WILSON of Somerset West has an incredible story to tell about a cat rescue which will inevitably evoke mixed feelings of amusement and disbelief from her audience. For obvious reasons, dates and names are omitted to protect those involved.

Towards the end of last year, Maricha, her husband Greg and two children, Monique (12) and Matthew (7) flew to Gauteng for a weekend to attend a function in the Bushveld near Naboomspruit.

During the weekend she and her daughter, rescued a scrawny kitten of about three-weeks-old, which they found abandoned in a crate along the route they were hiking on.

The kitten was hungry and crying. They did not know what to do with it, as it was very hot and the family were soon to return home, in two separate flights.

Her daughter wanted to keep the kitten and Maricha, who is allergic to cats, contrary to her own better judgement, decided to bring it back with them. There was no time to make travelling arrangements for the cat, nor did they think the tiny kitten would survive the long trip in the cold cargo hold of a plane, so Maricha emptied one of her travelling bags, lined it with a blanket and made a makeshift cat basket which she carried as hand luggage.

They had to check in an hour before the flight and went through all the formalities of checking in their luggage. She instructed her daughter not do or say anything to raise suspicion.

It was quite nerve wrecking, she says, as there were a lot of security staff and even policemen with dogs standing around at the airport.

To get through the security undetected, Maricha hid the kitten inside her coat and took off all her jewellery so that it would not set off any alarms that would necessitate a body search.

The flight was then delayed for an hour and the kitten was now awake and getting fidgety. A nervous Maricha phoned a relative, a pilot, about voluntary “giving herself up”. “You are halfway through it. If you spill the beans now, you wont be allowed to board the flight,” he warned. “You’ll have to take your chances.” Mother and daughter hid in the toilets with the kitten until they boarded, but there were more problems in store. As Maricha got seated, the now wide-awake kitten started peeking out of her collar. Then came the announcement that they could not take off and there would be a further delay of about an hour.

In desperation Maricha went to the front of the plane and spoke to the air hostess. “I have a problem she said, “I have a kitten inside my jacket which I rescued for my daughter.” “What do you want me to do?” the astounded hostess asked. “Help me,” was her simple answer.

“I can lose my job and the airline can get into big trouble, if the kitten is discovered,” the distressed hostess said. It was only when Maricha assured her that no one knew of the kitten, that the hostess relaxed a bit.

She closed off the curtains, gave the kitten some milk to drink, before saying: “I will have to report it to the Captain.”

She then disappeared into the Captain’s cabin with the kitten, while Maricha waited nervously.

When the hostess returned a while later she told Maricha to fetch her bag, she expected to be put off the plane, but instead the hostess took the bag (“cat basket”) and calmly said: “Don’t worry, the Captain will look after it.” Maricha was told to take her seat and only later learnt that the Captain had kept the kitten on his lap for the entire journey. When they landed two hours later, she was told the Captain wanted to see her. He was very kind, she said, and told her the kitten had been very good.

“By the way, he asked, how did you get through the security?” He advised her to put the kitten back into the bag and to leave the restricted area as soon as possible. “Let your daughter get your other luggage,” he said, “otherwise we will all get into big trouble.”

When she finally got to their car in the parking lot, a relieved Maricha put the kitten down on the ground, but her daughter cried out. “Mom, quickly grab the cat!” as a crow swept down from the sky.

“It would’ve killed me,” she said, “if after everything we went through, the kitten had become crow’s meat!”