Spoilt rotten

2013-11-14 00:00

IF you are a regular visitor to the luxury Oysterbox hotel in Umhlanga, you would have surely seen the hotel’s favourite feline, Skabenga.

His name may mean vagabond, but he has long left his alleycat ways and is thoroughly enjoying the high life at the five-star hotel. This stray cat’s rise to fame is a notable story. In fact, he is South Africa’s own celebri-kitty.

The pussy turned prince started out as a lowly stray in the neighbourhood 10 years ago, but he soon became accustomed to the prawns and fish bits being dished out of the kitchen, where he would position himself. Possibly mimicking the “poor me” face of the animated feline film star in Puss in Boots, he was a kitchen favourite. These days, Skabenga has become so accustomed to his fare of à la carte cast-offs that his once graceful gait has become somewhat more of a wobble.

The good life has clearly gone to his head, and his stomach, and the staff are known to cater to his every whim — cars are shooed out of the way when he is lying in the driveway in his favourite shady spot.

He is not so free with his affections and he only allows certain favourites to pat and cuddle him. Hotel visitors are very fond of the cat and make a point of asking the staff how he is doing and some of the younger guests have sent letters to him after they have left the hotel.

Staff felt it was only fitting for their celebrity to have his own Facebook page where he could dictate his responses back to his growing legion of fans.

One of the staffers, general manager Wayne Coetzer, was inspired to pen a book based on the adventures of the cat. The children’s book is stocked in the hotel shop and the beautiful illustrations and Coetzer’s humorous tale make it a great gift.

When the hotel was closed temporarily for renovations four years ago, Skabenga was taken in by a cat lover who made sure he was kept in the style to which he was accustomed.

The hotel was reopened in 2009 and he was reintroduced to his old home. Joanne Hayes, the hotel’s public-relations officer, said: “Initially, he wouldn’t leave the back office. He was skittish and nervous, hissing at anybody who came near him. The staff tried everything to make him feel at home, giving him his own basket and even a bling collar, but nothing seemed to work.

“Then, one day he emerged in the reception area and acted as if he owned the place and has never looked back.”

Skabenga takes a daily stroll around the premises to make sure everything is up to scratch, and he knows when it is time to shine as he always appears when the red carpet is rolled out. He made sure he was noticed when the prince and princess of Monaco arrived. He has a variety of designer bling collars to wear and he rarely bothers with the pigeons on the roof anymore. Let the staff handle it.

• To win one of five copies of Skabenga — The Resident Cat, e-mail me and tell me what Skabenga eats from the kitchen. No Media24 employees may enter. Winners will be notified by

e-mail. All correspondence is final.

• trish.beaver@witness.co.za

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