Sunday, December 5, 2010

Spirit - Something The Cat Dragged In

This is Mutt, being groomed by Stoffel.

Mutt was born here and the only one of a litter of three Toms who wasn't afraid of Stoffel - he became her 'Toy Boy Cat' - she would spend hours grooming him and, as you can see, even enthusiastically chewed all his whiskers off, causing him to look extra dumb.

After I banished him from the house for messing, Mutt's whiskers grew back and he started disappearing into the bush, sometimes for up to two weeks, often returning with wounds and new scars from fighting.

In early October Mutt disappeared for two days and, one morning, returned home with a scrawny little kitten in tow - I took this pic a few seconds after they arrived.

The kitten looked to be about six weeks old and, apart from being very thin, seemed in good health. It was fawning on Mutt and, much to his annoyance, trying to suckle on him.

I don't know if the kitten's mother was a feral cat or not but, I think that he had accidentally become separated from the litter and had latched onto Mutt during his wanderings.

I knew intuitively that a new resident had arrived.

I named him "Spirit".

He was wary of me at first but, he's sharp - it only took him two days to figure out who the 'Provider of Food and Backscratches' is and so we became friends.

Spirit is very curious, lively and loves to play - he's already ruined a few plants, especially ferns.

Using his kitten-cuteness and ignorance of cat etiquette he monopolizes the food bowls and soon put on some weight.

It surprises me that even though Mutt is the archetypal tough Tomcat, when Spirit's playfulness irritates him to the point of craziness, Mutt flees and takes refuge in the bush instead of slapping or dominating the kitten.

Of course, Spirit has captured my heart. He has a lovely character, friendly towards humans but with a nice balance of self-sufficient bush-cat wildness.

Here he is in practice hunting mode - I've had to discourage him a few times from molesting small chickens.

Spirit's close encounter with Stoffel.

On this day, a massive Cape Cobra was eating one of my chicken's eggs and while I was taking photos, Spirit was frolicking around my feet, unaware of the danger.

Afraid that he'd bumble into the snake, I grabbed him and threw him into the house. When I came back inside, Stoffel was trying to befriend and groom him.

I don't want him to become a house cat so his contact with Stoffel will be limited.

I'll get back home sometime in January and by then Spirit will be a young adult cat - I hope his character will still be the same. I'll have to make a decision on whether or not to have him spayed.

If I don't have him castrated, Mutt will start fighting with him and one of them will eventually be forced to move away. (Mutt chased both his brothers off a few years ago).

On the other hand, I don't 'own' Spirit, I didn't choose him from a pet shop or shelter, he chose me. Castrating him will alter his nature, is it for me to interfere?

To snip or not to snip? What do you think?



  1. To me, there is nothing lovelier than a 'snipped' male cat. With the overpopulation of cats in the US, there is no other kind and caring choice. I know nothing about cats in Namibia, but I do know about many men's attitude toward 'snipping' a dog or a cat. It's as if they themselves were losing something important. Does that ring a bell? Good to have you back to blogging and your photos are as always fabulous!--Inger

  2. Hehe yeah, thanks for your comment and opinion Inger.

    I admit that I'm a bit chauvinistic about this issue because if Spirit was a female cat I'd have no hesitation in having 'her' neutered to prevent further breeding - our SPCA is overwhelmed with unwanted cats and dogs ...

    Given that Toms are inclined to wander and often disappear it will be best to snip him if I want him to continue hanging around ...

  3. i am on the fence as you with the whole snip or no snip deal. If you were in U.S. I'd say yes.
    Love the monkey cat pic! I have one from the early 70's in Uganda. I have to dig it up and show you. It's at the orphanage and they are both playing.. so cute. I will look for it next time i'm at my family's house!

  4. Oh yes, I hope you find that pic Jane ... monkeys seem to have a strange fascination with cats, especially kittens (at least the three fur people I take care of do)

  5. Geesh, medical ethics on a Sunday afternoon!

    The photos and stories are enchanting, perhaps you should consolidate them into a book?

