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The story of a cat called Blong

‘Happy is the home with at least one cat’ - Italian Proverb

This week I’d like to tell a more personal tale. One of our cats, Blong, is an apricot/ginger tom. He’s snugly like a well-built teddy bear, loves his cuddles and will follow us around the house like a little dog. He’s a definite blessing in our home, but behind his loving nature and relaxed domesticity is a tale of starvation, travel and quarantine. It was on a holiday to the tropical paradise of Vanuatu that I first met him. We’d rented a private home and had been warned in the folder for guests, amongst menus for restaurants and sightseeing brochures, that a little ginger kitty lived in the garden. We were most welcome to feed him, the property owners wrote, but please don’t let him in the house. On our first morning a tiny kitten with an enormous head tapped gently on our bedroom window. He hardly had any hair and we could see his ribs. He was the ugliest cat I’d ever seen, but after one look in his eyes we let him in and searched for food. The only thing on hand was some stale bread as we hadn’t had time to get supplies the night before. We gave him the bread – which he wolfed down – and then we went shopping for cat food.

During the week we were there we made it our mission to feed him up, and by the end of the week his condition had improved – and by the end of the week we had fallen in love with him. Every evening after exploring the island and going out to dinner, we’d return home and he would be waiting, not so much for food, but for cuddles – he was the ultimate lap cat! We decided we’d try to adopt him when we got home, but how would we go about doing this from New Zealand? It ended up being seven steps of action:

Step One. We contacted the property owners who lived in Australia. They were delighted we wanted to adopt him after trying unsuccessfully to find him a home. They’d rented the house out for a year and the owners had left on their yacht leaving him behind. Excellent! We had their permission to take action!

Step Two. We contacted the local vet. This was easy as I’d taken note of the closest vet while we were still there. We asked them pick him up at about 9am, an easy task given his regular routines.

Step Three. I filled in the paperwork – more than what was needed for our holiday – and organised his flights. And this is the point we thought about his name. We decided on ‘Blong’ that is a local name that means ‘of’ or ‘belong’ – and also his name is so well known in Vanuatu. Bank Blong Vanuatu is named after him, for example!

Step Four. The vet had to do a variety of tests and uh, the wee cat had to lose his ‘manhood’. He was incarcerated for three weeks.

Step Five. Finally he was ready to fly from Vanuatu to New Zealand. We tracked the journey the entire way and pondered when he would be doing his duty free shopping, when he would be ordering a drink from the hostess in the business class section, and when he would be charming them at customs. Of course, the reality was a scared puss in a cage in the hold.

Step Six. We made our first visit to see Blong while he was in quarantine. Blong looked incredibly relaxed and happy. And he’d put on weight, had fur and we couldn’t see his ribs any more!

Step Seven. After visiting him every second day for four weeks, we were finally able to take him home. And in that time, despite the vets thinking his growth would have been stunted by malnutrition, he’d proved them wrong, and was finally in proportion with his previously large head.

Blong is now a very beloved part of our family, six years on from when we first met him.

People often ask how much it cost to adopt Blong. Well, it cost more than our holiday, but what price can you put on such a beautiful pet? We’d rescued him from certain doom and I think everyone is allowed to have one crazy animal rescue story in their lives.

What’s your animal story?


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