At the end of July of 2018, Nikki Botha traveled to Chengdu in Sichuan Province in China. It was here she found a stray cat that changed her life forever. And we were lucky to have her share her story with us!
We were doing vegan catering for the Good Food Hero Summit. This was organized by the Good Food Foundation and hosted at a 5-star hotel in the heart of the city. One night, while walking back from dinner, I noticed something odd as we approached the hotel.
It was a dirty white stray cat lying in the corner of the pavement next to an ATM!
Her condition was shocking and at first I thought she was dead.
When I touched her she slowly lifted her head, opened her little mouth and gave a barely audible meow. She was emaciated, dirty and smelled rotten. We immediately jumped in to action. I stayed with the cat, giving her reassurance and a loving touch while my friends ran to a nearby convenience store to get some food and water to give to her.
She was extremely weak and battled to eat and drink.
It was late and there was nothing much we could do for her other than to make sure that she had enough food and water until the next morning when shelters would be open and we could call around for help. The cat was starved for love and attention and didn’t know which she enjoyed more: the food or and coos and scratches we gently bestowed upon her.
We had no other choice than to return to the hotel. I had a difficult time sleeping that night, stressed out with worry about the safety of the cat. I couldn’t wait for first light so that I could go out, give her some more nourishment and to get her the help that she was in desperate need of.
The following morning she was in the same spot.
She had a little more energy but was still very weak and poorly.
We called every shelter we could think of but we were met with the same response: “Sorry, there is nothing we can do for her, we are full.”
I was besides myself. This cat wouldn’t last another week on the streets. One of my Chinese friends suggested we go to the nearby Bhuddist monastery to ask the monks for help. I was so hopeful that the monks would help. But we were told by the monastery that the monks are too busy praying to look after an animal.
I was furious and frantic. I had no idea what to do but was not going to give up. The cat deserved better than that.
I posted about what was happening on social media and a friend gave me the contact details for Chengdu Animal Rescue. It was the only rescue organization we didn’t try. I made contact with a lady called Sarah and without hesitation she told us to take the cat to their vet and they (the organisation) would gladly take her in. I was elated!
Grabbing a box, I ran to the spot where we found her. She was gone.
We looked everywhere for her. We spoke to the shop keepers in the vicinity and no one saw her or knew where she had gone. My heart sank. But I was not about to give up. I was going to look for her every morning and every night for as long as I was in Chengdu.
In her absence, I named her Fengmi.
For the next few days, every morning and every night I would walk around the area where we originally found Fengmi.
I put out food every morning and every night for the stay cat, but it remained untouched. Asking the same people every day whether they saw Fengmi, I gave them instructions on how to contact me the moment they saw her. I kept Sarah of Chengdu Animal Rescue in the loop and gave her daily updates. Fengmi’s absence was distracting and demoralizing. I couldn’t concentrate on anything else and I couldn’t sleep. My heart was in pieces and I kept on chastising myself for failing yet another animal.
One evening we went out for dinner again. I decided to take a taxi back to the hotel (the others were going to take a stroll back). I wanted to get back to the hotel because I wanted to make a MISSING CAT posted to put up in the area.
Just as I finished the poster, my hotel room phone rang. It was one of my friends.
“Nikki. Get down to reception NOW. Just come. Quickly.”
I slammed down the phone and ran out of my room like a bat out of hell. I had no idea what was going on but the urgency in my friend’s voice made me panic. My heart was racing and felt like it was going to pop out of my chest any second.
I met my friends on the way down to reception. Their eyes were wild but beaming.
They found Fengmi!
On the way back from the restaurant they passed by Fengmi’s spot and lo and behold. There was the stray cat.
Knowing that I had been looking for her relentlessly for days, they were not going to take any chances. One of my friends picked Fengmi up, put her in her bag and smuggled her in to the hotel.
I was pretty much near hysterical. I was ugly crying and laughing from pure joy and relief. It was too late to take her to the vet (as the clinic was already closed), so she had to stay with us in the room overnight. At that point I couldn’t care what the consequences were if we were found out. They could kick me out of the hotel for all I cared.
Fengmi was safe and that was all that mattered to me.
I still had the box I got originally when I wanted to take her to the vet before she disappeared. While we bathed her (which she didn’t like but was too weak to fight against), my friends prepared the box for her.
