The Friday morning before my birthday we had an earthquake. Nothing major – just enough to wake us up. Being from California, I (unlike Chris) recognized the phenomenon for what it was and shouted, “Get into the doorway!” Chris reluctantly got out of bed and into the doorway with me for a total of 16 seconds before returning to the bed. Thankfully there were no further earthquakes that night, and I’d reckon it would have rated not more than 4 on the Richter Scale.
Next morning, performing my daily ritual of opening all the curtains and windows, I heard a voice from below, “Ayo! [Visaya for “Anybody home? or “Hey you in there!” depending on the circumstance. In this case it was the latter.] Wanna come see a kitten?” Did I want to come see a kitten? What kind of warm-blooded human being would say no to that? I ran downstairs, not even bothering to explain to Chris why I was going out, but left the door open so he, too, could witness my neighbors manipulating a childless woman of child-bearing age into adopting a poor, helpless stray kitten, no bigger than your own hand, all white with a funny little grey and black tail and a splotch of color on his head. Love at first sight? Maybe. But these people were good, I’m telling you. They put him in my hands, then Yen, Dan’s wife, scuttled inside and returned with the tiniest little bowl full of milk and handed it to me…he lapped it right up and I melted.
“Well,” said Dan in that way that only an American can say “well” at the beginning of a sentence, “our work is done here. One less stray to worry about.” And in I sheepishly went, teensy-weensy kitten in one hand, teensy-weensy bowl in the other, my eyes all screwed up the way Puss-in-Boots’ are in Shrek:
“Chris, come see!”
“Ann, what are you doing? We can’t have a cat.”
“I know, but come see – he’s so cute!”
“I know he’s cute. I can see that. But we can’t have a pet! How will we afford him? What will we do with him when we leave? Are you thinking about any of this?”
No. I wasn’t thinking anything but this: “I love him I want him I love him I want him.” So I employed some…possibly unethical tactics.
“So what do you want me to do – just put him out on the street?” See, the neighbors who had called me down couldn’t possibly take him – they had a German Shepherd who would eat him in a single bite. And the neighbor next to them, Ate Sol, couldn’t take him because she’d already taken in – count ’em – 1-2-3-4-FIVE stray cats. (Bless her a thousand times – wonderful woman) And we didn’t really know anybody else in the neighborhood – certainly not well enough to ask them to take in a kitten. And here’s the kicker – Chris is a cat person, like, through and through. While I go on about “I wanna rottweiler. I wanna horse. I wanna monkey,” etc, all he’s ever said is “I wanna cat.” So I was really pushing it. He finished drinking his milk and I let him down so he could explore a bit. “I think his name is Falcor,” I announced. “On account of that little nose of his.”
His name is, actually, Earthquake Falcor, but we just call him Earthquake, or Quakie, or “the tiger”. We’ve had him now for 3 1/2 weeks, and the vet estimated his birthday at 2/21, so he’s about 7 weeks old at this point. He has been, in turns, adorable, hilarious, and annoying as sh&%. And we love him hopelessly.
When we got him, his little tiny belly was all big and round and swollen, and we thought that was probably due to worms and malnutrition. We took him within a couple of days to be dewormed, and the swelling went down a bit, but after a couple of days it went back up. Just under two weeks later, we took him again, thinking that he must have a really complicated variety of parasites, but the vet wasn’t optimistic. He thinks he has a liver condition, and that it’s not very likely that he’ll live for very long. This would, of course, have been difficult news under any circumstances, but there’s a cultural tendency here to really – I mean really – hate giving bad news. As a result you will find that some store clerks will never say “no” to you, no matter what:
“Do you have any more X in stock?”
“Ma’am, let me see.” [proceeds to the place you were just looking and, with much concentration and focus, searches in vain for what you know is not there] “Ma’am, for a while.” [proceeds to colleague to have 5-10 minute chat about the potential existence of X in the store] “Ma’am, have you tried XYZ store?”
Note – they haven’t had to say “no” at any point.
But I digress. The point is that our vet had no choice but to be the bearer of this terrible news. However, the other cultural thing is that Pinoys will often laugh, or at least smile a lot, when they are uncomfortable. It’s not to say something’s funny – it’s just a way of coping with the discomfort. So our lovely vet – who I really do like a lot – informed me, with a big smile and a bit of a giggle, that it was unlikely that Earthquake would live. He even sort of brushed aside my queries about the upcoming vaccines…I suppose he doesn’t think he’s even going to make it that long (May 1st). There is, however, a big fat BUT lurking here…
Earthquake seems fine!!! He runs and jumps and plays, eats our feet, fights with imaginary foes (You should see him pounce on thin air. Makes me think we must have elfin ghosts in the house only he can see), and finds enemies to conquer in any dangling piece of whatever he can find. He eats well – 3-4 times a day – and does his business regularly in the litter box like a perfect little angel kitten. His belly’s not getting any smaller. We’ve had him dewormed twice now, and will have it done a third time next week, I think. I’ve signed up for a couple of those cat-lover websites to get some advice, and people seem optimistic, but they’re suggesting things like x-rays, which are out of our budget. And there isn’t really a better alternative for the little guy.
I’ve decided to keep hoping for the best. Whenever he’ll let me I put my hands on his belly and will it to get better. We watch him like a hawk for any variation in his behavior, any indication things aren’t as they should be. And I guess that if he’s not meant to make it, at least he was in a safe, clean, loving place for the last part of his life. Who knows? It may turn out that this was all just a big mix-up and he’s fine. But if not, I’m still glad he found us.