    As for snip or not, well. Having been myself I am biased... on the theory that it takes two to tango, snip Spirit for the greater good. Me thinks her nature will not change much?

  6. Haha thanks Dave, I was about to consider your advice but then you referred to a snipped Spirit as "her" - now I'm not so sure ... :)

  7. I have to admit that I would go ahead, male or female and prevent further cats apearing that my be unwanted. Spirit is beautiful, but he was lucky to have been found and obviously loved, his offspring may not be so lucky.

    I agree that wild animals should be wild, but Stoffel is a case that makes a difference. We brought up a young leopard when in Rhodesia that was brought to us with eyes still closed. He was far too domesicated to be returned to the wild and had the softest tempermant ever! Diane

  8. Thank you Diane - you make a convincing argument.

    A young Leopard? ... amazing - I bet you have a few interesting animal stories to tell?

  9. Mutt looks none too pleased about the tag-a-long in that photo. Had me smiling. I had a Silkie rooster that used to pick up strays like that. Kittens, baby squirrels... I'd find him in the nest box and wonder what he was hoarding this time.

    I vote for the snip. Sounds like the cat population where you are is already at a high enough elevation.

  10. Thanks for your visit and comment Kristine ... hehe yeah, and as the days went by Mutt became more and more irritated with Spirit wanting to play all the time ...

    ... it'll ease my conscience knowing hat this snipping is a democratic decision ... :)

  11. I vote snip, for all the right reasons that were mentioned..if we heed the call of nature then we might aswell give in to all of our worst instincts..and while we're on the topic of snipping..might we not consider the snip for the human race...

    I thought your monkey died?

  12. Thanks Monica - yeah, looks like it's going to be snip - I tend to over-complicate issues sometimes ...

    As for snipping the human race, I like that idea and would suggest starting with politicians first ...

    Stoffel is still alive but getting very old - she'll be 21 or 22 next year (I'm bad with dates) - according to the 'experts' the average age for Vervet Monkeys in the wild is about 12 years ...

  13. wow, amazing life span

    my apologies ..over my morning coffee and porridge I realized it was the lady who looked after stoffel when you were away...I must give up multitasking and pay full attention, nothing sinks in anymore, and if I'm wrong feel free to ..

  14. Hehe Monica ... multitasking can be dangerous - luckily, as is well known, us guys have one-track minds so it's difficult to concentrate on more than one thing at a time ...

    ... also, we're all bombarded with so much info daily that it's difficult for everything to sink in ...

    btw ... do you speak French?

  15. bien oui..actually my french stinks

    When I hear european french spoken i understand it and love the language, but here in quebec they use a slang and dialect that most of us anglophones loathe to hear and can hardly manage to speak.On the other hand when ever I leave the Quebec province I miss the french culture...

    how about yourself, do you speak in any other tongue?

    my mother tongue is hungarian and I also studied hebrew when I lived in israel a long time ago.. its safe to say I speak one language most of the time

  16. ... my French is limited to the phrase "mon petit choux" ... :)

    I also speak Afrikaans and I can understand German but not conduct a conversation in that language - the problem is that most of the German people I come into contact with want to practice their English so that's what we end up speaking ...

    I also know a few phrases in the Oshiwambo language but basically, I'm fluent in only two languages.

  17. I am fluent in psychobollocks and gobbledecrap...

  18. hehe Dave ... yeah, I know a few phrases from those languages too ...

  19. Looks like it is a game of 'SNIP'and not 'SNAP' LOL.Yes, I think, a snip will save a lot of unwanted issues. Lovely pictures, as usual.

