Tuxedo Trixie

19th Jul, 2023

Written by Michelle du Toit, Founder of Barefoot Rescue

Professional photography by Nat Gold ZA

Trixie, a beautiful Tuxedo mommy cat, was rescued by Kirsten Veenstra (Meadowridge resident and Barefoot Rescue supporter) after she was found in Meadowridge, near Cape Town, with a litter of newborn kittens alongside a path. Little did we know that she would soon be reunited with some special family members…

Trixie in trouble

Trixie arrived at Barefoot Rescue on the 14th of March, 2023. Kirsten had followed the sound of a newborn kitten, found a tiny lost bundle on the roadway and, about six metres away, located Trixie and her other five babies in a makeshift nest of leaves right next to the path.

She arrived here friendly but in trouble – a high temperature, dehydrated and with a thick white discharge from the vulva. Our vets tested her for FIV and Feline leukaemia (always step 1), and she tested negative (yay). Then they began treating her for suspected pyometra. The decision was made to leave her babies with her, and she continued to feed.

But then disaster struck, and for three concessive days, we lost a baby a day – the tiny kitten would be happy and drinking one moment, ice cold and gasping the next. There were emergency visits to both Steenberg Veterinary Clinic and Hillside Veterinary Clinic on different days. We are so very grateful to these practices for their unwavering support and for always squeezing us in when we have an emergency.

Finally, it was decided to remove the babies into hand-raise and perform an emergency hysterectomy on Trixie. Public holidays and the weekend delayed this procedure, and by the time her appointment arrived, she was much better, the remaining babies appeared stable, and the decision was made to reunite the family.

We will never know what the actual issue was, and we will probably never know her story, but it is safe to assume that the babies had a very compromised start to life. Was mom dumped heavily pregnant and went into premature labour? Did an existing uterine infection cause her to give birth to viable premature babies? We can surmise, but given that her surviving babies only started to open their eyes at two weeks of age, things were clearly not plain sailing for her or them.

Just as we started to heave a sigh of relief, disaster struck again, and in the space of two hours, another of her kittens went from warm, healthy, purring and suckling to deceased. It has been a heartbreaking journey for us and them, and the vets are in agreement they probably passed from a congenital heart or lung defect. The surviving kittens are strong, and we are hopeful that they will continue to fly the family flag strong.

Long-lost family?

Imagine our surprise when we were called by Mazz Guassen to say that there were two stray kitties at the Checkers delivery yard in Meadowridge. Mazz had been looking for her beloved Tuxedo kitty Sox, who had vanished in the same area almost six weeks previously and had found him around the time of posting, literally on death’s door but with a strong will to survive. (We’re thrilled to say that, after months of nursing by his doting parents, Soxy is slowly regaining his balance and use of his limbs.)

Anecdotally, these two new cats had been in the area for about a month, which roughly coincided with Trixie’s rescue, so we took a drive through to assess. Even just a quick glimpse of the now cautious pair quickly convinced us that they were her family, and we agreed that they had to be trapped soonest.

Trapping in the dark

The following evening, we went to trap, accompanied by the highly experienced and amazing Marilyn Hoole and her sister Barbara Currin. Both kitties were waiting for us at the gate and watched with obvious trepidation as we set the traps – three in total to provide some choice!

We had no sooner set the traps than ‘whoosh’ – we were plunged into total darkness (one of those times when you feel super grateful to have company!), with load shedding rolling into the area. A few minutes later, the centre’s generators kicked in, and a staff member emerged from an adjacent door with a big bag of rubbish. The kitties were so used to the local sounds and movement that they did not even give him a second glance.

The black kitty, now called Mahitabel, was the first to be overcome by the smell of good food and quickly went into a trap. Her brother, glamourous tuxedo Mistoffelees, was far warier and had this air of ‘been there done that’ about him. Lots of sniffing and walking around the traps, jumping onto them (our hearts nearly stopped with worry that he would trigger a trap from the top!) and then finally that wonderful sound of the trap shutting and the boy rattling inside as he tested all walls in case they would give.

Traps safely in the car boot, we examined our new guests. Though frightened and wary, they were not feral and allowed us to touch them through the cage bars without shredding our fingers for our efforts. I initially had no intention of bringing them home, as we are so full and had arranged foster care, but having trapped them, something said they need to see Trixie – and she them. So back to Barefoot Rescue we went, and an emergency overnight cage was set up in the study (the only until-then unoccupied area).

We had to pass Trixie’s cage on the way in, and something said I should flout all standard protocols and let her see them. As I placed the traps on the floor adjacent to her cage, the sight brought tears to my eyes. Total acknowledgement, both the newbies and Trixie moving as close as the bars would allow to greet each other.

As Trixie has small babies, she still hisses at and rushes with an attempt to clout any of the other cats on the property who accidentally venture too close, and yet here she was totally trusting these two. A quick hello and confirmation and common sense prevailed with the need to move them to quarantine.

Making a breakthrough

TEARS had offered to process the pair, and on their way to surgery on the following Tuesday, I again moved their carrier adjacent to Trixie’s cage – this time, they were greeted with a loud Mrrrrp! from her – simultaneously heart-warming and heartbreaking. Luckily processing went well, and given all that Trixie and her babies have been through, along with these kitties not having been running as part of a larger colony for the past month, it was decided to set up a cage for them adjacent to Trixie. The dining room table was suitably adorned, and it was so special to see them taking their cue from her and calming down.

I had a breakthrough when both siblings finally started to engage with a feather wand I had made them, cautiously playing and allowing me to stroke them. Baby steps. Both are up for adoption, and given all they have been through, it would be amazing (although not essential) if they could be homed together.

In the true spirit of her story, Trixie has, in the interim, “adopted” another little orphaned kitten who was dropped off at the rescue with its dying sibling around the time Trixie arrived, and when the babies transitioned to hand-raise for a period, it was decided to combine him with them in the hope of increasing his survival chances. When the surviving babies were reunited with Trixie, this particular little mite had no idea what a mom cat was or how to feed off anything but a silicon teat, and so kept climbing over her to look for milk. Once he finally got the idea, he refused to be unlatched and was a permanent fixture for the next month, securing the somewhat apt name ‘Velcro’.

I would love to know who had the audacity to dump this family, who thought it ok to take a heavily pregnant human-obsessed kitty and leave her to care for herself, along with what I think is probably her previous litter. Someone must recognise this family as ‘suddenly went missing’. The Tuxie boy is very distinctive in that he only has half a tail...

The rough time Trixie had survived possibly makes reuniting her with her older family even sweeter.

In the meantime, I hope that we can rewrite the end of their story and see all landing in amazing forever homes where they will be cherished and loved.

Footnote

Since this story was originally drafted, the three little survivors found their forever home, together, with Nan and Jane White. They have been renamed Bowen, Loxley and Rebecca and are doing so well.

Mom Trixie remains at Barefoot Rescue with her older son and daughter, and the three are tightly bonded. Trixie loves being carried and presses herself into your shoulder, while Mahitabel follows us around like a dog, rolling and purring and just wants love (but prefers not to be picked up). Poor Mistoffelees has grown into quite the most handsome cat, loves playing and chasing a wand, but prefers to approach you rather than be approached. PTSD clearly takes as long to subside in felines as in humans.

We would hate to split this family again, and whilst understanding that it is better for cats to live in homes separately than in a shelter forever together, we really hope that there is a family out there who reads their story and offers them a loving, safe home as a unit!

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