The life of Cin­derella

Not many cats have a life this ad­ven­tur­ous.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - TALES OF A COUNTRY VET - WORDS TR­ISHA FISK TR­ISHA FISK is a farmer, au­thor of Prac­ti­cal Small-farm­ing in New Zealand, and long-time as­sis­tant to her hus­band in his vet work. They now live on 4ha near Whangarei.

Last week some new­com­ers to the vil­lage brought a young cat out to the vet.

“For all her shots… and a check­over please.”

The kit­ten’s owner was a quiet lit­tle girl, Jessica. Her mum had es­caped the city and a bad sit­u­a­tion and was look­ing for a fresh start in the coun­try. The lo­cals had quickly picked up on the fact that Jessica had left her dog be­hind and now didn’t even have a cat.

There was at least one lit­ter of kit­tens in the vil­lage, and I am sure the owner of that brood was pretty quick to wel­come the new­bies with a free kit­ten. It was a lovely lit­tle white cat with var­i­ous black spots and splodges. Jessica had named her Cin­derella. “Well good­ness me,” the Vet said. “That re­minds me of a story about a cat from long ago. It was also black and white and also called Cin­derella.” “Re­ally?” “Yep, re­ally! It be­longed to a sea-far­ing fam­ily. They had sailed all the way to New Zealand on a small yacht, just af­ter World War Two. I think the cat had stowed away when they were moored up at a quay in Por­tu­gal, or maybe one of the kids had found her and smug­gled her aboard, I don’t know about that. But once at sea… well, there was noth­ing for it, the cat had to stay. Be­sides, she was great en­ter­tain­ment for the kids on the long voy­ages. Just imag­ine it, a month at sea and no sight of land, no trees to climb.”

Cin­derella grew into a great seago­ing cat. She was first out on deck in the morn­ing look­ing for any fly­ing fish that might have got stranded on board dur­ing the night. She could climb the rig­ging and sev­eral times the skip­per had to go up the rat lines to res­cue her, un­til she learned how to come down, back­wards and care­fully.

“What about when she wanted to go to the toi­let?”

“Oh, they taught her to go in the scup­pers at the stern of the boat. Then they could just throw a bucket of wa­ter

and wash it all away, no prob­lem. She be­came a re­ally trea­sured mem­ber of that fam­ily.”

It took the fam­ily two years to fi­nally get to New Zealand. By then the cat was used to go­ing in dinghies or jump­ing onto jet­ties if the boat was tied up.

“I think she even pro­duced a lit­ter of kit­tens af­ter one stopover in port, but they were able to find homes for them all with other boat­ing fam­i­lies.”

Once in New Zealand, they took a while to de­cide where ex­actly they should set­tle. At first they went on vis­its to see a great aunt who lived on a big sheep sta­tion in the hills be­hind Gis­borne. The whole fam­ily would go, cat and all, but they got caught on the bus one time with the cat in a carry bag. The bus driver was a grumpy bug­ger and made them get off, so when it was time to re­turn to town they had to leave Cin­derella at the farm. They aimed to col­lect her next time they vis­ited once they had their own car. The kids weren’t happy about it, but Cin­derella liked the farm.

Then, dis­as­ter struck. She might have been used to boats and dinghies, but Cin­derella was a bit clue­less about cars. And although it was pretty re­mote, there was a bit of traf­fic past the front gate and Cin­derella got hit by a ve­hi­cle. “Oh no! Was she killed?” “Well, the aunt found her the next morn­ing. She had dragged her­self into the gut­ter but was badly hurt, so the aunt packed her in a box and rushed her into the farm vet there.”

It turned out the cat had a bro­ken pelvis, was prob­a­bly re­ally bruised in­side, and her face was all scratched and cut.

“The vet said the best thing would be to put her to sleep. Af­ter all, it was just a cat, and they could get another one eas­ily enough.

“But the old aunt dug her toes in. Oh no, she said. Not this cat. You don’t un­der­stand. This is a VERY spe­cial cat. It has trav­elled all the way around the world on a small boat. It has been the best thing about a very long, some­times dan­ger­ous and scary jour­ney for this young fam­ily. She sur­vived bur­glars in the Mediter­ranean and a hur­ri­cane off North Cape. If there is ab­so­lutely any way pos­si­ble to save her, then we have to do it!” “Did they save her?” asked Jessica. “Yes, they did, but it took a cou­ple of months. At first they weren’t sure how much in­ter­nal dam­age she had so the vet couldn’t make any prom­ises. But he gave her pain re­lief and stitched up the worst cuts. Then she had to be kept con­fined to give her pelvis a chance to heal. That old aunt must have been one de­ter­mined lady be­cause there was lots to do run­ning the house­hold on a big farm in those days. She re­ally didn’t need any ex­tra chores, and her hus­band and sons wouldn’t have had much time for a ‘pom­mie’ cat. But she was de­ter­mined. And by the time the fam­ily re­turned for Christ­mas, Cin­derella was walk­ing again.” “Wow. That was lucky!” “Yes. So you can be re­ally glad that you are liv­ing away from the big city and all that traf­fic be­cause vets can only per­form mir­a­cles some of the time.” ■

Then, dis­as­ter struck. She might have been used to boats, but cin­derella was a bit clue­less about cars.

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