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Where there is no veterenarian part 1

November 9, 2012

November in South Africa means exam time, and exam time means there are no classes at my secondary school because multitasking is a foreign concept here, as is efficiency. The learners don’t even come to school unless they have an exam, so the school remains strangely empty at all times. This leaves me with precious little to do at that school. These days I’m just going there for lunch and to see the teachers, and then leaving back to the other school.

Last Friday I arrived at noon, when the exams were finished and everyone had left except for teachers grading exams, and some learners who stay behind to wash the teachers’ cars. If they put half the effort from keeping the cars clean into keeping the school clean, I might feel more inclined to spend time there. As I was walking to the office building, one of the older learners lounging around called out to me.

“Mr. Mpho! What is this?” he asked, pointing at the bottom of the stairs. Down there was a little gray ball of fur, desperately clinging to the ground with its claws on all four feet. I don’t know what it had been through before I arrived, as people aren’t exactly nice to animals in South Africa, but it did not look happy to be there at that moment.

What else could I do? I walked over and picked it up. It didn’t resist, sitting neatly in the palm of one hand. It clearly wanted the day to be over already.

The learner showed me where he had originally found it. It was up the stairs under a broken window in the “library”, presumably where its mother had moved it and then abandoned it.

Some teachers started coming by to see what I was doing. “What is that?” one asked in Tshivenda. “A dog?” Although it was an indistinguishable gray blob with triangular ears that wouldn’t stand up, the triangular nose and retractable claws gave it away as a cap. But I played along.

“Ee, ndi mmbwa.”

“No, I can tell this is not a dog. This is a wild cat. It’s not domestic.”

Wild or not, it was only a few weeks old. It was unfair not to give it a chance.

I went and got my lunch and ate it outside with the cat. I tried feeding it some chicken intestine, which I never eat anyway, but it wouldn’t eat.

When we were done and the teachers began to lock the gates, I put the kitten in my jacket pocket and carried it home with me. I didn’t see what choice I had.

At home I set up a shoebox with a washcloth for a bed and a jar lid full of milk for it to eat. I didn’t introduce it to my host family because they didn’t like cats. It spent the rest of the day there.

On Saturday I went shopping in town and I bought a small packet of cat food. I wanted to feed it, but I also didn’t want to spend too much money in case it didn’t live long.

When I got home, I found that it had climbed out of the shoebox and was hiding under the bed. I tried luring it out with food, but in the end I had to move the bed to reach it. It still wouldn’t eat more than a few crumbs.

Read the thrilling conclusion tomorrow.

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