020512. Sonneglans Park, Randburg. Karen Bennett with her cat Tabitha Twitchet who went in a washing machine, washed for more than two hours and survived. 264 Picture: Dumisani Sibeko


[email protected]

“Meow!” Then silence. But a few minutes later another muffled, but desperate “Meow!”

Karin Bennett, 63, was befuddled. She checked each room in the house, calling “Tabitha”, but the black pavement-special kitty had vanished. She searched her neighbour’s house, where the adventurous feline liked to visit – but no luck.

She returned home and resorted to checking in all the kitchen cupboards, the oven, deep freeze and the fridge.

“Meow! Meeeow!!”

Puzzled, Bennett began looking under the garden plants.

Earlier that morning, she had put a comforter in the washing machine, her second load for the day, before going out to do her shopping. When she returned she heard the troubling meows and began tracking her missing minx.

Bennett was standing in the kitchen wondering how to solve the puzzle when the washing machine went “Ting! Ting! Ting!” She had had problems with the machine before and assumed it was acting up again. She wandered over to it and pressed the “spin” button. But as she pressed it, she saw a furry face through the machine’s glass, mouth open and eyes like saucers.

Tabitha! It was one hour and 45 minutes since Bennett had put the washing in.

She freaked. Too frightened to open the machine herself, she called her neighbour who quickly turned off the electricity mains.

But the washing machine door wouldn’t budge. So she ran outside, and found a gardener at the Sonneglans Park retirement village, where she lives. She asked him for help. Together they pried the “rat-cat” out. It was a shrivelled beast, half its normal size.

Bennett called the local vet, who was about to take a lunch break, and told him to hold his horses.

Tabitha was treated for shock and had hypothermia. She had water on the lungs. Distraught, Bennett went home and sobbed. “Please don’t take my cat away,” she thought.

But when she went to collect her cat five hours later, she was shocked. Tabitha had gone from being half her size to now being double her size. The vet assured Bennett this was just because they had blow-dried the moth-eaten mouser’s coat and put her on a heat pad to combat the hypothermia.

“It could happen to anybody,” said Bennett after she had calmed down. “She must have been sleeping in there.”

When she brought Tabitha home, the cat didn’t seem impressed with such a simple explanation. “She turned her back on me totally, like it was my fault that she was washed and rinsed.

“The vet told me she had lost seven of her nine lives… I can now see the funny side of it, but you can imagine my shock.”

Tabitha seems to have already forgotten her trauma. Already she has gone back to hiding in weird places again.

Bennett knows she’s got one thing to be grateful for. With the increase in the cost of living, she stopped using hot water in her washing machine months ago.