The story is now complete.
24th December, 2021, around 18:30
I had planned for a couple of quiet days in the Canunda National park camping, beachwalking, and working at the sort of beach where seagulls don’t expect chips or even humans.
Leaving Mt Gambier after a supply stop I had that familiar feeling of impending adventure. Heading off into the bush you never know what’ll happen, but it’s never boring. What will you see, meet, experience, what hazards like ahead? I just love it!
I’d brought my mobile office aka caravan, and was interested to see how easy it’d tow into the dunes; I didn’t recall any problematic crests from previous visits, but 2300kg of caravan does make life more interesting than without. And of course there happened to be one twisty dune, not too steep, but steep and curvy enough to sap momentum…thus progress was halted.
It took me three hours of Maxtraxing, digging and winching to get 5.2 tonnes of Ranger and caravan over that dune, which I’ll turn into a how-to video; patience and technique always get you the results but by the time I was across the top it was now 22:00. Despite the lack of tree cover, lots of moonlight and reflective sand it was still quite dark. Fortunately that was the only obstacle a bit of send-it couldn’t deal with, so I proceeded into camp looking forwards to a quick setup and relaxing for the remainder of the night.
And then I saw, clearly illuminated by the spotlights, a small animal. Now I’m only doing 20km/h, such is the nature of the sandy offroad track, so no real need to brake but I slowed down, expecting the animal to skitter off into the bushes.
It did not skitter. It did not scamper. It just froze. And then I noticed it was a kitten.
Now this is unusual, but not unheard of; I have encountered kittens in the bush a couple of times before, and sadly, feral cats are not uncommon. But this was a single kitten. Obviously terrified. Understandable really, big orange monster with bright lights.
I had to do something. This animal was, in fact, a criminal. Cats are not permitted in national parks, so it was an Illegal Alien Animal. For the good of the local wildlife, I had to remove it.
The picture below isn’t at night, nor is it exactly where I found the kitten, but it’s close enough to give you an idea. Just imagine it’s night.
Back to the story. So I hopped out of the car, and approached the kitten. It began to move off, slowly, but probably as fast as it could run. It was easy to catch so I scooped it up in one hand, and it was at this point the kitten discovered hitherto unknown energy and began an act of extreme violence which got it the name Bastard McBitey-Scratch.
Regardless. I am not easily dissuaded and a psychotic kitten newly named BMS would not better me. But I now had a problem, and that was transport. I’m pretty well set up for most eventualities, but kitten rescue is not, in fact, one situation I’m prepared for. What would I do with BMS whilst I drove the last 5km to camp? Had to be safe, didn’t want it to just roam the car whilst I drove and get me or itself into trouble. Eventually I recalled I have some spare cardboard boxes in the caravan, so went to get one of those as a cat-transport. I know cats like sitting in boxes. Along with ripping hands, shedding fur, yowling randomly, puking onto carpets and tripping you up. I have spent many years living with cats so this I know.
Now I really needed multiple hands, but one was full of energetically angry kitten. So, one-handed it was. Have you ever struggled to locate keys and unlock a caravan door with one hand, late at night, in the dark, when you’re dog tired from sand recovery and your other hand is having the flesh methodically stripped from it? No? Really? Well I have and it’s not fun. Anyway I found the box, inserted cat – who decided it was not a fan of the box and suddenly became very very wide – skills like that would be excellent on a racetrack when you’re P1 and P2 is on your tail with a lap to go. Nothing I couldn’t deal with though and the cat, protesting noisily, went firmly into the box, I closed the lid, and secured box to passenger seat. Cat transport done! And the last few km were uneventful.
At camp I set up and then cautiously removed the box from the car. Took box into van. Very carefully opened it, just in case violence was to be wrought or an escape made. But no. There just was a pitiful looking wisp of fur with two beady eyes staring back at me, huddled into a corner.
