If it hadn’t been for our vet in Manila who sent birthday greetings to Champagne via e-mail on June 1, I would have completely forgotten! Imagine my surprise when I read my mail in the morning to find the warmest and sweetest mail from the whole team of the Beterinaryo sa Fort Animal Clinic. Yes, my little princess deserves all the praises for turning five, a magical number considering everything she has been through in such a short time.
For those of you who have been following this diva cat since the beginning the Champagne Trails series, you will understand why I am so attached to her. But let us retrace her story: Champagne is not a name that I gave the cat, but one she arrived with. Born in Thailand at a cattery located in the Nakhon Ratchasima area, some 3.5++ hours drive away from Bangkok, Champagne was part of a litter of pure-bred Persian cats intended for show cats and collectors. At the tender age of six weeks she was sold to the new owner under the condition that she was not to be used for breeding until at least her second year. The new owner paid no heed and Champagne was pregnant within a few months. The birth tore her uterus apart and she required surgery and spading, also far too early. Since it was a breech of contract, the young cat was returned to the cattery because the owner no longer found her suitable.
The next owner who adopted Champagne was not interested in her as a show cat nor as a pet, and set her loose among the other cats who were already in the home. She was bullied by the other larger felines and got into all sorts of scraps, collecting scars and wounds along the way. She was again returned to the cattery.
Finally there was a third person who decided to adopt her but due to extensive travels, a deputy was assigned to foster Champagne temporarily. This man had no love for cats one way or another, and physically abused Champagne by kicking her and often neglecting her basic needs of food and water. She somehow managed to survive on plant water from the pots. The owner of the cattery got wind of this situation, cancelled the adoption and sent a rescue team to extract Champagne. In the meantime, I had just landed in Bangkok, was in the middle of a battle between Thai Airways for losing my cat at the Delhi Airport, and was not at all prepared to foster an emergency rescue.
Champagne was extracted by the rescue team at a bus station in conditions worthy of a spy novel – the abusive caretaker would only agree hand her over after midnight and in the darkest area of the station so that the team would not see the extent of the damage. She was light as a feather, cowering in fear and confusion, and full of gaping wounds. The team rushed her to the closest 24-hour veterinary clinic for first aid, just so she could make the trip to Bangkok. The vets were understandably shocked at her condition, and patched her up as best as they could. Once in Bangkok, Champagne was kept three days under treatment, cleaned up, and pumped with nutrients. The cat who arrived at my doorstep was barely 14 months old, felt like a bag of bones, but was serenely dignified:
After a good bath and grooming from the vet you would not have been able to tell from her appearance that she had been through such horrors. But upon lifting her, all I felt was her ribcage. It took almost a whole year for her to learn to use a kitty litter properly, and she still can’t be left alone in the dark.
Since Champagne came to live with me in 2014, she has moved to Manila (2016) and then to Berlin (2017), all of which is documented in this blog. Though she is adorably friendly, has transformed into the best travel companion ever, and is extremely social, she still cowers in fear when shouted at and will express her displeasure of being left alone. This rescue cat had over 5000 followers on facebook before I closed the account, and is doing rather well on Instagram (@travelcatdiva) as well. I am still mad at Lufthansa for turning down her application for a frequent flyer card (even though she is a paying customer during each flight and has more miles under her belt than some people I know), but this rescue cat has become my soul animal and companion on so many levels. We have been through adventures together, and then some…
So yes, I spoil her and shower her with love and affection because she certainly deserves it. Champagne is definitely not a cuddle cat who will sit on my lap, but on the other hand, she has no problems with bubble baths and showers! She charms the socks off any vet, bus driver and train conductor, and doesn’t bat an eyelid when the plane takes off or lands. Who needs a lap cat when I have the ultimate travel diva?