Saturday, 13 July 2019

Hobnob and Trumpet Trees

In a non-tea-related post, meet Hobnob.

My friend Jo came home one evening to find her sitting outside the front gate. You can't see from that picture, but  she is seriously emaciated. You could feel every single bone in her body, and almost touch your fingers together through the back of her spine.

Jo took her straight down to our lovely local vet, Dr. Arum. The examination showed she was starving, but she needed to wait to see whether it was just lack of food or whether there was an underlying condition causing this. Jo has other cats but no spare room, so she brought Hobnob, named by her daughter, over to my house. I had a spare room to keep her separate from my other cats, who are all vaccinated.

My friend Nick was staying with me. He lives up near Nyaringarama but was in town for a wedding. After I put my cats out for the night, I went and collected Hobnob and brought her in to snuggle on the couch with us as we started the new series of Stranger Things. When I opened the door to the spare room, I honestly thought she was dead for a moment as she was just lying there. Then she breathed and so did I. When I went to bed, I moved her into my room. She is such an incredibly affectionate little thing, I thought she'd feel safer with someone there.

Please ignore the dry food, I was feeding her small pieces of fresh meat and some mince. I quickly educated myself in starving cat nutrition. You've also got to be careful and keep an eye out for refeeding syndrome. When someone has been starved you can't just give them a big meal. The vitamins and minerals needed to digest food are depleted or exhausted, and without them the body can shut down when it encounters food. So, you need to start by offering around half the daily number of calories that a healthy creature would eat and include the vitamins and minerals needed for digestion, which, thankfully, meat has most of for a cat. Dry food is a bad idea as it's much harder to digest and dehydrating, which is bad in an already dehydrated animal.

She drank lots of water but was so weak she could hardly walk, so she wasn't able to use the litter box to begin with. The next morning she'd done two huge poos and had a wee, which was a really good sign. It meant her system was functioning.

We spent a couple of days cuddling and watching movies, and she was soon able to use the litter box. Because she's so affectionate, we wondered whether she might have belonged to someone. Many people get animals when they move to Rwanda, but a lot of expats leave them behind when they go. Or she might just have got lost. If she was a house cat or home bunny she might not have had much hunting experience and been unable to feed herself properly.

Arum had shaved off her matted fur and given her a bath, but there was still a strong, sickly smell about her. She was too weak to wash herself, so it was a really wonderful sign on the second day when she did this.

She also rolled over for a tummy rub. All she wanted to do was stroke, but I felt a bit nervous, it was like touching a furry skeleton and I was terrified I would hurt her, but she's a resilient little thing.


I had already arranged to go back to Gisenyi to see Sameer, but I delayed another day to spend more time with her. On the final evening, Jo and her daughter came to collect Hobnob. I helped put her in the car. She was recovering well and showing no signs of disease. Jo is keeping her. I would have done otherwise. She's going to have a really happy life, but even knowing that, I had a little cry after she left. I'm fine in an emergency - feed, water, clean, cuddle, repeat - but once it was over there was time to reflect on how awful it was. Poor little thing was suffering, but still so loving despite it all. I'm really looking forward to seeing her again next time I visit Jo. It was just so lucky she ended up outside her door.

Talking of Jo, we had a really lovely day on Wednesday. She has a tourism business in Gisenyi, specialising in cycling the Congo Nile Trail. In my bid to avoid the bus, she agreed to drive me back to Kigali after a training session with her staff. I had a lazy morning, and breakfast with Sameer after he'd done the morning rounds, then Jo picked me up and we went over to her office.


Nice guest room.

Cycle details - pedals as towel hooks.
I really love this wash basin.


(panoramic, click to enlarge)

Like Sameer, Jo has a lovely garden with lots of flowers.


That last one is called ikijojo in Kinyarwanda (little Jojo). Its other name is brugmansia, trumpet tree, angel trumpet or pseudodatura. It's both a poison and a hallucinogen. I often wonder whether there's some connection between this and the traditional imigongo paintings that look really trippy. Locals say it'll either kill you or send you mad. Sameer told me that this plant is the antidote, but we're not sure what it is.

The day after I got back to Kigali, Sameer had a meeting here, so he stayed over. We had a lovely meal at Lalibela, washed down with Belgian beers at the rolex shop in Kimi. It's been a really nice week, if a little exhausting with all the travelling and gin, but I'm blessed to know such interesting people and to live in such a beautiful country.

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