Saturday, 14 February 2015

Çingene - the uninvited 'short term' visitor

When we moved here almost three years ago, we had absolutely no plans to take on another cat. We already had two that we had brought with us from England which we thought was quite enough. However, fate moves in mysterious ways and a third came into the fold.

Having lost three, fourteen year old dogs in the last couple of years we had made no move to replace them as we knew that we were planning to move abroad, so when we hit Turkish soil we arrived with just one black Labrador. I had kept Labradors for many years in England whereas David had always been a German Shepherd owner. I was therefore easily tempted with a German Shepherd bitch that was needing a home very soon after we arrived. Although David was in the UK at the time, I went down to the vets in Calis (where she had just been spayed) to see the dog and offered it a forever home. Great, I thought, this would be a nice surprise for David on his return.

While I was viewing the dog, a member of the Animal Aid team said "You wouldn't like a cat as well would you?"

"Absolutely not!" I replied.

They went on to explain that they had a cat which was currently at the vet's in desperate need of a home. She had been found in a very sorry state at Fethiye fish market by some holiday makers who had asked Animal Aid to take her in. She was thought to be 8 or 9 years old, the vet had diagnosed chronic kidney failure and ongoing flu virus and her prognosis was poor, with the vet expecting her to only live a few more weeks - months at best. Basically she needed somewhere to be loved during her terminal care. Because of the situation with her smelly breath, snotty nose and short term prognosis they had not managed to place her and she had been living at the vets for several weeks. Not fit enough to return to the streets, yet with nowhere else to go.

"Come and see her anyway" they cleverly said and led me through to another room where in a cage was the long haired tabby of which they spoke. They opened the cage and let her out and she was so pleased to see every one and to have a few moments fuss, that of course my heart went out to her situation and bearing in mind that it was very short term care I did not have the heart to refuse her a place for a short while to live out her days with some company and love.

As agreed both the dog and cat were delivered by Animal Aid a couple of days later. They even lent me a cage to keep the cat in. So here we are, David in England still and two new animals to cope with - a German Shepherd that is a known cat chaser and a cat that is terminally ill. I thought I am obviously insane!

I opted to put her cage in the sitting room so that she had constant company and while the new dog (later to become known as Kizzi) alternated with playing with our Labrador and trying to get in the cage to eat the cat (a fact that the cat totally ignored), she was fascinated by the television and climbed on top of her sleeping box to have a better view. She sat there for a couple of hours watching the television absolutely enthralled.

Wow - a lady on the wall singing how wonderful!

The following day I decided to let her out of the cage for a wander around the sitting room and although the dog was fascinated by her and followed her around with a threatening demeanour, she survived the day unharmed.

Early days - "I eat cats, you should be scared and!"

To be honest she was not the most pleasant companion, sneezing into the air constantly spreading snot wherever she went, and understandably constantly wanting attention. If ignored for more than a few minutes she took to launching herself onto my head as I passed by, so that I spent a lot of time in the first few days wearing her like a hairy Easter bonnet!

She has no fear of dogs ................

tamed the cat chaser ............

.............. and soon became one of the gang

Our cat Inca hated her with a vengeance and ran upstairs to squeeze herself under radiators and hide from this hairy interloper. Çingene however, totally ignored this bad behaviour just as she ignored the dogs. I am sure she had seen much worse living on the street for 9 years.

 Çingene totally unfazed by Inca's staring and vibes of hate coming from behind her

After a couple of days I decided to let her out and of course she immediately disappeared. After a few hours I thought that's it then I'll never find her again. But at tea time she came marching back demanding her tea and for the first time I felt that she thought of this as home.

Naming her was easy. With her known background of vagrancy I decided to call her Çingene (pronounced chingenner) which is Turkish for gypsy.

We had been asked by Animal Aid if we would contact the couple who found her in the fish market, and had indeed gone on to sponsor her at the vets on their return to Scotland. I wrote to them and sent some photographs of her and asked them about when they had found her. This is their reply

 "When I saw her first she was sitting, hunched up on the ledge of the coffee grinders shop window and was in a wretched state;emaciated, scraggy, snotty nosed but saying "Hi" and not in the least bit frightened . There was something about her brave spirit that touched mine and left me in no doubt she needed a chance of something better."

Brave spirit indeed! She has embraced having her own home at last like no other cat I have ever known. She is determined, bloody minded even and very much larger than life, a true character.

