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Where there is no veterinarian part 2

November 15, 2012

Sunday morning, I woke up and peered over my bed to make sure the cat was still breathing. Check.

I hadn’t gotten it to eat more than a few crumbs and conventional wisdom said it would die soon. On the advice of friends I had consulted with over BBM and Facebook, I went to the clinic to get a syringe for feeding it. The clinic was allegedly 24/7 and my thinking was that Sunday morning would be a good time to go because patients would be busy with church. The guards took my ID and made me sign in at the gate.

Once I was inside, I found the benches were packed full. There were three beleaugered nurses working the whole operation: one in the exam room, one at a desk in the middle, and one flitting between patients like a butterfly, administering a thermometer (or possibly a litmus test) here, taking a reading there. After a few minutes of standing there and futilely flipping through the Venda and Tsonga pamphlets to see if they had anything about cats, I decided this wasn’t a good use of my time. I told the guards I’d be back when it’s less busy.

I tried asking around the village for help, but the indifference I met toward the life of my baby cat was brutal.

Taking a small plastic soda bottle, a dish sponge, a condom and a rubber band, I fashioned together an improvised baby bottle. The cat rejected the bottle as he seemed to know it was gross, but he wasn’t strong enough to resist a good force feeding. His claws did poke extra holes in the condom, though, so that didn’t last long.

At six I returned to the clinic, which was empty except for three weary nurses. I was ushered into the exam room.

I explained to the nurse. “Look, I don’t know how you will take this, but… I need a syringe to feed a cat. It’s too young to eat on its own so I need the syringe to give it milk.”

She still didn’t get it. “Who’s baby is this?”

“Ndi kumange.” It’s a kitten.

“Oh, tshimange!” she chuckled. “Let me say that this clinic is for humans, not animals.” She got up and went to the back of the room, and when she came back, she offered me my choice of three syringes. I took the 5ml one and thanked her and went home to try it out.

That’s how I’ve been feeding the cat since. I try giving him real cat food or milk in a jar lid, but he just steps in it, or at best, gnaws on the rim. The measurements on the syringe are wearing off, and the label that says “discard after single use” is by now illegible, but it seems to do the trick.

His name is Unarine. That’s Venda for “he’s with us”.

He's too dark for a good photo.

He’s too dark for a good photo.

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One Comment
  1. Awww…Zach-that is so sweet. We’re rooting for Unarine to get strong and thrive!

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