Two weeks ago, our neighbour found a cat. Thin and with a sore paw, it wasn’t in good shape. However, cats can appear lost when in fact they’re not. We asked up and down our street, and adjoining streets, talked to the vets, and alerted the security guards. After several days, nobody came to claim their cat.

Our neighbour couldn’t keep it, we’re full up and so I was considering the little cat’s future. He limped, holding up his front right paw. Although it wasn’t hurting him, it meant he couldn’t escape dogs by running away.

He also couldn’t protect himself against the feral cats. The strays are a tight-knit community, all related to each other, and no way were they accepting this little hobbling stranger. He’d been attacked already and had two sore patches on his shoulder.

I knew he couldn’t make it. He was facing a long, slow descent into poor health, and with constant attacks he’d likely die a miserable death. The shelters are full, and people will adopt a healthy kitten over one with a twisted paw. In short, he would probably be put down. After all, that’s what happens to thousands of unwanted cats every year.

So I was pretty miserable, as well as mad at the people who were careless enough not to spay and neuter, and then cruel enough to dump the poor little cat to boot. What was even worse was that he was a friendly little boy, meowing loudly and head-butting thanks for every meal.

The neighbour gave him a bowl with biscuits, and another with water. When the ferals mugged the kitten, the dog owner down the street sent over rice and curry. I did my best to help, handing out biscuits and chasing away the biggest bruisers threatening him.

Cat

Swooner licking his chops after a fine meal of tuna. He is the new kitten that has joined the writer’s household. Photo: Ellen Whyte

Of course Target and Guido realised what I was up to. My pets were giving me the stink eye, and when I was caught smuggling out cat food, Target went over to howl at the little intruder, screaming in cat, “she’s mine and I don’t share!”

Luckily at this point I asked Tom, the very sensible other half, for advice. He went out to examine the cat, and after 15 minutes – during which I was cursing the cruelty of the world and increasingly certain of a dreadful verdict – he came back. “He can come and live with us.”

I just gawped at him. “Really?”

“He’s got a lovely nature. He’s just like our old Scoop.”

“I’m telling Target it was your decision.”

Tom just laughed at me and although I knew putting a third kitty into our family was going to take some weeks of work, I was practically bursting into song. But I didn’t, because I sing like a cat. Even dogs howl when they hear me.

As the kitten was rail-thin, Tom was reminded of Swooner Crooner, a 1944 Looney Tunes cartoon that won an Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoons). The hero rooster is called Frankie, after Frank Sinatra, so we named our new boy Frankie Swooner. It was supposed to be Frankie but every time I touched the little cat, he’d throw himself over my feet, meowing and purring. So he’s more Swooner than Frankie.

Taking in a stray starts with a vet visit. It had been raining and the kitten was hiding under a tree. I picked him up, put him in our travelling box and took him in. He got his examination, vaccination, and worming tablet and then it was off to another vet for an X-ray of the twisted paw. Then to a third one for yet another opinion.

To my amazement, Swooner was sweet and co-operative, although scared. The vets noted the paw had been dislocated at some point in the past, possibly weeks earlier. Also, as it was an old injury, they couldn’t fix it. Thankfully it’s not sore and he has limited use of it so we can wait and see what develops.

The thinness was an issue too. Swooner weighed just two kilos, far too little for safety, so we decided to wait with the neutering. At this point, we were exhausted from examinations and consultations. Swooner was also fed up with being poked and prodded.

I took Swooner home, snuck past Target and Guido who were frowning with suspicion, and installed the little cat in the spare bedroom. Swooner took one look at the bed, another at the food bowl filled with tuna, and finally at the baby bath that we use as a litter tray.

He hopped out of his box, head-butted me, scoffed the tuna, and then piled into the kitty commode. The look on his little furry face was priceless. Clearly cat heaven includes three inches of clumping sand.

Then I lay down on the bed and watched the little cat explore. He loved the cushions, tried his claws on the mat, knocked a book off a shelf and then he jumped on to the bed, threw himself on top of me, and flumped out, purring like a little train.

Swooner had found a home.