When she first arrived she was eating a prescription diet for her kidney problem, but after a while she refused to eat it and was stealing the other cats normal cat food anyway. She is the fussiest eater I have ever known. It is not unusual for me to offer her several choices in one day before she will tuck into something. It's a case of what she fancies or she will refuse to eat at all. I cook her chicken, liver, fish, try cat food, all sorts. Sometimes she will at last tuck into something and then the next day refuse to eat it again and you have to start the elimination process all over again.

I think she also felt that she needed to pay rent because every day I would hear her approaching, mewing loudly. I soon learnt to realise it meant she was bringing me a present.

One of  Çingene's presents

The second summer she was here she disappeared, we could not find her anywhere. We spent days searching the hedgerows and the mountain to no avail. We were convinced that something awful had happened to her and realised how big a place in our hearts she had stolen, she was so conspicuous in her absence. Then after around a week she arrived home looking well and happy without a care in the world and regrouped with us again.

Then the following summer she used to eat her breakfast then rush off not to be seen again for some hours, then returning at night for her tea. After a while and because she seemed to rush out with such intent, I stood on our upstairs terrace and watched where she went. She ran straight across the field in front of our house and over the wall of a recently built and occupied property and jumped straight onto their terrace. I heard the lady say "Hello" and she disappeared into their house. I imagine that because she looks so scraggy most of the time, they thought she was a street cat. This went on for weeks and weeks until when they went away on holiday. David passed their friend walking along the road one day. Striking up conversation, as you do it transpired that this lady was instructed to bring freshly cooked and chopped chicken up every day in their absence. David explained that actually she did have a home and the supply must have been cut off because after that she stopped her morning visits.

We were told by the vet that she was not spayed, but that he would not operate because she would not survive the anaesthetic. He assured us it did not matter because she was too ill to have any seasons. Wrong! After a year with us she came into season and strode around making the most hideous din. She called so loud she drove us crazy. We tried desperately to keep her indoors, but determined character that she is, she managed an escape by just jumping off the upstairs terrace - a considerable height. So after that we didn't try to contain her but gave her the morning after pill just in case.

Which brings me to another facet of her bloody minded character.  Çingene is the most difficult cat to get tablets down that I have ever encountered. At the first sight of me approaching with a tablet, metamorphosis into a larger wild cat is instant. She will contort her body and fight with every inch of her being and I have the scars to prove it. I have learnt that I have to be 100% on target at the first attempt or I can wave the idea goodbye until she has forgotten. These days I wrap her tightly in a towel to keep those claws at bay before even attempting the hated procedure and even then she can often manage to free her front legs and those claws before I even have her mouth open.

Last winter I made the cats some beds and she loves hers. This winter she has a hot water bottle in it which I replenish several times a day. But her favourite thing of all is stolen food. Given any opportunity she will steal from, plates, saucepans, dustbins, dog bowls, anything she can find. She instinctively knows the coolest places to lay at any given time of day in the summer and will move around from place to place as the sun shifts round. She knows all the warmest places to be in the winter too. I guess after so many years of having to fend for herself she is incredibly street wise You can take the cat from the street, but you can't take the street from the cat!

stealing from the dog bowl 

Loving her bed with her own hot water bottle too

Well that was almost three years ago and the short term visitor is still here. She hates the cold and her condition deteriorates every winter, and every winter we think we are going to lose her, but she has so far bounced back in the spring and managed another summer.

I think she thought she had come to paradise when she came here. She has loved her life and seems to be eternally grateful for being offered this home after all those years of surviving on the street with her illness. She is affectionate, adores me, and her laid back attitude has meant that she has survived the dogs and even Inca came to accept her presence in the end although it did take two years!

I am telling her long overdue story now because at the moment she is very poorly indeed and I didn't want her to finally lose her battle and her story to have been untold. But however this winter evolves for her, she has had at least three years of running free in a safe environment where she will continue to be loved and cherished to the end of her days.

 Çingene enjoying life in the country instead of having to survive ill on the streets of Fethiye


  1. I have known this lovable rogue for nearly 2& a half years she has been looking really rough this winter, she is a survivor bless her whe she sneezes the world around her gets plastered. Without The Fethiye Fogies she'd never have survived these last 3 years. Well done to you 2 & to all your new Pets.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. But Cingene should take the credit here because she is such a survivor.

  2. Cingene has got amazing eyes - You can see the fight behind them.

    1. I agree with you. She is one determined little girl!