Pets and Living on Kruger (Part 2)
After Shari (our bulldog we lost to either hyenas or leopard, we're not sure), and way before Bella Lump (Our current bulldog pup), we decided that cats are much easier to have here, surprisingly. They’re independent, come and go as they please, and for the most part stay safe.
It all began like this.. we had chickens, but it was a bit of a nightmare because the monitor lizard’s always wanted to eat them. At night, the chickens would roost in the trees, but the genet cats would then catch them and have them as a meal.
So one day, Gramps decided to trade the chickens for a cat. Darryl had been begging my grandparents for one. And so we got, Gabriel, but he didn’t stick around for long, and found a new home (and probably a wife) in the Kruger Park.
We then had an African wild cat crossed with a domestic cat, whom we named Fat Cat, she was the sweetest little thing. Eventually we got her a husband, Tom, and they loved each other very much, but unfortunately Fat Cat died of a snakebite.
Tom, however, is still with us. This year he is turning 20 years old (and is literally the little love of my life). He can be incredibly fierce, and nothing scares him. I remember once, seeing the dominant male vervet monkey trying to intimidate Tom, but he wasn't having any of it.He gave it a smack, and hissed at it, and that was the last time the monkey went near Tom.
A few years ago, Patches (a white and black cross-eyed cat) arrived here. He just showed up one day, and hasn’t left since. He’s the loveliest little cat, who Gramps has given the title of: public relations officer, as he goes around and visits all of our guests everyday. Patches has a downfall though, he loves to climb in to cars, so we constantly have to keep an eye on him.
Once, when Gramps and Darryl were going to play golf, he climbed on the golf cart on the trailer, and went with. Of course none of us knew it at the time, and later heard from the young man that sells firewood outside our gate, that he had seen the cat sitting on the golf cart as they had driven out.
Somewhere between Crocodile Bridge and Komatipoort, Patches must’ve jumped off. Gramps was of course devastated, as we couldn’t find him for over a week. Then one day, he came strolling in to the house, exhausted with cracked, bloody little paws. We were all so relieved.
Since that day, we always check the cars before driving anywhere. Every night, Gramps and I go walking outside to find our cats and bring them in for the night. We take no chances, as we know that other little predators come on to the property at night, like servals, civets and genets.
But dogs, and cats aren’t the only pets that we have had here. We have also had Horses. When my mom was growing up here, she had a Basotho Pony called Whiskey, and Gramps had an enormous ex racehorse called Kemp.
They were the best of friends, and used to go everywhere together. But as I have said before in those days, there were no fences with the neighboring farms, and so the horses would often sneak on to the farms and eat the sugarcane, which left our neighbour rather unhappy, as you can imagine.
One day Whiskey and Kemp got stuck in to one of our staff members, Johno’s veggie garden. Johno was mad, and so he shot the horses with a ketty (slingshot). In a flat spin they raced out of our gate, and straight in to the Kruger Park.
Johno went to tell my grandparents that he had chased the horses and now they were in the Kruger. At this point the horses had run almost to the S25 dirt road in the park, and Grammy realised that if they tried to approach the horses in the car that they would just run away again.
Grammy then very strategically, grabbed a loaf of bread and began to walk towards the horses. Whiskey had a weak spot for bread, and so he came running to her. You can imagine all of the tourist’s faces, when they saw Grammy with a loaf of bread casually making her way through the park, trying to catch her badly behaved horses. Eventually, Grammy managed to grab hold of both of the horses, and then Johno led them safely back home.
When I was little I had a Shetland pony called, Love star, and mom had a thoroughbred, called Great Guy. Love Star was terribly naughty, the first time I got on her; she took me under a gate. And once when we were saddling her up, she bit my cousin on the knee. But still, I loved her terribly, and we had great times on the neighbouring farms together. Gram was as fit as can be; she used to put love star on a lead and run with me.
They too, used to sneak over to the farms and eat the sugarcane, and again our neighbour would threaten with blue murder, but never took any action. He was actually such a lovely man.
There was also many a nights where Gramps would sit in his bakkie outside the horses stables with his gun at the ready (should he need to fire a warning shot), as often, the lions and other predators would come through the fence and terrorize the horses. The horses would run up and down on the inside of the paddock, and would often get injured.
After the 2000 floods (which I plan on writing a blog about soon), the Kruger fence literally washed away completely, and so for many months we lived here without a fence. Our horses would go down to the river, and graze on the riverbanks often.
I remember once, even seeing them with a herd of buffalo. I asked Grammy the other day, if they used to go down there and get them (because I couldn't remember), but she said, they would always come home on their own.
Sadly, we had to give our horses away eventually, because after the 2000 floods it was a challenge having them here, with no fences with Kruger etc. We were also worried about Tb for them, as they were grazing in the reeds around buffalo.
Sometimes I still dream of having horses, and galloping through the sugarcane fields and next to the Kruger fence on them. Having horses was one of the absolute highlights of my childhood.
I don't believe that anything can bring as much joy as the love of an animal. And each one of these animals that I have spoken about, has taken a very special place in all of our hearts. After all, they are more than just pets, they are family.