve gained over the years since then. It really makes me appreciate what I know when I’m forced to sit and listen to an unqualified person spouting utter rubbish, while they believe that every word they’re saying is true!

Day 9: Grateful for the wonderful staff and nurses at the nearby A&E. No matter how busy they are, they always greet you with a friendly smile and are extremely helpful!

Day 10: Happiness is … A surprise mail delivery. I entered a competition and ended up winning a lipstick! My prize was delivered this morning.

Day 11: Grateful for my little garden. It may be small, but gives me great pleasure and I haven’t bought cherry tomatoes in weeks!

Day 12: Happiness is … Long walks on the beach with my husband.

Day 13: Lazy Sunday afternoons – curled up on the couch with my husband, a cup of coffee and a good book.

Day 14: Grateful for a handful of true friends in my life. Even though they’re far away, they still make the effort to answer my e-mails and keep in contact. I miss seeing you guys!

Day 15: Grateful for my car and that I am able to drive and don’t have to rely on others for lifts, etc.

Day 16: Early morning cuddles from my Catty … I know winter is coming when he starts sleeping on the bed!

Day 17: Watching the sun rise. It’s so peaceful at that time of morning and always reminds me of my wedding day … I woke up early that morning and with all the wedding nerves couldn’t go back to sleep, so I grabbed a cup of camomile tea and watched the sun rise over the sea! It’s a wonderful memory that will stay with me forever!

Day 18: Grateful for technology. The “chat” I had today with a good friend of mine would not have been possible without it. We may be half a world apart and haven’t seen each other for years, but the friendship feels as strong as ever, if not stronger!

Day 19: Grateful that we’re warm and dry, while Cyclone Lusi passes by.

Day 20: Happiness is … Beachcombing after a storm! I found some beautiful (whole) sand dollar shells.

Day 21: Grateful that we had no damage after Cyclone Lusi, only a messy garden full of leaves!

Day 22: Grateful for my little garden. There’s nothing like having fresh rosemary, thyme or mint whenever I need it!

Day 23: Grateful that I have many hobbies that I can “lose myself” in … it’s a great, productive way for my mind to escape from unpleasant or stressful things that I’d rather not think about or deal with right now. Almost like a type of meditation.

Day 24: Happiness is … Playtime with my Catty. He’s such a playful cat and watching him reminds me that joy can be found in the simplest things!

Day 25: Grateful for another day. I think most of us take it for granted that we just happen to wake up each morning, without giving it much thought.

100-days Challenge

100-days Challenge

A few years ago, Oprah began a craze by getting her fans to keep gratitude journals (I never watched Oprah, but heard about this in the office).  Then there was the Gratitude Challenge – a 21-day online version of a gratitude journal that encourages people to “take note of the brighter side of life”.   Now it seems like #100happydays is the latest thing popping up in social media.  This one is a 100-day challenge where you make note of one thing that made you happy that day.

It’s been suggested to me before, by a close friend, that I try keeping a gratitude journal as a means of becoming a more positive person and trying to have a brighter outlook on life.  Up until now, I have never actually given this much thought, but after seeing what positive thinking did during our emigration process, there’s really no harm in trying.

I’m often affected by negative people or things around me and I know I should just let go of it, ignore them or forget about what happened or what was said, but sometimes I find this to be really difficult.  I’m hoping that by combining both of the above (gratitude challenge & 100 days of happiness) and doing 100 days of happiness and/or gratitude, that it’ll help me to remain a bit more positive in the next few weeks and months.


The Adventures of my FurKid – part 2

The words “Cat burglar” definitely come to mind when I think about another phase that he went through.  It started off with him bringing home dried leaves and palm fronds (our neighbour saw this and asked if he was nesting!).  This soon became rags or items of laundry that had been dropped in the garden or had blown off the washline.  Then one night he brought home a pair of little boy’s shorts.  There was only one family in the block with a little boy under the age of two, so I was able to return them the next day.


The following week, it was a pair of brand new, clean, Woolworths ladies panties (boyshort style).  I had no idea who they belonged to, so I hung them up on the communal washing line, hoping that the owner would claim them.  The next night, another pair of the same brand new, clean, Woolworths boyshorts (same size but different pattern from the previous night).  These went into a plastic bag as the other pair was still hanging on the line outside.  When he appeared the next evening carrying a third pair of these brand new undies (yet another pair, same size, different pattern), I knew I had to do something.  Showing him the offending item and telling him he was a ‘bad cat’ was not working.