All the fight had left BMS, who was now resigned to its fate. Which was good, if I needed to care for it then it’d be easier if it was not spending every bit of strength it had fighting me and the world. I found a plate, poured some water into it, and placed it in front of BMS who ignored it. Fine, do without then, what do I care. Food could wait till morning.
Now when I say this kitten is small, I mean tiny. Like a scale model of a kitten. I’ve seen lots of kittens, but never one this small or light before. Imagine your cat has shedded some hair; add eyeballs, teeth and claws – that’s BMS.
I now write this at camp. It’s 23:08 and there’s no Internet until I set up Mr Musk’s Starlink and hope it works here, so you’ll be reading this in the morning. There’s nobody else here either, apparently something called Christmas is on and normal people socialise not bugger off into the bush. It is a sad irony that many people are involuntarily isolating over Xmas due to the ravages of COVID and I do it by choice. I’d wish to swap, but that lagoon is looking inviting and I feel like a swim in the morning.
BMS has survived the night. Loves its cardboard home. Still not inclined to drink water. I let it walk around my bed and stroked it. Seemed to be quite active. Then I lost sight of it and it disappeared. Eventually found it with a torch…wow, this cat can take liquid form as I see no other way it could have wedged itself in a gap that tiny. Want to see BMS? Watch below. I’m not editing these videos just throwing them up:
I am no cat expert but the animal seems to be in good health; can confirm claws and teeth are in excellent condition, as is hiss mode. Coat not matted, soft, like a domestic cat. Eyes bright. No deformities or injuries that I’ve noted thus far. I stroked it on my lap for a while and I think it purred. Or trembled. Vibrated, anyway. How do you tell?
Right now it’s in its box, squeaking like it needs a dose of WD-40 (which is obviously not the answer).
I am so happy I brought a mobile satellite Internet system called Starlink. That means I can get to the Internet to ask advice, as I have no idea how to care for a tiny rescue kitten. Means I don’t need to use the satphone to make random calls about kitten care on Christmas day, or drive till I find Telstra reception, neither of which are ideal. So, thanks to Starlink’s Internet access I can join and then post on a cat-lover’s group about this predicament. Here is a summary of the responses:
a) cat will be fine with water, shelter, litter tray, and finely chopped meat (useful). Good, I can supply all that. I’m literally camped in sand dunes. Sand for the litter tray isn’t a problem. And I will give it some of the meat I’d planned for my dinner.
b) it is adorable (subjective)
b) is 6-8 weeks old (estimate)
c) I am a hero (objectively wrong, I’m not, I just appreciate wildlife and don’t want feral animals roaming the land)
c) BMS has adopted me/me it or somesuch and we are now lifelong pals (objectively wrong). Hahaha no. No cat in my life!
So, SpaceX people, you creating Starlink has helped me rescue a kitten. Bet you never thought of that use case! Please hurry up with the mobile option, the current one is a bit bulky. Thanks muchly.
I am intrigued as to how a tiny kitten appeared in my headlights so far into the bush. Learned opinion is a) feral b) escaped from someone camping c) dropped by a bird of prey d) dumped. I cannot believe anyone would drive that far into the bush to dump a cat, I would be surprised if anyone took a cat that young camping at all (I know people do) and it is illegal in national parks. So I think feral is the most likely answer. Why wasn’t mother cat around? No idea. Fight with a snake and lost? I don’t know and am constructing a complete feline dynasty novel in my mind going back a few generations.
BMS has wombat genes. Likes to burrow into my arms and behind my back.
BMS has inspected the litter bowl, and promptly peed right next to it. Then splashed around in its water tray. This is really not very grateful behaviour. I’m not impressed. Was it brought up in the wild? Oh wait…
Against my better judgement, daughters have been informed of BMS’s existence. They launched two petitions; one to name it “Dune”, the other to keep it. Both have been considered and summarily rejected. No further appeals. And by that I mean none will be considered, I fully expect further appeals to be launched. Good luck with that.
