Eva Schelfhout never wanted to own a cat. That changed when her eldest granddaughter, Christiana, brought home an abandoned kitten ten years ago. As they grew older, Eva and the cat became inseparable, but the relationship very nearly came to an ignominious end.
Christiana called the kitten Resie. Eva preferred the more matter-of-fact name Kätzchen, meaning ‘little cat’ in German.
Upon adoption, the white tabby found herself living in the Schelfhout family home near the
which Eva and her late husband, Paul, founded in the early 1970s. Algarve International School
Kätzchen became an increasingly popular pet. “She was very cuddly and sweet,” said Eva. But she started catching birds, mice and rats. These creatures - or their leftovers - would sometimes end up in Eva's bedroom or bathroom.
“She could also be a nuisance as she always wanted to be close to us, even to guests who were not particularly fond of cats. When I wore black trousers, Kätzchen would stroll around my legs and quickly make sure they were covered in white hair.
“Still, Kätzchen became part of our inventory. It would have been unthinkable not to have her around any longer.”
Kätzchen normally lived in the lavandaria, the laundry room. She was fed there and enjoyed a selection of several beds there.
“Should we forget to cover up a basket of clean clothing, we would, of course, find her right on top of it,” said Eva.
It was in the laundry that Kätzchen came within a whisker of death.
It happened four months ago, but the story is still so sensitive that only now is it being told in public for the first time. Eva has not even dared to tell Christiana about it yet.
“Friday night, January 17th. I put Kätzchen to bed in the lavandaria as usual around 8.0pm,” Eva told me.
“I saw that the tumble dryer’s program was finished so I turned it off and opened the door.
“My daughter-in-law's maid must have come into the room later, put her hand in the dryer and found that the washing in there was not totally dry. So she turned the dryer on again - on to program 11, which is a 20-minute high heat program.
“When my daughter-in-law came in around 10.30pm, she opened the dryer and saw a huge mess in there. The washing was filthy, with blood and faeces and hair and, and, and…… in the middle of it all was our little cat - still alive!
Eva continued the story: “My daughter-in-law got her out of the dryer and put her on the floor, covered her in towels, cleaned up as far as possible and then called me.
“When I came down I saw Kätzchen flat as a doormat on the floor. I was certain she was dying. We called the emergency number of a vet and drove to the clinic in Alcantarilha where we were helped by a young woman.
“I thought it would be reasonable to put Kätzchen to sleep, but the woman vet wanted to try and save her. She gave injections, put her on a drip and left her in a cage overnight.
“The next day Kätzchen was still alive but nobody believed that she would survive this. The vet took a blood sample. It was yellow and it was impossible to get any blood values from it. Her liver seemed to be cooked.
“To everyone’s surprise, Kätzchen survived one day, two days, three days…..
“On the 20th of January I took her home from the clinic. We pampered her and gave her medication and a special paste for her liver. She is still alive today!
“Not only that, she seems to be her old self again. I had not received any more birds, mice or rats until last night when she brought me a present again.
“She doesn’t jump as high or as far as she used to, but otherwise she seems unchanged.
“I’ve never told this to Christiana who now lives on
if you write the story, I will tell her to read your blog.” Long
Island, New York