Katz Tales: Beware of snakes in the neighbourhood - one killed my cat

Swooner hanging out indoors. — Ellen Whyte

Three weeks ago, Swooner went out at dawn for his customary walk. Five minutes later, he was ambushed by a giant snake. Our poor boy was killed.

The incident happened right in front of our neighbour who was up early to cater a breakfast party. She saw Swoon walk by, then Target growled, and when she looked to see what Target was angry about, it was already too late.

Even so, our neighbour and a passing security guard tried to help. With all the action, the snake dropped Swooner’s body and escaped. There’s a large wild area near us, and it is likely where it lives.

We’re shocked and devastated. We comfort ourselves from knowing Swooner may have had a short life, but he enjoyed it to the fullest, devoting himself to his passions.

Five years ago, Swooner appeared in our street, rail thin and with dislocated paws. A neighbour got some water into him. Then, he swallowed some cat food. But it was clear the little cat was in desperate straits. He couldn’t hunt or fend for himself. In fact, he couldn’t even jump his own height.

But when we went to check out if we could do anything for him, he meowed and headbutted us. We took him in.

His relief at being adopted was evident. Taking in strays is always tricky but Swooner took one look at the spare room we set up for his quarantine, sighed with pleasure at the fresh litter box, stepped into it and with a look of bliss, peed. Then he stuffed himself with food, curled up and went to sleep, purring.

Although he loved having a home, he retained his street cat wanderlust. Swooner was an adventurer who lived for being out and about. He was out the door at dawn, checking out his territory. He loved sleeping in the sun, drinking out of rain puddles, and watching the birds.

While he got along with Target, Guido and Tic Tac, Swooner found his soulmate in Charlie, the cat across the street who is also a rescue boy.

Although Charlie was a decade older, the two cats bonded like brothers. They hung out together so much that Charlie’s mum put out an extra bowl for Swoon at mealtimes.

Swooner loved having two places to dine because food was another one of our boy’s pleasures. Like anyone who has known extreme hunger, Swooner would eat and eat and eat until he was at bursting point.

Understanding his food anxiety, we trod a line between assuring him there was always food, and making sure he didn’t make himself sick with gorging. It worked because about a year ago, Swooner finally learned that he didn’t need to clear every bowl always. The day he began turning food down when he wasn’t hungry, we hugged him so much, he thought we were daft.

But along with the purrs and the cuddles, there were battles. The biggest tussle centred on his fancy for going out in the middle of the night and our need for sleep.

Swooner did not appreciate our curfew. Being in from 10pm until dawn was torture to him. He would waken me up in the middle of the night, yelling to go out, and I would yell right back.

We always make up, usually with him jumping into bed and lying on top of me, licking my nose and purring. I’d stroke his ears, give him kisses – and call him rude names. I’m fairly sure he knew, but he didn’t care.

Upping his game, Swooner took to disappearing at night. It was one of the few times I outwitted him: I set up a second supper time to lure him in. Swooner rumbled me straight away, but his love of food trumped his wish to be out and about.

Every night at 10pm, he would come trotting over when I called him. He’d lie in my arms like a baby getting his kisses and giving me purry furry headbutts. We’d check out the stars and the state of the moon, and then we’d go inside and eat that super extra supper. Mind you, each time I locked the door in quiet triumph, he’d give me the evil eye.

Although we quarrelled loudly and with proper vigour, Swooner was never a fighter. When he quarrelled with Charlie, he’d be upset for days. Going to the vet for check-ups, taking medicine, or any other upset would have him peeing in protest and fear. Whether it was a legacy of his rough start or a nervy personality, we never figured out.

What we did manage to do for him was help him recover from his damaged paws. When he went trotting about his rounds, few people realised he had a handicap. To the casual eye, our boy was a big, strapping tomcat. But when the big bruiser cats from down the street came sauntering up, cheekily issuing challenges and acting tough, Swoon would hide.

Hearing trouble, Target would blast out, screaming challenges and seeing them off, or I would go out and clap my hands. Either way, Swooner would jump into my arms, headbutting me with pure relief. Invariably, we’d celebrate his escape with a treat. Because Swoon believed in living life to the full, and that included extras.

Now he’s gone and we miss him terribly. Stepping outside and not having him trot up, tail held high, full of excitement at the joys of his day, hurts. I still reach out at night, expecting to feel him next to me. And I miss having my nose licked and chin headbutted.

It’s crushing but I tell myself that Swooner lived life with a passion, enjoying every minute of every day. Sweet, loving, stubborn, nervy and thoroughly feline, he was a wonderful cat. It was a blessing to have him in our lives.

In case of snake bite

With cats being small animals, if they are bitten by a snake, most will die pretty much instantly. Photo: 123rf.comWith cats being small animals, if they are bitten by a snake, most will die pretty much instantly. Photo: 123rf.com

If you are out with your pet, you may instinctively jump in and be bitten. In the films, people take all kinds of action, but often, that’s strictly fiction.

“The general recommendation to a bitten area is to do nothing to it, ” Prof Madya Dr Ahmad Khaldun Ismail, Consultant Emergency Physician, UKM, advises. “No need to tie anything. The recommendation is to minimise the movement of the affected area and go to the hospital emergency department.”

“Minimising movement can be enhanced by applying a splint to the affected limb. But, if this takes too much time, just keep calm and go to the doctor.”

After speaking to several vets, it is clear that with animals being smaller in body, most will die pretty much instantly. However, should you have time, the advice for treating bitten pets is the same as for humans. However, you should go to an animal hospital that has an emergency department.

As bites are an emergency, it is sensible to look up the nearest hospital for humans and the one for pets, and to put up the contact details where you can see them easily as well as on your phone.

Should you worry about snakes?

We live in the suburbs and it didn’t occur to us that a huge snake could be living here. Thanks to our neighbour, we had a very clear description of the snake and the attack.

So we consulted Indraneil Das, Professor of Herpetology at the Institute of Biodiversity Conservation, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, for insight.

“The description and capacity narrow it down to the Reticulated Python, Malayopython reticulatus, ” Prof Indraneil muses. “This species is actually more common in urban areas in Malaysia, Singapore, Bangkok and perhaps in many other large cities, than in forests, residing in drains, culverts and ditches.

“Hiding by day and foraging late at night, sometimes underground, they remain hidden in plain sight, to use an oft-used expression. The occasional disappearance of pet dogs and cats can probably be attributed to this snake. The diet of these semi-wild snakes remains unstudied, and typical fare may actually be rodents.”

Unfortunately, there are no visible signs to give us the heads-up that a python is around.

“To keep your pet safe, put dogs and cats indoors or in other secure environments, ” Prof Indraneil advises. “Since pythons are nocturnal, pets can be generally safe by day, say during daylight hours.”

Adopt Me

Photo: Sherrina Krishnan-LeyowPhoto: Sherrina Krishnan-Leyow

Brodie is three months old, healthy, dewormed and will be vaccinated in two weeks’ time. Brodie is a very affectionate boy. He is very curious and is always ready to be up and about with his three siblings! If you’d like to adopt him along with a sibling, because two kittens are always better than one, you should know they are all the same colour, and all full of happy mischief. Interested adopters please message Sherrina (012-202 6384), Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

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