Requests have been in the cat enthusiast group for BMS’s gender. It’s not actually relevant, but anyway. I inverted BMS, spread its legs and inspected. All I can see is fur. BMS did not take kindly to this treatment and especially not when I tried to part the fur to discover what lay betwixt. Digitally stimulating a kitten is not what I had planned for Christmas Day. I can’t tell, don’t care, and neither BMS nor I feel inclined to explore further, so feel free to project whatever gender you like onto he/she/it.
BMS is purring. This is good, as I suspect cats only purr when content. So, chances of BMS making it alive to the next chapter in its short and eventful life is high. A respondent to the FB post has watched a video I posted and said BMS is “making biscuits”. Whatever that means. UPDATE means kneading with paws, a sign of cat-happiness There you go, things you learn.
Tidied up my gear from last night’s recovery effort, did some work, cooked a nice steak, cut some off for BMS, chopped very finely as per learned advice. As is becoming a pattern with my acts of kindness and care, BMS ignored the tender bit of beef. Just doesn’t care. Hasn’t appeared to drink water either. I expect it’ll get hungry eventually.
I’m now going out to wander the dunes and beaches. BMS is in the ensuite, with a cardboard box, water, good ventilation and the unwanted choice cuts of beef.
Returned to the van. During the day I stopped for a bit of quiet reading on the beach when a couple in a Pajero arrived and asked a bunch of questions, then got bogged trying to drive off the beach. Anyway. Sorted that out for them and back to my book. Hot tip – full throttle is not always needed for sand driving, just be gentle and smooth, finesse the car and yes, you can finesse even at full throttle. Those YouTube videos of high-power, flat-out sand driving? Please don’t copy them.
Sorry this is about cats not cars. Right, well BMS is happy and is presently purring on my lap as I work, and write this blog as people seem to be interested, so may as well. Still shows no signs of needing to eat or drink – this is an air-powered cat, obviously.
And now…BMS is now asleep. Good, sleeping = silence, not a fan of this miaowing. Well, I’m hungry so BMS is going into its box whilst I muster some eats.
Jeez, glowering from inside the box. Not happy to be woken and shifted! Get used to it, catto. Until you depart to your furever ™ home.
BMS is yowling. This means it wants attention. It also means it lived the night. I don’t feel like getting up, and if I do give it attention, it learns it can control me. So I’m ignoring.
I will win this battle of wills. In similar circumstances my daughters lost, and so will this cat.
Quiet. Yay! This means I can get up!
Still gonna win this one.
Finally! A period of quiet. I get up, remove BMS from the ensuite and shower. BMS is not happy. In fact, I have detected a pattern. The only time BMS is happy is when it’s on my lap and then it purrs. The purr is like a LS3 with performance-tuned cams idling at around 700rpm. With a mandrel-bent exhaust. And maybe custom headers but I’m not 100% on that.
Coffee and day planning. BMS is on my lap. Yesterday it was “making biscuits” according to learned opinion. Today, it’s gone for the whole bakery; biscuits, shortbread, cakes. Let’s just say I’m glad it’s tiny. It’s like a 1/10 scale model of a cat. Except for the yowl. That is definitely full-scale.
Slightly concerned BMS hasn’t eaten anything, but seems very happy or content so I’ll not worry.
I think I see how people become cat-slaves. The cat is only happy when humans do what it wants. It “rewards” them with Biscuit Making and Purring. Well, not working. My objective is to keep BMS alive and hand it over to the first available shelter/foster carer/cat lover.
Good tip from Learned Opinion – next time it wees, mop up with tissue and place tissue in litter thingo. Will try. Given BMS’s stark refusal to cooperate with literally everything from the moment we met till now, I doubt it’ll work but whatevs, gotta give it a shot.
When I was told “socialise” the cat, WHAT IF IT WAS A TRICK???? What if the objective was not for me to socialise the cat, but for me to bond to the cat? HAH! I see your ploy, and it isn’t going to work!
