This is a book review of “Saudades Mr No Ears”. I am not a book reviewer and I have struggled to write it. But here goes…
The book title is interesting and initially slightly perplexing. The word ‘saudades’ is Portuguese meaning “miss you” but it means more than that. It means a deep longing and melancholy due to the absence of, in this instance, a wonderful cat. It is a very apt word because that is exactly how I feel about Mr No Ears. I have read the book on Kindle. It is written by Carol Lee. The proceeds of sale of the book go towards the TNR costs and medical expenses of the street cats of the Algarve. It is a work of love and the book is about love with a capital L, brought into stark relief by the abduction of this celebrated semi-feral cat for financial gain.
The book is written in very warm English. It is a reflection of the love that millions of admirers had for Mr No Ears, a semi-feral cat living in a cat colony (Peneco Colony) in Albufeira, Portugal. He truly was loved and he loved his ham! Of course he was fêted and treated wonderfully well by admirers some of whom came from afar to his colony specifically to see him. He was that famous. Facebook made him famous and Lesley Normington, the founder of the street cat charity, Amigos dos Gatos do Algarve, remarks that Mr No Ears was two distinct cats. One was the celebrity cat on Facebook, a sophisticated “man about town” and the other was the street cat living in a feral cat colony. He was a very real cat with real feral cat health issues. His ears were a problem and he was born with one eye. He had a bad skin problem too. But he was loved and cared for by volunteers.
A remarkable aspect of his life is that he was regarded as a beautiful cat; not in the conventional sense but as representing all feral cats. An ambassador for street cats. A lot of people are very fond of feral cats. They want to help. There are millions of people like this and their focus was on Mr No Ears. He crystallised their emotions towards feral cats. In stark contrast to the affection of millions of people, Mr No Ears attracted the attention of a devious-minded couple intent on taking financial advantage of the emotions of these good people. They thought they could tap into their emotions to raise a lot of money by claiming that Mr No Ears was ill after abducting him. The motivation behind the abduction is not discussed by the author of the book. This aspect of his life is kept to a rather low profile. Personally, I would have liked a bit more on this part of his life but it is a negative part and perhaps it is best to limit it.
I have selected some topics from the book.
How Mr No Ears Was Named
Suzanne accompanied caretaker Lynn on her daily feeding rounds of the Peneco Colony. Suzanne is the person who named him Mr No Ears. It is such a good name that it stuck.
How Mr No Ears Lost His Ears
Like all feral cats in supported feral cat colonies, Mr No Ears went through a TNR program which meant that he was trapped and neutered. The veterinarian doing the operation, Sarah, decided to operate on his ears, which at that time were in place, and his left eye. Let’s not forget that in the early years he had ears although he only had one eye. Sarah diagnosed ears that showed signs of solar dermatitis which is common in white cats and his left eye socket showed no sign of an eyeball and was purulent. At one stage euthanasia was discussed. It appears that Lyn argued against it and that he should be given a chance. Sarah took a risk with the anaesthetic because he had to be anaesthetised for quite a long time and also she was in a field surgery but the operation was a success.
His Strange Appearance
It is interesting that at one time Mr No Ears’ strange appearance was a problem. I think it scared certain people. Others didn’t like it. His removal from the colony was proposed. His appearance attracted attention. Thoughtless people would laugh at him. This is interesting because he became a celebrity in part because of his appearance. At the end of the day people saw through the physical appearance and saw the character and what he represented; all feral cats who deserve respect.
Skin And Ear Problems
As mentioned, Mr No Ears suffered from skin issues and an ear infection. Lyn, his carer, fought a long battle to get rid of ear mites including from other cats in the colony. Mr No Ears would scratch and damage the area around his ear canal. The blood would dry and the dark crusty area would form together with the ear mite buildup.. All in all, his ears needed cleaning, inspecting and medicating by his veterinarian. Although Mr No Ears was difficult to catch. An antiseptic ointment had to be applied to the back of his neck which she disliked. At one time cortisone pills were slipped into his food to control his allergies and to prevent itching. As mentioned, at one time there were complaints and he was removed from his colony. Pressure was put on the authorities and they agreed to his return on condition that he passed a strict health and fitness test. He was confined to a veterinary clinic for upwards of about three weeks before being released to go back to his colony.
His Favourite Bench
Mr No Ears had a favourite bench. It was in front of a palm tree near a hotel. It had a view over the Peneco beach and the Algarve coastline. He spent many happy hours there. He shared the bench with other cats. Sometimes humans joined him.
In this article I have highlighted some of the major topics and issues which I noticed when reading the book. In general, his life was excellent being cared for, as he was, by volunteers. For example, he was a poster boy at the annual Marcha Animal parade which took place in Lisbon, which in 2014 was the eleventh anniversary of the march. His portrait – the well-known picture taken by Lucky Borlongan – was featured on a banner.
His legacy is that feral cat colonies can be happy and healthy. Feral cats can live good lives. Feral cats should be loved and respected. He represented feral cats. He was well treated and loved by millions.
The Mr No Ears friends’ Facebook page was launched in early 2014. Within months he had over 24,000 likes. He became an international cat celebrity. The purpose of the Facebook page was to educate people about feral cats particularly holidaymakers visiting the Algarve who were likely to encounter them. Social media played a big part in his celebrity.
The book starts with the abduction of Mr No Ears although it happened towards the end of his life. But for Mr No Ears’ celebrity he would not have been abducted. The book does not name the abductors. Perhaps this was a decision made with the advice of lawyers. Or perhaps a decision was made to ensure that the book ended on a warm and high note. However, in an earlier post I have named them and discussed it in some detail. Mr No Ears was abducted on 11 September 2015. He was in good health but immediately after the abduction, the abductors posted on Facebook asking for money claiming that he was in pain and had bone cancer. What happened next is not entirely clear but apparently he was driven 500 kilometres north. He was micro-chipped and ownership claimed by the abductors. It is said that in an attempt to prove that he had cancer – which he did not have – he suffered a cardiac arrest during a CAT scan. That was the end of his life and it is so terribly tragic. Tragically killed by the callous ineptitude of people trying to make some money out of him. Mr No Ears’ supporters and carers tried to bring him home to his colony in Albufeira. The abductors refused to communicate and he died in captivity. In court proceedings it was declared that his carers, Amigos dos Gatos do Algarve were his owners.
This is a warm, emotional read. It made me tearful. It is also a sad read mainly because of the ending which I found terribly tragic. It shocked the world. It was so unnecessary and painful. His tragic death highlights his beautiful life but it wasn’t always easy and he was dependent upon excellent care from volunteers. All white cats are very vulnerable in such a climate and susceptible to ear damage and cancer of the ear.
I would highly recommend this book. It is quite a short, compact read ideal when travelling for instance. It carries a strong yet tender message.