Written by Desiree Palos
Professional photography by Jacqui L. Photography
Coffee Cat’s story is one of courage, faith, determination, and love! It’s also nothing short of a miracle.
One day almost two years ago, this beautiful boy just arrived at my house in Aspen Hills. At first, I used to chase him away as he’d upset my six cats and eat their food. I was under the impression that he belonged to a neighbour.
He’d come and go. Sometimes, I wouldn’t see him for weeks at a time, but then he began to visit more frequently. I enquired around Aspen about him, but it seemed he didn’t belong to anyone.
I eventually began putting food and a bed on my patio for him and another ginger cat who’d also pitched up.
At the beginning of this year, he began sleeping inside my spare room. I had to lock him up as my cats and the ginger were continuously picking on him.
Although my two daughters and I fell hopelessly in love with him, for his own safety we decided to instead find him his forever loving home where he could sleep on someone’s bed and curl up on their lap rather than being secluded.
I began advertising him on social media…
I was contacted by a lady who was looking for a friend for her very lonely and only cat. She came to meet Coffee Cat and seemed to genuinely like him. She lived in a townhouse complex in Sandton and, although being a smaller environment than what he was used to, it seemed to be okay. I still wasn’t 100% sure, though, and with hindsight I should’ve trusted my gut feeling.
I also thought I was doing the best thing for Coffee Cat, but little did I know that I was about to make one of the biggest mistakes of my life: I had so misjudged the situation.
Coffee Cat was collected shortly after the Easter weekend. I was away overseas at the time and my daughters, Chloe and Roxy, handed him over. I made a video call at the moment she arrived to fetch him and I held myself back from wanting to say that I’d changed my mind. I knew that everyone who knows me would say that I was just being my usual self – I find it difficult not to keep every cat I rescue!
Coffee Cat’s new owner also assured us that we’d be able to visit him whenever we wanted, and she’d keep us updated on his progress, promising to keep him locked in for at least three weeks.
My girls and I were in tears that he’d finally gone to his new home, but we consoled ourselves with the fact that we were doing the best thing for him.
The next morning, when I WhatsApped to find how his first night had gone, I learnt that he’d played a bit, eaten and, after opening up the whole house for him to walk around while she got ready for work, he’d escaped through an open window that had been forgotten about!
I was absolutely devastated; his new owner had to go to work so couldn’t go looking for him, and with me being overseas, I felt utterly helpless. Roxy and Chloe, my sister – Michelle –friends Jacqui, Ashleigh, Lianne, Heather, and even total strangers Vanessa and Beryl immediately began what eventually turned into an eight-week-long search for Coffee Cat… almost 50 kilometres away from Aspen Hills.
Posters were put up throughout Gallo Manor – all lost pet sites tell you that’s the first thing to do, but what they don’t tell you is that it’s illegal to do so. As quick as we were putting them up, they were being taken down, so we just kept on replacing them.
Security guards, gardeners, and domestic workers in the area were alerted. Vets and SPCAs were visited, and Facebook and WhatsApp groups were going crazy. Pet communicators were contacted. I think before long Coffee Cat was a legend… I just had to find my boy!
We spent early mornings, days, late nights and weekends driving from Aspen to Gallo Manor searching for him. Feeding stations and cameras were set up in the area he’d gone missing from. We really thought we’d nailed it!
The complex he’d gone missing from backed onto a park, a school and a church – he must surely be hiding out somewhere there, we thought. Sadly, the cameras picked up other stray/feral cats enjoying the food, but there was no sign of Coffee Cat! Still… we carried on; after all, everyone said, “Don’t stop looking for him!” Of course, I wasn’t going to rest until I found him.
One pet communicator even went as far as giving me an actual address where Coffee Cat apparently was in Gallo Manor. When I told the guy who lived there why I was knocking on his door at 18h30, he thought he’d just met The Crazy Cat Lady!
A lovely lady named Beryl thought she’d spotted him in her garden too. We tried to review camera footage, but nothing! She went on to put food in her laundry every night, and this went on for a few weeks. The food was being eaten and she sent me photos of the cat one night. This cat looked very similar, but it couldn’t have been as he seemed to be long gone from Gallo Manor. Little did we know at the time.
I was at home having lunch on Thursday the 20th of June when I received a call from Vanessa (my sister Michelle’s friend, who was actually a stranger to me… she’d kindly set up feeding stations and cameras for us). She asked if I could talk at that moment and then also asked if I could meet her at Boskruin Vet where Michelle works. I of course said yes – thinking she was going to show me camera footage of Coffee Cat at long last! (The camera had been at the church for the past week.)
Michelle, in the meantime, let the proverbial cat out of the bag! She called me to say that she thought Coffee Cat had been found and sent me a side view photo of him. Although it looked like him, I wasn’t 100% sure, as there were a few Coffee Cat look-alikes along this journey.
My heart was racing as I drove the 40-minute drive to Boskruin Vet. On my arrival, Michelle came running out to meet me, saying, “We found him, we found him!” My legs literally turned to jelly when I walked in and there was my boy in a carrier on the counter. I also finally got to meet Vanessa, and the three of us were ecstatic! We were crying tears of joy!
It turns out that he’d been at the Roedean School for the previous five weeks! It had taken him three weeks to get from Sandton to Parktown (it appears he was headed back home south). He’d joined up with a feral colony. The feral feeders had noticed that there was a new cat in the mix, but it was only on Thursday the 20th of June that a lady by the name of Fiorina, who tends the gardens at Roedean, was walking in the garden when this cat ran up to her. She kept on walking and he ran after her, meowing. She was sitting there with him when another lady, Pumza, recognised him as “the missing Coffee Cat” from all the million Facebook posts.
They took him into the office where they called the numbers on the missing poster. Michelle was hard at work so ignored the call. They then got hold of Vanessa, who jumped into her car and raced off to fetch him (my number wasn’t on the poster given that I was overseas when he went missing).
I decided to surprise my girls when they got home from work. They walked in and saw me sitting on the bed with him. I was lucky enough to have captured that special moment of them all being reunited on video!
Coffee Cat is very happy to be back home. The other six and Ginger are still not friends, but they all need to come to terms with the fact that he’s finally home for good! We’re not parting with him ever again!
If anyone has lost a pet, I urge you not to give up… miracles can and do happen!