Going to have a second coffee whilst I research my next hike and a place to hand BMS over. This will mean removing BMS from my lap. That means feline displeasure. Well cat you’re not the boss of me!
“to get it to drink try dabbing your finger in the water and dabbing the drops onto its mouth, it will start to lick .. progressively get it to move closer to the water bowl and it will figure out where the water is (or at least that’s the plan and has worked for me in the past with kittens etc)” – will try this.
Also. Response from local animal group!!! Let’s see how this goes…
Was out testing Starlink on a beach. Worked well! Faster Internets on a deserted beach than the NBN gives me at home!
So had Internets and was mildly alarmed to find that there was advice to force-feed lest the kitten die. Returned to camp immediately and have force-fed BMS very tiny chunks of beef. The process is – invert kitten, prise open jaws, drop in morsel of meat such that it can’t be ejected. Repeat.
Water is similar except I use a spoon and some is definitely going down the gullet, albeit with a decent quantity over my legs.
We are both taking a break from this ordeal as I write this post, and then we’ll be back for Round 2. Neither party enjoys the process, but seems it must be done. BMS presently on my lap, content…unware of the indignity which it will shortly be made to suffer once again. Seems in good health.
Force-feeding continues. I think we’ve established a rhythm now.
OUCH! Disregard last update.
Further advice not to feed if kitten seems healthy:
“Be careful pouring liquid down an unwilling gullet… it could be inhaled into the lungs instead an cause aspiration pneumonia. If kitten seems otherwise healthy and not in distress does this need to happen (relief for both of you!). It may not be weaned so doesn’t know how to lap, has it actually got enough teeth to chew steak? What about some cereal or bread soaked in water. Has someone suggested squirting a bit of water in its mouth with that?”
The cat DOES HAVE TEETH. Can confirm! It seemed to chew and swallow the meat. I hope I didn’t get any water in its lungs but it definitely got some down its throat. Will be trying this trick later on. I have no bread.
Tiny cat care is so far outside my expertise. It’s actually good, reminds me how people feel when I explain car dynamics, pulleys or towing techniques.
Have found a shelter for BMS! Tomorrow I’m out of the park and handing over BMS. And we have further progress; look, actual cooperation!
I’m told the litter tray needs to be 3-4 times larger, but that’s about as good as I can do for the moment. Still, BMS used it which I’m told is a good sign.
More Learned Advice – chop the meat to almost a paste, boil, let dry, offer. Well, if BMS is dependent on my cooking skills we are doomed! Nevertheless, I follow instructions and present the results…which are, of course, ignored. Anyway, BMS seems happy enough and tomorrow is shelter day so I’m not overly worried about the lack of appetite.
Have gone out again to the beach to watch the sun set and contemplate the waves. Back now and BMS has been given the run of the bed. Wanders around looking for a tiny crack to practice Liquid Cat morphing. I don’t allow it so it reverts to the other superpower, burrowing and in this case, into my arms. Very committed to the cause too, head goes in, back legs scrabbling, working hard to push the body through, doesn’t stop till entirely hidden. Obviously not claustrophobic.
Time for sleep. I put BMS into its box. NOT HAPPY. Loudly so. OK, maybe we can compromise. I take it out and see what the plans are. Immediately falls asleep…fine, you can stay there the night then.
I’m up early as there are dunes to deal with on the way out and I want cool air and no traffic. I look for BMS who needs to go live in the box whilst I do final packup. GONE! But not quite…I can feel a small, warm weight. But where? Turns out King Burrower has got inside the doona. No on, but literally inside. And this is why BMS has a box; the van isn’t that big, but I don’t want any accidents with unexpected cat in places no cat should be, particularly one as enthusiastic about melting into improbably tiny niches as this one.
So with camp packed up, BMS in the BMS Box, we depart.
