We were driving home following a long day at work. I was sitting in the passenger seat, part dozing in the warmth of the car, which made a pleasant contrast to the icy conditions outside. All of a sudden Maggie, who has excellent vision, exclaimed: “There’s a kitten on the road”. I started awake and looked around but could see nothing but the lights of cars passing us on the busy road. Maggie insisted she had seen a kitten and turned the car around in the forecourt of a nearby garage and retraced our steps. I could see that a long line of cars had stopped on the road but I couldn’t see what obstruction had caused the blockage. Then, the lead car in the queue swung out over the white line as if avoiding some hazard and drove on followed by the rest of the vehicles. Then I saw a blur of something white as a tiny creature ran across the traffic laden road to the footpath on the opposite side. Maggie pulled our car over to the kerb and shot out the door and returned with a small, very dirty, and very emaciated, black and white kitten. Due to the fact we were on a main road with lots of traffic we unceremoniously bundled the little waif into a jacket, sat it on my lap and resumed our journey home. On the way I tried to examine what I could see of the little kitten. It was extremely bony and shivering with the cold. Its black and white coat was matted with dirt. The kitten’s paws looked like the fingers on a skeleton but what immediately struck me was the creature’s demeanour. This kitten was the most beaten looking thing I had ever seen. It had clearly given up on life and was preparing to die. It lay supine in my arms with an attitude of ‘Do what you will. I don’t care anymore’ and when we arrived home it vomited up a slug. And I mean your common, garden variety, slug! One of those slimy creatures that slithers all over your prize Begonias and eats them. Just how starving must a cat be that it is willing to devour a slug?
We brought the kitten into the warmth and light of our kitchen and sat it on the floor while we prepared some food for it. The little kitten just sat there on the floor, not moving, not reacting, while our horde of well fed, house cats, strolled over to investigate this new arrival in their midst. Following a degree of sniffing,
our privileged lot lost interest and wandered off to their favourite perches for the night. Maggie prepared a meal of many delights for the newcomer to see what foods it would eat and we quickly discovered it would eat anything and everything that was put in front of it. Then Maggie began the process of evaluation. The kitten’s first need following food was to be cleaned. We discovered our kitten was, in fact, a she, during the cleaning process, and that her nose ran incessantly. On account of the nasal discharge that reminded me of a small snoffly kid, we named her ‘Snoffy’ and so she remains to this day. Snoffy’s paws were in an appalling state, her pads were torn and ripped, each individual digit resembled nothing more than a piece of torn string, and she had great difficulty in walking. Her black and white fur was covered in dirt and riddled with large, adult fleas, and smelt of engine oil. Her bones stuck out through her skin and you could trace her entire skeleton simply by running your fingers along the outline of her body. Following food and cleaning, Snoffy was given a warm bed for the night and settled down to sleep.
The following day we brought her to our vet, a man we both knew and respected for a long time, for her required vax, and worm/flea treatment. Maggie lifted Snoffy out of her cage in the vet’s surgery and put her on the examination table.
I have known our vet for a very long time and have always regarded him as a jovial, easy going man, who is quick to laugh and gentle with animals. When he looked at Snoffy my first impulse was to dive under the table and stay there. I have rarely seen such anger, frustration, and contempt, all mingled on a human being’s face before. The vet softly examined our little foundling while vocally expounding on the B******S, W****S, D********S, and W*****S, who had treated a little kitten like this. Snoffy was within hours of dying from starvation and dehydration. She was riddled with both internal and external parasites. Her coat was covered in dirt and sores. She had a constant runny nose and cat flu, plus a serious respiratory infection that required some serious medication to
shift it. We left the vet laden down with advice and medication and brought Snoffy back to her new home. Here Maggie sprang into action and Snoffy (or Snoffs for short) was put under a supervised regime of diet, medication and grooming. For three, long, months, Snoffy was medicated. Her coat was cleaned on a daily basis. Her battered feet received the best pedicures Maggie could offer. Her kitty litter was inspected to ensure all parasites had left her system (this job I gladly left to Maggie) and slowly her general health began to improve. What most concerned us however was her abject demeanour. Snoffy ate what was put in front of her. She stoically endured the medication and the grooming but she never showed any playfulness one would normally associate with a kitten. The greatest hurt Snoffy suffered was the crushing of her spirit by the hands of some callous human who had neither the wit nor grace to properly care for a kitten.
The day after Snoffy’s discovery, Maggie returned to the site and, on an impulse, looked over the low wall that bordered the road, only to find the body of one kitten lying in a stream and another little waif dead on the bank. These three kittens had been placed in a paper bag and hurled over the wall into the stream and left there to die. How long those babies had struggled to escape that bag God only knows. One drowned in the stream. One made it to the bank and died there, probably exhausted by the struggle to leave the water. And the third, Snoffy, fought her way out of the bag, made it through the water, and then had to struggle up a wall until she made it to the road. Here all strength left her and she sat in the middle of the road and waited for whatever was to happen to her next. It was then that karma smiled upon Snoffy because Maggie came along and spotted her.
We had Snoffy for about four months when on impulse I bought a silly cat toy. It was a mouse on the end of a long string that was attached to a handle. I brought it home and was dangling it in front of my overfed, over indulged cats, (who looked at me as if I was simple in the head. What! chase that thing?) when Snoffy suddenly burst out from under a kitchen chair, grabbed it in her mouth, and began to play with it. It was the breakthrough we had waited such a long time for. Snoffy was behaving like an ordinary kitten for the first time in her short life. From that moment on, Snoffy started to become something other than an ordinary kitten. Her early experiences left her with a permanent respiratory condition and she needed to have all her teeth removed due to pyrrhea (or periodontitis). Snoffy has periods when she becomes extremely sensitive to light and gets confused with perspectives and shapes. She sneezes and can hurl boogers across a room, just the thing when we have guests.
But it is when some little stray, bedraggled cat or kitten, is brought home that Snoffy’s specialness comes out. Every feline that comes in our door is met and mothered by Snoffy. When Li’l Red and his four sisters were rescued and brought home it was Snoffy who was waiting for them. She marshalled all five, frightened, kittens onto the cat bed and began to groom each and every one. She taught her charges how to bum ham from the humans and where to find the warmest beds in the house. She plays with all the kittens even though she is a young adult cat now. Unlike the other cats she has never hissed at, or raised a paw to, any cat that has been brought home. Snoffy has grown into a very loving, kind hearted, little cat, and little she is as she is half the size of any other cat her age. Snoffs will never grow any bigger; her wretched start in life has ensured that, but she is a colossus when it comes to extending a welcoming, loving paw, to all the waifs that cross our doorstep.
Snoffy is my girl. When things get bad for Snoffy she sleeps on my pillow, her furry little body wrapped around the top of my head. She sits on the kitchen counter top and silently meows at me to fetch her ham from the fridge. Sometimes she just looks at me and I dutifully trot to the fridge to fetch bacon products for her. Snoffy is my princess and we have an understanding; she commands, I obey.
Snoffy is a rescue cat who has touched the hearts of all those who have met her. Friends who call to our house. The vets that have treated her. And most of all the frightened kittens and cats that have been rescued off the streets and mean back alleys of this county. Snoffy, the cat who lived, has now become Snoffy, the cat that loves.