This is the story of Pearl and Merlin, two 2-year-old tabby and white cats from the outback town of St George, Queensland – one of the many Australian towns facing record breaking drought.
When I visited them on a dry, sunny spring day in September I was greeted by their cat-mom, 15 year old Molly.
Before I was even in the door a spritely cat, noticing the new visitor, jumped down from the couch to say hi.
Molly introduced her as Pearl and as she circled my legs meowing I noticed Merlin behind the couch.
Merlin is the shy one, she told me. Merlin, with his white-tipped tail, hung back as Pearl got the best of my pats.
But it wasn’t long before Merlin, realising he was missing out, came over for some attention.
Merlin gets very jealous – if I call Pearl, he has to come over also, but he has to come to you, you cannot come to him, Molly told me.
With that advice I let Merlin set the boundaries on our interaction.
Merlin’s jealousy can cause conflict on the couch when Pearl is on Molly’s lap. Merlin, upon noticing that Pearl has prime patting pose, has been known to jump up and sit on her.
But apart from their play-fights, the extent of their conflict ends there, and the two can often be found having an evening snuggle.
Break the walls down
Although they have a stable home life now, life wasn’t always peachy. Merlin and Pearl were litter mates heading for a rough life on the streets of St George.
The two were discovered living in the walls of a furniture shop in town.
A rescue operation ensued, and with bricks removed the two were extracted and brought to the vet – just weeks old.
Not knowing how long they had been away from their mother, the tiny kittens were nursed back to health ready to find their new home.
We were meant to only get one, but the vet was like ‘how about you take both and decide which one you like most’.
Well, we know what happened next..
The two litter-mates became house-mates under the loving care of their new cat-mom, Molly.
But ‘Merl & Pearl’ will remain indoor cats.
Molly recalls her first cat who went missing after leaving the house.
These cats will always be my babies, but Luna was my first baby.
In a dangerous part of the country, with snakes, wild dogs, and extreme temperatures among some of the threats, these two cats will live their lives safely inside.
Molly has made improvements in daily life for the pair.
The problem of doors – the bane of most cats existence – has been resolved by installing a cat flap in her bedroom door. Now they can come and go as they please. Genius.
The love and care Molly has taken in raising Pearl and Merlin is evident in their natures – both sweet and gentle.
As I’m kneeling down, Pearl walks up and does a ‘stop and drop’, exposing her belly.
This is a trap, right? I ask. No, they never bite or scratch, Molly assured.
Pearl promptly received a belly rub – her fr, the softest imaginable.
When it rains it pours
Pearl and Merlin’s family, and the other residents of the area, are playing a waiting game.
St George – like most outback towns at the moment – is waiting for rain. A record-breaking drought in NSW and Queensland is affecting farmers all over.
We’re really lucky we still have water here. Our river looks wonderful now but it won’t for very long, Molly’s mum, Betty, told me.
Betty recalls 2014 as the driest year. Unwilling to succombe to adversity, the locals would play cricket in the dry river bed.
Though in the years prior, they faced three major floods in three years. Betty returned after evacuating to find the streets underwater.
My son took me through the front door in the boat. It was surreal.
A new levy has been constructed to prevent future floods.
They are saying it should hold it back, but it hasn’t been tested yet so we’ll see.
And so for St George, we hope for rain – but not all at once!
And for the two little white and tabby cats that were destined for the streets one thing is certain. There will be one person ready to care for them, Molly – the girl that’s giving them their best life.
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How cute are Pearl and Merlin?! They are seriously adorable cats.