  20. Looks like it's unanimous to go for the snip - I agree too. I think if we're going to have animals around the house, whether inside or not, there's a certain responsibility that comes with it too. If Mutt drives him away and he's become semi-tame, that my not do Spirit any favours in the wild perhaps??
    I've never been more adventurous than having cats or dogs as pets, but an uncle of mine in Argentina, a farmer, had dogs, but also befriended a puma from cub, who was very friendly, but couldn't be house trained... and later on, a skunk (named, imaginatively, Stinko...) who had his stink bits removed and was a fun and loving pet, particularly if you were wearing anything long and floaty such as dressing gowns or great coats, when you became fair game to be used as a swing. Your shoes inevitably got chewed and ruined, so you had to sleep with them lined up at (ON) the foot of your bed. Stinko loved company and when my uncle came to Buenos Aires for a family wedding, he brought him too. During the reception he escaped from the room where he had been settled, and ran about the reception, quite unconcerned by the screaming hysteria in his wake, as guests scrambled to get out, unaware that he had been operated on. As a young teenager I thought this was the best wheeze ever...
    Sorry to ramble on. Your pictures are not only excellent, they also have very high R factor (as in "Aaaaaah........") I couldn't possibly leave a little grey tabby like that, but I'm a townie.
    So glad you're back - I'm still smiling remembering the candle with brewer's droop from your previous post. Bloody hell but it must have been hot!!

  21. Haha ... thanks for the comment Keats ...

    I don't know if it's done in your country but here, if two people say the same thing simultaneously, we shout out ... Snap!

  22. Hey Caroline - just loved your story about Stinko ... :) ... I've always wanted to take care of a Cheetah but the cost of erecting a cage and feeding is prohibitive ...

    ... just today I came upon this story in a local newspaper of a couple who rescued a Warthog - makes for interesting reading:

    ... yes, it was extremely hot up north.

    Thanks for your welcome back and kind comments.

  23. If I was thinking of keeping it then yes snip away.
    But not knowing your country and having this image of a wild place (you did mention a cobra right?) I'm surprised that a cat population would grow much. They have plenty of predators right?

  24. Great Post!!!
    I have two male cats both of them castrated.
    A male cat is like a small leopard.
    If you don't "snip" them they will wander here and there and maybe someone bigger will eat them...

  25. Yes, there are predators lisleman, I've lost a cat to A Puff Adder and some have just disappeared ...

    ... I once caught a large monitor lizard sneaking up on a litter of kittens ...

    ... but, I think the greatest danger to wandering cats is hostile humans, dogs and poachers' traps.

  26. Thanks Andrea - and talking about Leopards, the pictures you posted on your blog recently are spectacular ... what a great photo op that was hey.

  27. Wonderful story - though little Wally sounds like a demanding pet! Hope he doesn't get treated like game by mistake... thanks for the link, much enjoyed it.

  28. So super to see you online, One Stoned Crow! And what a darling little cat. Imagine that your Tom brought him home, albeit unwittingly! I vote snip or spay - when you know the kitten's gender. Too many unwanted cats in the world, as it is. I had our Sudanese cat, Shadow snipped in our flat in Khartoum. The vet came to our house and did the deed. Shadow is no different, actually his nature is better than if he was still a Tom cat. I look forward to the posts on this kitty. I love Stoffel and will scroll back to read his story too. Have a good weekend, Jo

  29. Thank You Jo - it's good to be back online again ...

    Yes, at first I thought Spirit was a female but I was able to check a few days after he arrived ... yup, the general consensus is that he should be spayed ...

    ... you have a great weekend too ...

  30. I just found your blog on my search for more rural african blogs. I love your pictures and will surely be back for more. My cat was already snipped when I got him and I am rather sad about that. I am sure he would have grown much bigger without it, however I guess it does keep them home more.

  31. Thanks for your visit and comments Slowvelder - I hope that you will pop in from time to time ...

  32. Neutering a male cat tends to prevent his wanting to mark his territory and spray cat urine all over (and that stinks). It is an easy procedure and the cat will be fine the next day. He probably won't even get any sutures. In the States, some vets close the wounds with surgical glue. He will ive a better life if you neuter him.

  33. Thanks for your visit and comment Lunachance ...