Zipper The Island Cat

by Jake Quinn

Grief is a funny thing.

A week ago my GF and I adopted a cat from another Suva expat who was departing Fiji for considerably less fare shores. The cat’s name was Zipper. She was about two and a half and absolutely charming.

She settled in instantly, was affectionate – but not too affectionate – didn’t meow too much. She was cute, friendly, and seemed to love us instantly. I kept her locked in the house for the first 4 days to get her settled in.

I was told she ate dry biscuits and “didn’t mind raw veal, from the cost-you-less”. Fancy that.

She was desperate to get outside from the moment she moved in. She was after all an island cat, not built for inside living.

Because we were only two houses down from where she last lived, on a quiet dead-end street in our leafy suburb in Fiji’s capital, I was confident she wouldn’t stray too far, and if she did, I would know where she went.

The first few days of her heading outside went well, she came back without worry. I was confident she knew where her bread was now buttered.

Jump to Thursday night and she didn’t come home. I was worried. I went looking for her to no avail.

Friday came and went and Zipper was nowhere to be seen. I was worried sick. In just one week I’d become ridiculously attached to this little feline.

Saturday morning I cancelled weekend plans for a getaway and contacted the former owners land lord to get access to her property.

In the pouring rain I found Zipper tucked under the veranda shivering and hurt. I picked her up and her back leg was badly damaged, bone exposed and she’d been bleeding. I rushed her to a local veterinary clinic.

The good news was the Zipper could hold herself on three legs, meaning her pelvis and other rear leg hadn’t been smashed by the speeding driver who inevitably clipped her on my street. The bad news was that she would lose the leg.

There was no question that I wanted to do whatever could be done to help Zipper survive.

Later that day I got a call from the vet who said everything had gone well, that Zipper had woken up, had eaten, had stood on three legs and was looking perky, all things considered.

I was so relieved. It was the first time in three days since she hadn’t come home that I hadn’t been worried sick.

Skip to this morning and the vet’s office calls to break the news that Zipper had died in the night. There must have been something else wrong with her that they couldn’t see from the surgery, organ damage perhaps from the impact of the car.

I was numb. I called my girlfriend (who was out of Fiji with work) and I called Zipper’s two previous “owners” to break the news.

A few hours later I went to the vet and bid my farewells to her. Many tears were shed. I went home and cleaned up and put away Zippers blankets, her bowls, and her kitty litter tray. Many more tears were shed.

I’ve had many cats in my life, well my family has, and I’ve never had this kind of emotional response to the loss of an animal. Perhaps it was because mostly our other cats passed in old age.

Zipper after all, at just two and a half, was staring down the barrel of being shipped to NZ at the end of the year and enjoying another few decades getting used to the NZ climate.

Perhaps it’s because I feel so bloody responsible because I could have kept Zipper locked in for a few more days, like many people think you should when you relocate an animal.

Zipper got hit on a road she frequently hung around. I know it wasn’t my fault, but Christ, did I – and do I – feel awful. I have not cried like I did today, well not since I didn’t get my way as a 11 year old.

It really helped me though, I grieved for wee Zipper and now I feel like I’ve let her go. A really good cry can be bloody cathartic.

Zipper will be missed.