Somewhere out there was a poor woman missing 3 pairs of brand new underwear, quite possibly from inside her locked apartment!  I could only imagine what would go through her mind when she realized they were missing!  So at 7pm, out I went, armed with the latest pair of undies and my ‘not-so-innocent’ Catty happily trotting along behind me (it was almost as if he was interested to see if I could solve this one).  I knocked on every door that had an open window or open door where he could have gained access and asked if the underwear belonged to anyone in that apartment, explaining the situation and that this was now the 3rd pair!  Obviously, this brought forth many chuckles, but did not solve the problem.  No one admitted to owning the underwear!

I began to wonder where in the neighbourhood he was getting them from and how far he was roaming.  It must have been a very funny sight to see – a cat trotting down the sidewalk with a pair of panties dangling from his mouth!  Over the next two nights, two more pairs of brand new boyshorts appeared.  Whoever this lady was, she was now missing 5 pairs of brand new underwear!  If it was me, I’d be seriously worried about my underwear going missing from inside my house, with no clue as to how someone had gotten in or how it had gone missing!  I kept the plastic bag of brand new underwear for two weeks, just in case I found the owner.  I never did, and it was eventually added to a load of second-hand clothing that was donated.

As I mentioned earlier, my Catty is a hunter and he will hunt anything that moves … grasshoppers, lizards, butterflies, birds and even your feet (if he’s in the mood)! Being on the rather “festively plump” side, more often than not, it’ll be a near miss when it comes to stalking birds, but he has managed to catch a few. Usually he’ll bring them to us very gently, as unharmed ‘gifts’, and we’re able to rescue them and set them free. But there was one occasion when I woke up one morning to find our lounge looking like a murder scene … there was a large pool of blood on the carpet and feathers everywhere! He’d managed to catch a pigeon during the night and had decided that this one was not going to be a gift – he was going to eat it! Having to clean bird blood out of a cream coloured carpet at 6am (before going to work) was not my idea of fun and Pringles knew he was in trouble! He made himself very scarce and went off to to hide in the garden.


Four years after we’d first got Pringles, we ended up installing a cat flap in our front door.  He’d always used a kitchen window to get in an out of but after an attempted break-in at 2am one morning, the cat flap became a necessity.  We hadn’t even had the flap for a week, when we were rudely awoken at 5am with very loud meowing and yowling.  Thinking that there was a cat fight going on in our lounge, we padded through the house (with my heart pounding in my chest), only to find Catty lying outside on the doormat with his front paw trapped in cat flap!  He’d been playing with it.  Swatting at the flap as if it were a toy and had gotten his paw well and truly wedged between the flap and the frame!  His paw was upturned and the flap had become wedged in between the paw pads.  How we eventually got it free, I have no idea!  Unfortunately, he did not learn his lesson and this happened again about a month later, also in the early hours of the morning!

I’ll never forget the afternoon that I thought my cat was going to die … I came home from work to find him playing with something in the garden. Thinking that it was just an insect of some sort, I left him alone, as he often supplemented his diet by eating insects and lizards. The next thing I know, he’s shaking his front paw frantically and there’s this long, thin, green thing hanging off it. A snake!

I ran down the stairs and onto the grass to go rescue my Catty (completely ignoring my absolute fear of snakes). Meanwhile he was rather irritated that this thing had bitten him and proceeded to pounce on its body with his other front paw. By the time I reached him, he’d bitten the snake a few times and had broken its neck. With my heart pounding, I picked up my cat, leaving the snake on the grass and ran upstairs with him in my arms, tears streaming down my face, shouting for my hubby and crying “My Catty’s been bitten by a snake! He’s going to die!”.

I was asked what kind of snake it was, and if I was sure it was dead and that it hadn’t already slithered off … How would I know? To me, a snake is a snake and in my mind, they’re all poisonous, horrible things that I prefer to stay away from. I wasn’t going to hang around to see if it was really and truly dead. I was more worried about getting Catty to the Vet!

Hubby went off to investigate, with Catty and I trailing sheepishly behind. It turns out it was only a harmless bush snake (not poisonous), and yes, it was dead!


