This week a little starving cat showed up on our back porch. Chinua had taken an overnight bus to Bangkok to get more pages put in his passport. (Yes! He has run out of spots for visas. After only five years.) He got the maximum amount of added pages, turning his passport into what appears to be a small New Testament.
Anyways, here we were at home, on a rainy day. It poured that day. The sky opened up and showed us all the reason that the landscape is so green. It's because of all that water! Buckets of it! Coming out of the sky.
And a little wet cat, thin as a bag of bones, took refuge on my porch. Well, actually, in my kitchen. This is my kitchen on a sunny day.
It's outside. And rather small, but it's a delightful place to cook. Outside when I can look at the cloud formations, or the hills in the distance, or the grey, wet sky. On a list that exists in my head, of what would comprise a dream home, I have added: Outdoor kitchen.
So the little cat showed up, but I have strict rules about not feeding street animals, because that means you've adopted them, and adopting and abandoning pets is something travelers get a bad reputation for. Little beach puppies are left to fend for themselves all the time at the end of the Goa tourist season. I figured the cat would go find food somewhere else.
I did give her some water.
But she stayed all day, and I felt worse and worse. She curled around my ankles while I made lunch, and hovered near me while I washed dishes. The rain didn't let up.
I started making dinner, the cat still meowing at my feet. I was making pasta, busy sautéing garlic and adding tomatoes. I picked up a can of tomato paste and popped the top off. In the two seconds before the smell registered, I poured just a bit of the can into the sauce before pulling it back. It smelled like fish. Like very fishy fish. I stared at it.
It was a can of sardines. I picked it up at the store thinking it was a can of tomato sauce, and I would blame it on Thai writing that I don't understand, or unclear packaging, but written very nicely across the front of the can was, "SARDINES." In tomato sauce. Little dancing fishes cavorted across the robust tomatoes that decorated the rest of the can. Apparently I'm blind.
So I stood there, holding a can of sardines which I would never buy and never eat, with a hungry cat at my feet. And I felt, (and you may say that I'm overstating this) that God was telling me. "It's Okay."
It's okay, right now, to feed this hungry cat, on this rainy night in the dark. Go ahead. Don't worry about tomorrow.
It did feel just like a sign. And I had been torturing myself about it. It was so nice to have the choice taken from me by an open can of sardines in my hand.
I fed the cat. And she was so happy, and she purred as her belly was filled. The end.
Not the end. Because the next morning I went out to make my coffee and found this:
The kitten was a mama! She was so tiny, I just never would have imagined it. She felt safe, like she had found a home and nice people who fed her, so she brought us her babies, tiny and scrawny like herself.
When I realized she was a starving mother, I was very glad I had fed her. She was apparently down on her luck, out desperately looking for food. She left her kittens to keep from starving, having come to the last of her resources.
It was a huge surprise. Suddenly we had three cats. Of course, when Chinua got home, the kids ran to him and said, "We have cats!" which is sort of weird because it's very unlike me to buy animals I'm allergic to when we're leaving in a little more than a week.
I could see him trying not to give me a Ricky Ricardo look. Luuucy! You have some splaining to do!
I told him about the sardine can masquerading as a tomato can. He raised his eyebrows.
The kids and I busied ourselves with feeding the cats and playing with them
Nom nom nom.
With such nice tight full bellies, the kittens grew very frisky.
At first they were scared and trembly with us, but in time they lost their fear.
The kids like to wrap the kittens up in our clean dishcloths, and the kittens like it too. Me, I'm not so sure about it.
They haven't lost their fear of Solo, and rightly so. All people should tremble a bit, at the vigorous love of Solo.
This one's name is Mustache. I like to think of him as Mustachio.
And this one is named White.
In vain I tried for a name like "Snowball" or "Snowflake" ("What is snow?" my children wanted to know) or "Cotton" or I don't know. Something besides White. But the name had already stuck. It could be worse. They could have stuck a -y at the end of the name like they normally do. (The street dogs around the places we've lived in India and Nepal are named "Licky" and "Jumpy".)
The lady who owns our bungalow said that she would keep the cats after we left. She likes having cats around, and she had recently adopted another one from a monastery. Score!
We were all happy. The cats ate more fish. The end.
Nope. This is the post that goes on and on.
The next day the little cat left the house for a very long time. And when I opened the back door and found that she had come back, these guys were with her.
Whoa, whoa, whoa WHOA. Wait just a second.
I mean, of course I assumed to had given birth to more than two kittens, but I thought they didn't survive. I didn't think that she'd left them for two days!
In their hunger, they were almost feral, hissing and spitting when I tried to give them more food, or put it nearer to them, because they thought I was taking it away. They climbed right into the food bowl, trying to get the food.
All that day, their mother wouldn't even let her kittens get near her. Maybe she was exhausted? She hissed and swiped at them if they tried to nurse. I wanted to tell them that I would be their mother.
But the next day she had recovered enough for cuddles and num nums (as we would say in our family).
Notice that my kids aren't taking any chances. They're helicopter parents, and they've placed a little pile of cat food close to the mama cat's head, just in case she feels like taking a little nibble while her kittens are nursing.
"Let's build a trail of cat food so they know how to get to their bowl!" Oh dear. That's what I need, a trail of cat food across my kitchen floor.
And that's not even the end. Because we found one more little cat. He'd lost his way earlier (I think he'd actually been kicked out- he seems to be the smallest.) the bungalow owner had been feeding him, and yesterday all the little kittens were reunited.
In my kitchen.
So... If you give a homeless cat some fish,
she's going to want to bring you a couple of kittens.
And if you feed those kittens
she's going to bring you some more.
And if you feed those kittens,
she won't bring you any more cats but the one she kicked out because he was the runt will find you anyways, and then you'll have six cats and they'll be all underfoot and biting at your skirt while you try to make dinner.