Living the best of his nine lives,
The Oyster Box’s resident cat, Skabenga, is gliding through life by the tips of his whiskers
FROM RAGS TO RICHES
I think I must be the luckiest cat in KwaZulu-Natal, maybe even the world. I had a difficult start in life:
I was a stray kitten, orphaned and alone. With no basket to call my own, I was destined for a life of scratching through bin bags. But something inside me said that fate and feline fortune favour the brave, so I wandered into the foyer of the 5-star hotel and introduced myself to the staff. I was too young to know that this was not normal kitty conduct. That was over a decade ago and, I must say, I truly fell on my feet. The lovely ladies at the front desk gave me a saucer of milk and a muchneeded cuddle. They also gave me the name Skabenga – an adaptation of the Zulu word ‘sgebengu’, which means ‘hooligan’ or ‘vagabond’. I think it suits my style. ATTUNED TO PURR-FECTION
I take my role as cat concierge extremely seriously: I make sure to introduce myself to new guests as they arrive – The Oyster Box may be grand, but we pride ourselves on a warm welcome. I also tour the entire property several times a day with the express aim of checking and re-checking each and every out-of-the-sun spot – it is important to ensure that we are offering superior and soothing shade at all times. Furthermore, cushions and couches must be snuggled meticulously, so as to maintain maximum kitty comfort. My Facebook page (@SkabengaAtOysterBox) has more than 3 000 local and international followers, so, keeping them informed of my comings and goings is another priority. GOURMAND OF NOTE Each morning, I check in at the kitchen. Our multi-award-winning executive chef, Kevin Joseph, knows I am particularly partial to a prawn cocktail, so he makes sure to set aside samples. I am very happy to help out with human food quality control but, for several years, my feline focus (one might even say my pet project) has been the designing of menus specifically aimed at the posh palates of the dogs and cats who often accompany their human companions to The Oyster Box. Our bill of fare includes dog-friendly ‘Woof Waffles’ (served with boerewors and gravy) and my favourite, ‘The Purring Feline’, which comprises strips of steamed chicken breast with a bowl of cream on the side. Having previously had an issue with obesity, I work closely with the team at Hill’s Pet Nutrition to promote wellness within each of The Oyster Box’s animal-friendly epicurean offerings. THE CENTRE OF ATTENTION
My elegant food philosophy seeks to combine healthy eating with moderate regular exercise and stress management, but I do occasionally splash out and celebrate in style. Each year, the hotel throws me a birthday party at which over 100 of my closest human friends celebrate with kitty-shaped canapés and Champagne galore. This year, my fabulous friend, the hotel’s food and beverage operations manager, Michael Smith, treated me and my fans to a vast and luxurious chocolate cake topped with a sugar sculpture of my good self. I am aware of my immense good fortune – thus, in lieu of birthday presents, I always request that donations be made in my name to local animal charities.
Christmas is another time for tasty treats. This year, The Oyster Box has three distinct Yuletide offerings on Christmas Day and I plan to make an appearance at each one. Frankly, my fans and followers expect it, and I would hate to disappoint them. First, I will join the diners at the Pearl Room for a prestarter of salmon-and-dill pesto en croûte, and then I will take a turn through The Grill Room for a bite of organic grass-fed sirloin. Obviously, I will save space for a nibble of delicious roast turkey with walnut-and-sage stuffing on The Ocean Terrace.
I hope to spend Boxing Day relaxing on my favourite red velvet cushion in the hotel’s gift shop. Perhaps I will also totter through to the kitchen for a chipolata or two…
2 LIGHTHOUSE ROAD, UMHLANGA, KWAZULU-NATAL; 031-514-5000; OYSTERBOXHOTEL.COM
ABOVE: FROM LEFT TO RIGHT – THE OYSTER BOX FOOD AND BEVERAGE OPERATIONS MANAGER, MICHAEL SMITH; RESERVATIONS AND REVENUE MANAGER, ANGELA VENNIKER; RESIDENT CAT, SKABENGA; AND EXECUTIVE CHEF, KEVIN JOSEPH, AT SKABENGA’S BIRTHDAY PARTY IN OCTOBER THIS YEAR