They made a little warm bed for her of my hoodie, and put food and water in two empty, clean ashtrays. I updated Sarah that we found her and arranged to take her to the vet first thing in the morning. The now former stay cat was such a miserable little figure huddled in the box. We gave her some attention and then we left her alone as we didn’t want to stress her out any more than she already was.
I was secretly hoping that she would have the strength to jump up on to my bed in the middle of the night for a warm, comforting cuddle. She didn’t. Regardless, I slept really well that night knowing that Fengmi’s life has just changed.
The next morning she was taken to the vet.
She was put on a drip and given medicine. Her diagnosis was as with many stray cats, stomatitis. Sadly the most common way to treat this was to remove all the teeth.
But the vet was going to do whatever he could to try and see if there wasn’t another course of action which would prevent that from happening. Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, Fengmi had to undergo the costly operation. Sarah sent me photos of Fengmi’s mouth post op and my stomach turned.
I was in tears yet again. It looked extremely painful and I knew that Fengmi had a long road to recovery. Things were going to get worse before they were going to get better. I shuddered to think what her vet bill would be.
I so badly wanted to contribute. But seeing as I was in Chengdu as a volunteer and that most of my work is done on a voluntary basis, I had no money to contribute. From experience, I know how non-profit organisations struggle for funding. And more over – how they struggle to find homes for animals who are handed over to them.
I needed to find a way to show Sarah and Chengdu Animal Rescue how grateful I was that they were willing to help the stray cat when no one else would.
As I told Fengmi’s story on my social media, I had three offers of a home for her. The only problem was that these homes were all back in my home country of South Africa. So over and above the fact that I wanted to fund raise for Fengmi’s veterinary bills, I now also needed to fund raise to have her relocated to South Africa.
I am not giving up on Fengmi. One way or the other I was going to end off her rescue chapter with a fairy tale ending. Or at least, I will exhaust all my options to get that ending.
I now have the difficult task of raising R30,000 to pay her vet bills.
That way, a struggling non-profit doesn’t have to. We can then get her to her new home where she can finally, finally rebuilt the shattered remains of her previous life.
Asking for money is never easy.
It is demoralizing, humiliating and embarrassing. But there is no dignity in the fight for survival. I am down on my grubby, scarred knees; begging you to consider being part of Fengmi’s happy ending. Please consider donating towards these costs.
Fengmi doesn’t speak the same language as any human on this planet, but I know for certain that if she could tell you how grateful she is for your contribution she would do so over and over.
In the meantime, I will have to act as her translator.
THANK you for being part of the group of people who rallied together for this one, single lonely cat. May Fengmi serve as a reminder of how team work and small actions can and will make a difference.
Written & Photos by: Nikki Botha
*UPDATE MARCH 2019*
Apparently the universal language of love was received wholeheartedly around the world. She may never have had the opportunity to thrive, but this once stray cat certainly would now.
Not only was Fengmi’s fundraiser $2600 goal reached, they raised a total of $3,375 USD for her! Even better than that was the additional special news shared.
WE HAVE REACHED OUR GOAL!!!! We cannot, cannot CANNOT find the words to thank each and everyone of you who donated and shared. We’re TOTALLY overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support!
Thanks to you all, Fengmi is getting her very own home for Christmas!!!
While the world was working behind the scenes to give her a better life, Fengmi was already settling into her foster home nicely.
It didn’t take her long to become a comfortable kitty without a care in the world.
She got to explore a big comfy bed, and clearly that means some fun playtime under the covers too!
How wonderful is it to have your own scratching bed?! Now Fengmi knows the answer to that too and is sure to express her gratitude.
Just this week, no longer a stray cat, she was FINALLY welcomed into her new forever home back in South Africa.
She didn’t seem to take long to settle in there either, because this was taken just an hour or so after arriving at her new home.
Where did we learn of this adorable video of the once shabby street cat? On her new Facebook page that her owner started, because why not?!
Now the rest of the world that supported Fengmi’s journey can stay up-to-date on her new, wonderful life. Check her out @FengmiTheRescue.
Fengmi joined my family on Saturday 2nd March 2019 and what a wonderful surprise that was! We imagined that we would be meeting a frightened and insecure little waif. We couldn’t have been more wrong! She was vocal and alert and not in the least bit shy, and that was at the airport.
Once we arrived home, we let her out of her travel cage and she immediately demanded loves and tummy tickles. Very cute ? I do not know everyone who was involved with Fengmi at the various stages of her life, but I would like to thank each individual who gave her the love and support to allow her to be so confident and well adjusted today? Thank you!