IT’S a terrible time of the year for cats and dogs. Probably some other pets, too. It’s always a bad time for goldfish in the bowl in my city flat, but that’s another story.
Too often the novelty of that cute cuddly kitten or puppy under the Christmas tree wears off by New Year, or people gaily go off on holiday leaving their animals behind, hungry and lonely.
The abandoned and unwanted – the lucky ones, if you can call them that – find themselves in shelters like Darg (Domestic Animal Rescue Group) in Hout Bay, which has a no-kill policy. They also have no funding from the government so the organisation relies on the good, decent folk who open their homes and hearts to adopted pets, and, of course, donations to keep the place running.
Which is why we took a big bag of kitty crunchies when we went to visit the cats there.
Let me be clear: this is not a petting zoo. I would discourage you from taking your small children there just for fun. The hope is, of course, you will adopt something.
But I would recommend taking your mom, which is what I did, having heard about it from a friend who took his mother.
There are several cat gardens and enclosures at Darg, which is open 364 days a year from 9am till 4pm. We were directed to the domestic cats. “As opposed to the wild ones?” I asked, realising the stupidity of the question before it was even out my mouth. “Yes,” said the woman patiently. “We have feral cats, cats with leukaemia and cats with Aids.”
To get to the cats we had to go past the dogs.
By the time I had walked this gauntlet I was on the verge of tears; they were all of uncertain parentage but excited and eager for attention, sticking their noses and tongues through the wire gates.
In the cat garden there were about 20 or 30 adult cats of all shapes and sizes. Calico cats, black cats, white cats, tabby cats with stumpy tails, skinny cats, fat cats, nervous cats and friendly cats. Cats that purred, cats that had no meow, cats sleeping in pot plants, cats in the classic one-foot-in-the-air personal grooming pose, cats hunting and devouring butterflies, and cats jealously smacking others away from potential human contact.
The garden is a good home for cats. They are well-accommodated with warm beds, plenty of food, places to climb and hide, and they all appear fit and healthy… they have everything a cat could want, except someone to love them, play with them and cuddle them.
As I sat on the ground with one cat stretched across my lap and another two rubbing themselves against my legs (much to the disgust of my own cat when I returned home reeking of my infidelity), I wondered at the stories they could tell, where they came from and how they came to be here in this feline purgatory. If you love cats, it’s a peaceful and restful place to visit, with benches upon which to languish in the sunshine, but a bit sad, too.
Even if I was in the market for an adoption, I would have found it impossibly hard to choose just one without thinking of all the others left behind.
We did our small bit by lavishing them with some attention, tickling tummies, scratching ears and brushing them.