Turns out to be an easier run than the way in, but had the radio on scan. Caught a group saying “I wouldn’t tow anything in here” pointed out it got in, and it’s going out….took it in good humour as all the best 4WD people do. It is legal to tow offroad vans on the track in case anyone is wondering.
Out of the dunes, aired up and in Mt Gambier, on my way to Wet Noses Animal Rescue. Not gonna lie, I’m not looking forwards to parting with little BMS, but needs must. Despite having been made to live with cats for most of my adult life, I’ve never really got them but I do now, kinda, see the point. But I’m not prepared to make the sacrifices to keep a cat, so to the carer BMS will go.
We pull up outside a tidy looking house in suburban Mt Gambier. This is it, catlet, the next stage of your life. Kill the engine, lift BMS out of the box one last time. Yowl of protest then snuggle.
I walk up to the door and knock. I hear vacuuming, so maybe they can’t hear me. That’s okay, I’m in no rush.
BMS is calm now, purring and looking around.
Then suddenly the doors open there is Kirryn. She’s an ex (human) nurse who now runs from her home a cat rescue operation. As I’ve mentioned, animals generally and cats specifically are outside of my sphere of expertise, but I know passion and a well-run operation when I see it, and that is Kirryn all over.
She’s got all sorts of different enclosures, lots of enrichment, everything is super tidy and clean…this is one smooth system. I feel very comfortable handing BMS over to such a caring and passionate lady. I then spot an incubator!
I ask why, and Kirryn says kittens are quite fragile and the incubator has saved a lot of feline lives. I ask how she funds all this and she tells me it’s self-funded, with a bit of income from her eBay shop. It’s her passion; she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and just wanted to do something she loved. I can understand that.
She refuses to put down cats – “they stay till adopted” – and won’t charge a surrender fee, which is news to me as I had no idea you had to pay to hand in an animal. Seeing the scale, detail, and skill of the operation I decided to donate anyway so as to pay BMS’s way and a bit more…no matter what people are into, if they’re passionate and knowledgeable I enjoy hearing about it.
Eventually it’s time to hand BMS over, and I let go for the last time. Kirryn asks what gender it is; I say I don’t know, so she checks. I’m pleased to see she needs to look closely and rummage a little, then declares BMS to be a boy. She says he’s around six to seven weeks old, same as Learned Opinion from the forum, and small for his age. Then, BMS is introduced to his new friends.
Kirryn watches with a practiced eye. She tells me BMS is immediately quite social, and she wouldn’t have been surprised to see him hide (me neither). His tail is up, and he’s off exploring, even rubbed himself up against another kitten. So all good signs. He’ll get wormed and fed shortly. And then..true to form, he goes to find the smallest niche he can find and wedge himself into it. Never change, Liquid Cat. Kirryn asks his name; I tell the story of BMS, but say it’s really not a fair name any more and let’s run with my daughter’s suggestion of Dune. But I guess his new owners will come up with another name, as is their right.
I wish Dune all the best, he’s a good cat and deserves a good life. My part is done.
If you’ve enjoyed this story maybe consider buying something from Kirryn’s shop, or a donation. She’s an amazing person, doing what she loves and making the world a better place whilst she can.
I’d also like to thank everyone on the Cats Squee Facebook group for their advice and support. I was well out of my expertise zone so the knowledge was invaluable. I won’t single anyone out as to be honest I got a bit lost in the responses with intermittent Internet access, but thank you all!
So, with Dune in safe hands, I’m writing this in a cafe as I enjoy food someone else has cooked as opposed to me throwing at a pan and hoping. Then I’m going to think about where I’ll go next. Might head out of town and just turn randomly for a while, then see where the road, trail or track has taken me.
- Kirry’s shop on eBay
- Wet Noses on Facebook
- Wet Noses Facebook post with bank details
- If you’re into remote travelling, don’t fall for this. I’ll post a video of the van-over-dune effort in due course.
Starlink – probably not many cat fanciers into remote area Internet access, but anyway here it is: