My name is Xian. I was born as a feral kitten at a factory in
Umbogintwini, on the South coast of Natal in South Africa. I had two
brothers, one who looked just like me with Siamese colouring and blue
eyes, the other looked like our mommy, who was tabby. Mommy was very
beautiful, she had long hair with a thick, bushy tail.
I do not remember very much of my early life, but I do remember that
when we were five weeks old mommy moved us to a courtyard behind an
office building. We moved in the evening when everything was quiet, and
at first it seemed like a very nice place. We kittens were all settled
under a small wooden house, when the in the early morning mommy went out
to catch us some food. She had promised to teach us all to hunt when we
were a little bigger.
We were having a lovely time playing around the courtyard when suddenly
we caught sign of humans! We all scattered and ran for our lives. I ran
into what I later heard was a toilet and hid behind the door, but it was
not long before someone came and picked me up. I bit the hand that held
me very hard, but it only held me tighter. The person who the hand
belonged to, who I later came to call mother, made nice soothing noises
and held me close to her neck, although I spat and called out for my
I was taken into a room with lots of bits of paper. Mother held me
close, stroking me and kissing me, then eventually she said that I had
calmed down enough and I was taken on a short journey in a car. All
these new things were very frightening for such a small kitten, but I
did not complain about what seemed to be inevitable. I was taken into a
house and given a comfortable bed, a toilet and best of all a large meal
in a quiet room where I could collect my senses again. Before long I was
joined by my Siamese brother who had been hiding behind the dustbins and
then the next day by our tabby brother. Mother had caught them too. I
heard her say that she felt very sorry for mommy and would try to find
her to give her some food. I felt very sorry too, but there were so many
new exciting things to do and see that I hardly gave it a thought.
After a few days my brothers were taken away. Mother said that they had
gone to new, good homes and that I would now just have to calm down,
stop spitting and be her baby. I did my best and was soon, she said, the
best of kittens, although she did get rather cross when I woke her up in
the night to lick her face. I have a new family, as mother also has five
other cats. In particular I like Felix, who looks very much like mommy.
He has told me that we are probably related as he came from the same
factory, and mother had to rescue him from a drain. He is very kind and
often licks me all over.
All this happened a few years ago. I am very happy with my new family
although rather nervous of strangers, and I do like to spend a lot of
time outdoors. I still like to lick mother's face when she is trying to
sleep! I hope that you will print my story as an inspiration to other
feral cats and their human families.
I work in the Human Resources Department at a large industrial complex (not as bad as it sounds, it is actually quite rural with lots of open space). We are situated next door to the Occupational Health Clinic which an attractive place for feral cats due to the expansive gardens and adjacent bush. One such was a little female feral cat who I fed off and on for a couple of years. I say ‘off and on’ because she only chose to visit us at odd intervals, mostly when she had kittens. She was small and tabby, and when I called her a name at all it was Kitty.
In February 1994 Kitty produced another batch of kittens and decided to bring them up near the food, in the hospital grounds. She moved them around a lot and we would frequently see them playing, sometimes up on the flat roof of the old hospital building.
On 27 April 1994 South Africa had its first democratic elections, which day was declared a holiday for ease of voting. Not everyone got to the polls so the next day was also declared a holiday. My boss had recruitment interviews already planned, so we came into work. At lunchtime, with all the interviews done, he decided that we may as well go home. As we were preparing to leave I saw a strange sight. Kitty had brought all three kittens up to my window and was staring in at me! She and the kittens usually stayed in the hospital grounds and I had never seen her up by the offices before. She stayed there looking at us until we left to go home.
The next day she didn’t come for her breakfast and when I mentioned this to a visitor, he said that there was a dead cat down on the main road. I rushed down and sure enough, it was Kitty. But what about the kittens? We didn’t even know where she had hidden them, until my friend Julia, who is the Matron, thought she had seen them in a drain in the grounds. There was no sign, but I left a plate of food there anyway. That was Friday. On Saturday my son and I went back to look, the food was untouched so I moved it nearer to the entrance to the drain. When we came back the next day it was gone! Gradually the kittens came out of the drain to eat and learnt to trust us. There were 3 of them – a tabby and white female, a short-haired tabby female and the most beautiful kitten I had ever seen – a long-haired tabby with a ginger sheen to his coat, white chest and tummy and white paws – Felix.
Is it possible that Kitty knew that her kittens were going to need help and brought them to me so that I could see who they were? Or was she showing the kittens who would help them?
I contacted a cat welfare organisation, Alley Cat Allies, who advised me to feed them and gain their trust. Then they would come out and catch them so that they could find them homes. So I did. They were fed twice a day during the week, once a day weekends. I live close enough to go there at weekends. The kittens grew and thrived, still living down their drain. Luckily we have very little rain in winter, so at least the drain was dry, if rather draughty. They were still quite wild and although they came to me for food, would not let me touch them. I put a hand round Felix once while he was eating and still have the scar on my wrist!
Eventually towards the end of winter I managed to pick Felix up and hold him. He loved it and snuggled into my jersey. I wanted to tame the two females too, a mistake as I see now as it meant them staying in the drain longer than they needed to. Then I realised that I would have to do something about them soon. They were all getting bigger, spring was coming with spring rains and growing kittens coming on heat! I had decided to take Felix home, but I couldn’t manage two semi-wild cats too, with all that I already had. Alley Cat Allies advised me to take Felix, leaving the girls to calm down (Felix was the leader) and they would come and get them the following week. They had already tried to take them all, but Felix would not be caught!
I organised my regular lift, a dour Afrikaaner, to take Felix home one Friday afternoon. He was no trouble to put into the basket, I put the lid on and into the car. Then came a sight which even brought tears to the eyes of the Afrikaans gentleman – the two girls chased after the car to the gate! It was dreadful and I’m glad Felix didn’t see it.
We got him home, the first time he had been in a house, and after the first night he settled down well. He was shut into my bedroom for a few days and at first ran around demolishing everything! At bedtime when I took my clothes off he looked horrified – was I going to ask him to take his fur off too!
He hadn’t been home long before he had major kidney problems, but he coped well even though he had to be hospitalised for a few days.
He is now an enormous, fluffy cat. He doesn’t like strangers but will sit with me for hours at a time. He is afraid of thunder and has to be comforted when there are storms about. He never roams far and is usually there when I call him. On one occasion he did get chased up a tree by a dog and had to be rescued by one of the neighbourhood children. He was stuck right at the top, holding on for dear life and was completely stuck, too frightened to even look at me! The little boy coaxed him down gradually (he was too big to be carried down) and at a certain height dropped him into my arms. He hasn’t done that again.
That is my Felix, one of the best cats you are likely to meet!