Written and photographed by Hilette Hatting
It all started when I was tasked with photographing some cats at the Animal Welfare Society (AWS) in Port Elizabeth that were desperately seeking loving homes...
I had one cat left to photograph, but upon approaching her pen I noticed this kitty was not like the others. She was more reserved and didn’t immediately approach you like the others. She was a real stunner – bright green eyes, fluffy black-and-white fur with a little black patch underneath the chin as if she’d slipped and fallen into some paint. There was also something odd about her: her legs were very stubby with large paws, and her tail was short.
Always on my mind.
I went home that night, struggling to get little Miss Coco Chanel out of my head, but nothing seemed to work. I showed her photos to my hubby and told him there was something about this kitty that I just could not put my finger on. He succumbed to my sad ‘puppy eyes’, suggesting that we adopt her if I wanted to. We already had three indoor cats – one more wouldn’t be a big deal!
Coco got tested for all the dreaded kitty diseases, receiving the ‘all-clear’, and we took her home on 11 July 2014. She stayed in her own room initially so that the other resident kitties could smell her through the door to get used to her. It was on the first night at home that we realised something was not quite right.
Right side, wrong side
When I threw a toy to her, instead of catching it, it hit her on her head. We also noticed that she bumped into things and searched for her bowls as if she couldn’t see them properly, especially if I moved something in the room.
We immediately made an appointment with our vet; he confirmed that she was totally blind in her right eye and could only see partially in her left eye. Her right hip had been dislocated at some time and had grown on skew. Her tail had been broken at the base, with a piece missing and a section detached underneath the fur. She also did not hear properly, her nails didn’t retract and her right foot couldn’t swipe or catch anything properly. Everything appeared to be on the right side.
Our vet indicated that these types of injuries were likely due to trauma, either caused by a person or when hit by a car. She also had a growth deformity (dwarfism) hence the short legs and big paws.
Meant to be
Nevertheless, this made us love Coco even more, knowing she was sent specifically to us since she could only be an indoor cat due to her shortcomings.
She quickly learnt what she’s able to do and what she’s unable to do. For example, she once managed to get onto the kitchen counter and couldn’t get down; we took her down and she never went up there again. Clever Coco has also managed to map the house and knows exactly where everything is. Although she does not like to be touched and sometimes gets a fright if you approach her from behind (especially if it’s on the side that she can’t hear and see properly), she is getting better. With each passing day she is getting more used to everything. She has realised that we will not hurt her and has even made friends with all three of our other kitties.
Fortunately, Coco doesn’t need to be operated on, but receives joint medication daily since she is likely to suffer from arthritis later on in life. If she experiences pain she receives medication as well.
Despite her physical shortcomings, Coco has the personality and charm of a Miss World! She is a friendly cat who loves playing, makes the wierdest noises, and even has an imaginary friend. The others discovered she can’t really jump and doesn’t sit on high perches like them, so when they are done playing and want to sleep, they all find higher ground – just like owls. Then Coco has to turn to her imaginary friend for some entertainment.
Whenever I call them for food she runs in the opposite direction – but she still runs just like the others nonetheless. When taking pictures, if the person behind the camera calls her she looks the other way – but she looks nonetheless.
We sometimes take the simple things for granted, and if you look at her you are reminded of how cruel and wonderful life can sometimes be.
Life certainly has been different since we adopted Miss Coco Chanel, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. I now believe that everything really does happen for a reason – and we are very glad this reason happened to us.