Opposite Reid’s, the oldest and grandest hotel in Madeira is Quinto Magnolia, originally part of the British Country Club it now hosts a colony of stray cats. Currently six toms rumble along together and hang out by the entrance to the public gardens. There is always a bowl of kibbles and fresh water put out for them and they are quite healthy and friendly.
There is a successful programme in place in Madeira whereby female strays are neutered, their ears clipped then they are returned. However there are signs all around advising that feeding of the stray cats is more than welcomed, and the cats are more than willing to put a smile on their whiskers and seduce holiday makers for the odd scrap from the breakfast buffet, or cat food purchased from local supermarkets.
Sweetee was a little black, pedigree Persian cat who had been abandoned in the gardens of Quinto Magnolia. The colony of stray cats there didn’t accept him into their group, however, they tolerated him in the vicinity. Sweetee didn’t recognise the kibbles which were always on offer as food. Sweetee had been fed the very best, but now as a ’stray’ he was starving.
Each time I go to the island I feed the strays at Quinto Magnolia. That’s how I met Sweetee. He sort of silently appeared from the undergrowth when I went to feed the stray colony, rubbing by my legs, just a scrap of a cat, all skin and bones. But he was very appealing and I ended up falling hook line and sinker in love with him. He really knew how to seduce a lady with cat meat pouches in her bag!
We got into a routine. I cleaned his eyes and then would feed him two pouches each morning and two more at night. Sweetee blossomed and started to fill out over a week. He was meticulous in his personal grooming; he didn’t have a flea, a tick, mite, scratch or bite on him. He had a crooked ear and he was very vocal, pouring out his love. But he was a very classy cat!
He would then sit on my knee and I would brush him. He loved being brushed, his little rumbly purr would go into overdrive. He just adored Primula soft cheese in the tubes and would slurp away at the nozzle quite contented.
When I entered the gardens and called his name he would bound out of the undergrowth, tail erect with a smile on his whiskers. Then he would follow me to a little wall out of sight of the other cats and people to be fed his treats. He was a fusspot, a complete teddy bare-faced cheeky chap. He was perfect. He would climb on my knee, put his front paws on my shoulders and nuzzle my nose, he was desperate to have a human to call his own.
But he wasn’t going to make it as a stray. When I couldn’t get to him for 36 hours, he just hadn’t eaten. It was obvious that he would starve on his own. So, I contacted a local charity but they were overwhelmed and wouldn’t even consider him despite his desperate circumstances. I was getting desperate as my time on the island was coming to an end and I couldn’t just leave him to starve. I couldn’t take him back to England either, as there was no time to arrange pet passports, vaccinations, flights etc, all of which are so expensive and I couldn’t just pop him in my hand luggage!! That was illegal and I would be spending some time at Her Majesty’s leisure if I did!!
I really was getting frantic and just couldn’t bear the thought of leaving him to fend for himself.
Two nights before I left I was at the gardens, not at the usual area where we would have cuddles, but right near the entrance. It was almost closing time and I didn’t want to be unnoticed and get locked in! I gave him his supper which he ate, eyes closed in ecstasy savouring each morsel. A car drove through the entrance and the driver waved at me. She got out of the car with a cat basket. It was Joana Ribeiro from Ajuda a Alimentar Cães, a local cat rescue and along with Su Madeira, they had come to rescue Sweetee. I had met Su at the car boot at the Casino Hotel which is held every Sunday and mentioned Sweetee’s plight, Su was there raising funds for Ajuda a Alimentar Cães. She had been up the previous night to Quinto Magnolia to find him, but Sweetee, being the little monkey that he is, hadn’t put in an appearance. No doubt, he’d clocked the cat basket and stayed hidden in the undergrowth.
So Sweetee was rescued, I gave him a final cuddle and kiss then he was scooped into the cat basket taken to Vet Funchal for a ‘moggy MOT’ and then to be rehomed. I broke my heart and cried when he left, but it was the best thing that could happen to him. It couldn’t have been a better outcome.
The following night, a tremendous storm hit the island, torrential rain, wicked winds and ferocious waves. I was just so grateful to Su and Joana that Sweetee wasn’t alone in the gardens, cowering, soaked, hungry and frightened under a bush, but safe and warm now with them.
It was the feline equivalent of winning the Eurozillions triple rollover. Sweetee was about to begin a new, luxury catnip fuelled life with a wonderful new owner who will find they have the perfect Funchal Furball. Hopefully the lucky new owner will be in touch with me to let me know how my little Sweetee pop is - I’ll let you know how he getting on!
If you want to help Su and Joana then please go to their Facebook page:
P.S. Sweetee now has a new home and his name is Shaka. He is very much loved by his new Mum and it is thanks to people like Joana and Su that the cats in Funchal are found loving homes eventually.