Friday, October 20, 2017

Our New Family Member

Before we joined the Foreign Service, Deb had a cat named Yukon. Sadly, he passed right before we went overseas - he was old and not in good health (his tribute is here).

The kids have been wanting another pet ever since, as in really, really, really wanting a pet. Georgia had a lot of stray dogs/puppies, but we weren't interested in a dog. I told Deb I had a feeling a cat would adopts us at some point in our overseas lives.

Last November, we started seeing a possibly stray cat in our yard. She would typically have she had a older orange kitten with her and they would typically dash under the fence to the Ministry office next door (and we usually saw them on evenings and weekends). We figured Momma (and Orangie as we named it) were pets of the Ministry office so we didn't really feel it was in our place to try and catch her and take her to the SPCA to have fix her.

So if we had some leftover meat from dinner, we would throw it out to her and I would try and get the kitten to come over and play. This was about as close as I ever got.

Momma disappeared for a a couple months, then we one afternoon Deb heard some high pitched meowing coming from the bamboo in front. She peeked around but it got quiet when she went over. A day or so later, we heard it again in the backyard. This time we found two tiny kittens along the back fence. Knowing that kittens typically go wild relatively young and the kids were wanting a pet so badly she attempted to pick one up. These tiny kittens were already growling and hissing....eyes barely open! Momma of course quickly showed up and really started growling at us....Deb opted to retreat. Luckily momma liked our dog-free yard and we would see her again with the two kittens.  We started giving her and her kittens treats occasionally. We worked out a deal - you keep the rodent population down and we give you treats (even bought some cat food). Momma left some lizard heads and rat entrails to thank us on occasion. Our partnership was good.

This is Momma, her adventurous kitten we called Stripie eating from the bowl, and Scaredy Cat, who was too afraid to eat. One evening, Deb and I were outside and we noticed a hawk hanging out in one of our trees. We both were like 'wow, we've never seen a hawk in our yard before!'. The next morning, we only saw Momma and Scaredy Cat. :( We've never seen the Hawk or Stripie again.....

A while later, it seemed Momma had weaned Scaredy Cat as we didn't see the kitten around very often and we noticed this male cat hanging around a bit....we named him Balls.....yes, we are super creative with names for stray cats! Can you guess what his distinguishing characteristic was?!?! Balls annoys us, he likes to spray our stuff....the car tires, the grill cover, the door mat....not sure what we did to deserve that. Balls acts like he was someones pet and that he got abandoned. One morning while waiting with the kids for the bus, he walked up to Deb and started rubbing her leg (Momma has never done that).

Right before we went on R&R in March, Deb and I noticed momma was looking a little "plump" (momma kitty is small). We guessed Balls had knocked her up again. A couple days after we returned from R&R, Clarissa came running into the house so excited. She told Deb that the hawk hadn't taken the kitten! Momma had two babies! Sure enough, Momma had a two new kittens. They stayed hunkered down hiding under the fence for a few weeks (but I'd go peek at them maybe that helped seeing me all the time when they were so young). Here's a photo I got about two months later.

Scaredy 2.0 is closer to Momma and Other kitty is exploring a little further away. We kept giving them treats occasionally. Finally, Other Kitty got to the point where while it was eating you could rub it's head and it wouldn't freak out. It would still run away and hide when we came near it (so we had to be kitten paparazzi and take photos from inside the house). For this litter, Scaredy 2.0 was the bigger kitten. One day we noticed that Scaredy 2.0 disappeared. We aren't sure if Momma weaned Scaredy 2.0 or if it has hiding somewhere and a mongoose or some other predator grabbed it. I prefer to think it was weaned, but we typically see them again occasionally after weaning.

One Tuesday, when I got home from work, Deb told me the kitten had been coming to the back door and was looking in. This is the same kitten that one day decided to climb up the security bars on our windows few week back. When I came home, we put a bit of cat food in a bowl and opened the back door. The kitten came in, ate a little and left. We think Momma may have weaned the kitten and it was hungry.

The next night, the same thing. This time, when the kitten came in, I shut the door behind it. I was prepared to open the back door back up if the kitten went crazy. The kitten looked around and pretty much said "I'm cool with this. Can I have a green card?" Deb had already picked up some kitty litter just in case (after what happened on Tuesday we figured this would probably be the "one" so Deb went to the store and picked up a few items). We kept her in the laundry room to confine her in case she went crazy that night or if she had fleas.

The next morning after the kids went to school, Deb and I gave her a bath. She didn't like it but she didn't go crazy. Compared to Yukon she did great, she just sat there and squeaked (whereas he needed about six hands on him to keep him from escaping when he got his annual de-pollen bath).

We moved her litter box into the kids bathroom since the laundry room tends to get steamy on laundry day and we shut it off from the rest of the house (which could be a problem if some needs to use the litter box). Deb contacted a local vet to get her an appointment. Deb said during the day she was very good, would hide under the couch but come out and eat and "talk" - though she sounds more like a deflating balloon.

The good sign about her was she quickly warmed up to the kids. A mere 24 hours into living with us, she would come over, snuggle and purr.

Being a cat, she had to walk under your feet while you are walking around and quickly found boxes to hide in.

I'll admit I was a bit nervous taking her to the vet. Living most of her life outside, I was really concerned she could have some diseases or parasites.

She weighed in at exactly 1.0 kg....only 2.2 lbs. A tiny little thing for about four month old kitten.

She checked out fine. We knew she was born sometime in April, but for simplicity the Dr. gave her DOB as 1 May 2017. She is in great health. The Dr. did find one hook worm egg in her poop so she's on medication for that. The Dr. also said we were extremely lucky to get a wild cat that wasn't "wild". We knew the potential challenges, Deb's roommate from college is a vet specializing in cats and she had told us kittens had a small window of being "tamed" before it's too late.

The next challenge was a name, better than Other Kitty. Deb and I wanted a Fijian name, since she is a Fijian cat. We had a dry erase board with potential names written on it. Deb enlisted Malika for help with addition help too. After much debate, we introduce you to Isa Lei (or Isa for short). Malika told us the words Isa Lei actually translate to "deeply missing".

Isa Lei is typically sung as the Fijian farewell song. You hear it quite often here when you leave a resort. At the kid's school, every time another student is about to leave, they pick two friends. The friends place a shell necklace on the departee and everyone sings Isa Lei (the closer we get to leaving the more our eyes begin to tear up when we go to an assembly). Also at the Embassy, when an American is leaving the local staff gets together and sings it.  From a young age, Fijians are "taught" their vocal part - alto, tenor, bass. It really is a sad and moving song (I always get a bit choked up when I hear it).

Isa is 100% kitten and quite playful! You have to be careful if you are climbing for a snack or you may be attacked!

The kids absolutely love Isa and she is smitten with them. If you sit down next to her she will hop up in your lap (or your shoulder), curl up, and turn the purr motor on. We know having a pet in this lifestyle will be challenging (and a tad expensive) but we couldn't be happier to welcome Isa to our family.

We have taken her for a follow up vet appointment. In a month, she is now up to 1.3 kg (2.86 lbs). That is how we got adopted by a kitty and got a new family member!


  1. Great story and congratulations!

  2. Awwww! So sweet and cute!! Well done!