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by Vicky Chapman, NSW, Australia


Its the coldest night so far this year. Joel had a "boys night" so I dropped him off outside his friend's place, who wasn't in yet. In the headlights I saw the most amazing black-and-white tabby with, on later inspection, some "abyssinian" like black & white blotches. Joel said "look, a cat!" and since we were going to have to wait, he suggested we go out and play with it.

The cat was small, and had that teenage look about it. It came straight up to me, and mewed and rubbed and headbutted. Joel also approached, and the cat divided its time fairly well between us. I found that she was a girl, and Joel tried to pick her up. She started purring straight away.

We had been to Burger king on the way to Joel's mate's place, so I fed the little cat some of the burger patty. She was so hungry! She got enthusiastic and really bit my middle finger very hard about half way through the burger. I yelled "Ow!" and she tried to bury herself into Joel, but I kept talking to her softly and out she came for the rest of her meal. She must have been very hungry as she just gobbled it up. She wouldn't leave us alone, and so we sat there, cat wrapped in Joel's jumper, purring like made, while we shivered as we got to know her.

A name came unbidden to my thoughts - "Mombala", and she answered to it. Her coat felt dirty, she was very thin, and by the way she gulped down the burger, I knew she was a stray, although a very friendly one. Joel was the first to suggest we keep her, and she seemed to have no problem sitting in the car with Joel holding her. We thought we'd better wait for Joel's friend to turn up, so we could tell him that Joel would be going home with the cat, but he would be returning in about 40 minutes. Michael (the friend of Joel's) thought that Mombala may live around his neighbourhood somewhere as he had seen her before, but he didn't know which house it was.

She had the most amazing amber eyes, almost red under the lightbulbs, and she would not stop purring while Joel held her. I'd lost my heart to another furball and I could feel that maternal instinct stirring inside me again. A small, underfed cat like her had no reason to be out at 7pm on such a cold, dark, wintery night on a busy road. If she was owned by someone, I'm certain they were neglecting her. I came up with a cunning plan. I'm not a cat-napper, but I was almost sure that this was either a stray or a very neglected cat. I thought that I could take dear little Mombala home, and then put up "found" ads in that street and put a notice in the paper. That way, if she did happen to belong to someone, I could return her with at least the knowledge she had a few square meals with her time with me. I was very much hoping that no-one would answer so I could give her the home that she deserved, the love and attention she clearly wanted.

We hopped in the car, Joel still holding her, Mombala still purring. I started the car and took off, and she only seemed curious at what was passing her, but as we turned the second corner, she started howling the most lonesome, folorn and gut-wrenching yowl, and started to really claw at Joel. I knew neither cat nor Joel would cope with the 20 minute drive home and I most reluctantly turned the car around to take her back to her own territory.

We pulled up, and Joel opened the door. She shot out and I couldn't see her in the dark. I had only known Mombala for half an hour or so, but I surprised myself by crying, almost hysterically, for my lost cat. Joel tried to comfort me by saying would could go down the shelter tomorrow and pick out another cat, which brought another wave of crying on. I didn't want a random cat (although I'm sure there are many charming cats there that need a home), I loved my little Mombala and wanted her back.

Eventually the tears dried up, and Joel went into his mate's place for his traditional Saturday night card game with the boys. The only thing to do was for me to go home, and so I turned the car around. And then I saw her again on the other side of the road! I stopped the car yet again, and got out to pet her and say goodbye. I hoped the trip in the car hadn't traumatised her too much, and that she would still "talk" to me. I got out, and up she rushed, bumping and headbutting me again. She did the belly-flop thing on the ice-cold dirt and let me rub her soft furry tummy. I knew I couldn't possibly take her home without her being restrained in the car, so I had to say goodbye the second time in an hour. I did, however promise her that if she really did want to come with me, I'd be back at the same time next week, and she chose to get into my car, then I could promise her a life with plentiful food, water and snacks, a life with plenty of love, and a life without the hardness of living on the street.

I know I've got to face the reality that I'll probably never see my Mombala again, but there is something in me that is hoping desperately that she'll be waiting there for me next week. I only knew her for less than an hour, but I'm going to mourn her loss for a long time because we bonded so very very quickly. I hope she finds a good family and lives a long and happy life, and maybe, just maybe, she'll be able to say g'day to me at Rainbow Bridge while she's waiting for the rest of her family to cross over. All I've got to remember her by is a serious blood-blister on my middle finger, and I hope it heals very slowly.

I'll stop typing now as I'm starting to blubber again.

Goodbye Mombala.


Editor's note:

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