In July 2013, we moved halfway around the world and I chose to take my Catty with me.  Many people told me that I was crazy.  Yes, it was expensive, but I couldn’t bear the thought of having to leave my FurKid behind.

He went through a lot with this move.  He was put into a cattery for a month before we flew so that they could do all the vaccinations, inoculations and paperwork required.  I also didn’t want him to be around while we packed up the flat, as I was trying to reduce his stress levels as much as possible.  He flew on a different airline to us (via Sydney, which made his flight shorter) and was placed in quarantine for 10 days upon arrival in the new country.  When we finally went to collect him, I hadn’t seen him for 6 weeks!

We arrived at the quarantine facility and they took me through to see him.  I called his name and got no response.  Not even an ear twitch of recognition.  I was hurt!  Had my Catty forgotten me already or was this payback for all that he’d been through?  The reason soon revealed itself … it was mid-winter and the quarantine facility had spoilt him by putting an electric blanket inside his bed!  He was so nice and warm in his cosy little bed that he didn’t want to come home.

We stayed with my hubby’s aunt and uncle for the first few weeks after we arrived and kept Catty locked inside ‘our’ bedroom, just in case he decided to make a run for it.  On this particular morning, we happened to pop out for groceries and left the bedroom window cracked open to let some fresh air in.  I had done this before, as the windows are quite stiff and very hard to push open.

I forgot to mention the open window (the bedroom door was kept closed) and unknowingly, the house was vacuumed while we were out.  Catty is absolutely petrified of vacuum cleaners!  The way he reacts, you’d swear it was out to eat him!  Well, he heard the noise and in a frantic panic, with super-catty strength, he managed to push the stiff window open and out into the wild he went.  We arrived home and he was gone!  My heart sank.  To bring him all this way, only to have him disappear without a trace.  Thankfully he hadn’t gone far and was hiding underneath the house.  It took a while, but my hubby eventually coaxed him out and we locked him back inside the house.  The silly sausage!

We’d been here about a month when we finally found a townhouse to rent and promptly packed up the car with our borrowed linen, luggage and the cat (the container with our household goods was still in transit), so we were able to fit everything into the car and could do the move in one trip.  It was about a 20km drive, so off we went.  After having recently flown for hours in a noisy aeroplane, being inside the cat carrier again must have stressed Pringles out immensely, as not even 3kms down the road, he “dropped one” (thankfully I had put newspaper down in his carrier)!  It was a cold, grey, rainy day and we ended up having to drive the next 17kms (gagging on the smell) with our windows rolled down to try and get rid of the awful stench.  At the time, it was not at all funny, but thankfully we can laugh about it now.

After that little incident, we were hoping that our first night in our new home would be unadventurous, but that was wishful thinking!  This was another strange house, with strange smells (there had been another cat living here before) and Pringles kept scratching at the doors and windows trying to get out.

In desperation, we ended up putting him in the laundry room with his food, water and litter box, as it was the only downstairs room with a tiled floor and far enough away from our bedroom so that we could try to get some sleep.

A loud bang abruptly woke us up at 5am the next morning.  Catty had been trying to escape and was jumping up and hanging onto the door handle in an attempt to try open the laundry room door.  I went downstairs to see what all the noise was, only to find that he had managed to slide the barrel bolt across, effectively locking himself inside!  Instant panic!  How was I going to get in there to get him out?

The door handle unscrews, but you need to be able to access both sides to do this and there were no visible screws on the outside.  We remembered that there was set of louvre windows on the side of the laundry room and thankfully we’d left the top set open so that he’d have a bit of fresh air.  There we were, at 5.30am, standing on a chair and reaching in to try and slide the louvres out of the frames so that we could get to the handles on the lower ones to open them and do the same.  Once these had been removed, there was a gap big enough for hubby to climb though and unlock the door.  Needless to say, he wasn’t very impressed with the cat!


Pringles, Catty, Sprinkles, Orange Cat, Sausage, Thundercat (we have wooden floors and he loves the sound his paws make when goes tearing down the staircase, especially at night!), whatever his current nickname may be, he drives us nuts, has us in fits of laughter and can be extremely entertaining.  I cannot imagine our lives without my FurKid and I’m really glad that I chose to bring him with.  I’m sure these frustrating and entertaining adventures will continue in the years to come and when they do, I’ll write part 3.

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!  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! Image003 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.

Looking for birds 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. IMG_1080 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