Lilac and Lime

Contrasts in colour, contrasts in life – Mary Bruce

Liberty and the rabies shots

Working in the CBD, we catch glimpses of cats who presumably rule by night but are rarely seen during the day. One of these moved onto our property some months ago and was fed and befriended by a number of us. She remained shy but often came to meet me and call me over to her food bowl on the days when I arrived while the parking area was almost empty. We’ve heard for years of the rats in the vicinity but, until one crossed a pathway a metre ahead of me in broad daylight, I took most of the reports to be urban legend. The rat was indeed not significantly smaller than a cat and my credulity was no longer exerted when people spoke of them. I never saw the cat catch, or indeed encounter, a rat but there was no sign of them during her stay. Many of us became quite used to glimpses of her as we got to work.

Just over a month ago there was a complaint about her sitting on some of the cars. There were only two of us in a position to give her a home. Our cat Kirby had died early in July and we were intending to adopt another one in the near future ; we also have a single dog, Storm. One of the ladies downstairs was prepared to offer the cat a home but has five dogs. The arrangement was that I would take her home and see if we could integrate her into the family ; if not, the home with five dogs would try.

The cat was duly loaded into a box along with the blanket and food that had been donated to her. All the security guys in the immediate neighbourhood came over to see her off as they had also been feeding her and her friends. She removed herself from the box even before I’d driven to the gate but fortunately jumped onto the back shelf and made a somewhat regal exit.


Kimberley was over the moon with excitement. Her lectures had been cancelled for the afternoon and she was able to devote some time to helping the newcomer settle in. The first step was naming her “Libby”. I’ve been given permission to make it short for “Liberty”. Kimberley was totally enchanted when she bent down to see the cat who was under her bed at the time, and the cat came up close and bumped noses.

After a few days when the cat trusted us enough, Kimberley discovered that she still had stitches in her tummy. This confirmed that she had to have lived with someone in the past ; we can only surmise that the person moved away before her stitches were taken out and could not find her when the time came to leave. We took her to the vet on the next Saturday morning to have the stitches removed and have her innoculations. And so started one of the most surreal times of my life.

Libby allowed Kimberley to carry her in but the second the vet came near her tummy she went absolutely beserk. Fortunately the door had been closed but I instinctively grabbed at her as she tried to escape. This was one occasion when I’d rather not have had quick reflexes. She wriggled and left me with a hand full of tail. In her panic at being apprehended she turned and sank her teeth deep into my left index finger. When I let go she jumped onto a work surface and up the open face of a cupboard full of medicine. Luckily nothing fell down or broke and she was eventually cornered on a windowsill. By this time blood was pouring out of my knuckle and, despite trying to cup it in my other hand, dripping on to the floor. Kimberley and the vet saw to removing her stitches but one thing has annoyed me to the point of deciding not to return to that vet in future.

Despite the state of my finger, the vet declined to let me wash my hand. Not having details of the cat’s medical history, I particularly wanted to wash the wound immediately. We drove home past the doctor but his offices were closed so we decided to go past the casualty unit of the nearby hospital. As Murphy decreed, a marathon was underway and we had to drive kilometres out of our way to get around to the other side of the hospital. All in all, it was about forty minutes before I could wash my hand.

To cut a long story short, I was given anti-tetanus and rabies injections : seven shots in all. Three of them were directly into my finger adjacent to the wounds. For someone whose only remaining phobia in life is needles, I cannot begin to describe how painful that part of the proceedings was.  I had a follow-up rabies shot three days later. Even that didn’t run smoothly as the day specified in the schedule was three days after the initial injection and that happened to be a public holiday. Fortunately a medically-qualified friend of the pharmacist was prepared to administer the supplied vaccine.


After consulting my own doctor early the following week, his advice was that, as the cat was healthy and under observation in our home, there was no need to continue the programme of rabies injections. The pharmacist and nursing sister agreed with his opinion. The hospital staff had also indicated that their concern is dog bites more than cat bites.

It is now twenty days since the battle. I had two of the five scheduled rabies injections. The cat remains well. Despite one bite going septic, the wounds healed even more quickly than the doctor anticipated. I find it amazing that having had pets almost my entire life, I’ve never before had to make a decision about rabies injections. There’ve been a fair share of tetanus boosters over the years but nothing more serious than that.

I did base my decision regarding the length of treatment on the medical advice I was given and also the fact that, if someone had paid hundreds of rand to have her spayed, they would almost undoubtedly have had her innoculated too. If she had been spayed by the SPCA it seems certain that they would have done the same. I console myself with the thought that if the rats do return, I’m probably the only person on the property who already has tons of anti-rabies stuff running around in my veins.

Libby has settled in fairly well although Storm’s feelings are as lacerated as my finger was because she hasn’t yet fully accepted him. Given the choice, I think he’d rather remain at arm’s length than become a blood buddy. I managed both.


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