with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Surrounded by Cats

We had a great weekend in Eilat, and Brent played with tons of birds. But it was a weekend – week – about cats. We spent Friday night with friend in Beersheva, and their new adult cat addition to the family, whom I guess I had named the week before on a visit, Lady, slept with us all night. A partial siamese, manx, and whatever mutt mixture that turned her into the softest and silkiest cat I’ve felt in a long time. Brent had plans to get up early in the morning and photograph one of the nearby craters, but the moment Lady climbed onto his chest, his breathing changed and he became the bed snuggler. She snuggled against him and between us all night and he was in smiling heaven.

Of course he didn’t go out in the morning. I was up for several hours before he finally got out of bed – Lady wanted out to go to the bathroom and eat.

Darwin, our adopted kitty for the weekendIn Kibutz Lotan, we were immediately greeted by the head-butting, desperate for attention and loving, Darwin. He had been fixed by the locals and one ear was clipped, fairly severely, as a signal that he was a fixed cat. Adopted as a kitten by Brent’s bird guide, Darwin was without “daddy” for 7 months a year while the guide flew to Canada and Ecuador on bird guiding jobs for the past few years. So Darwin was fairly ignored and was totally and completely desperate for loving.

He raced across the parking lot and head butted Brent in the legs full tilt. Rubby rubby. Brent came him cuddles, but the cat went totally nuts for it, almost slobbering with the attention. He followed us back and forth to the car and then moved into the room with us. Darwin was so desperate for love, he would throw himself at you, slam into the nearest body part, be it leg, thigh, stomach, or face, and then slide down and roll over, presenting his tummy for scrubbing. He would stretch out, legs fully extended, arms up in the begging position, kneading the air, head back, great sighs and purrs rolling up and out from deep in his throat.

We couldn’t resist him. Brent especially. Laid down and the bed, got the “cat-in-the-face” routine and then massaged the tummy for ages until they both napped.

I checked with the guide to see if there would be any jealousy if Darwin stayed with us, and he said no no, like he couldn’t be bothered. No wonder the poor thing is deprived. He did warn us that he would keep us up all night, doing cat things like jumping on top of things and making lots of noise. I looked at the belly up lover kitty and told him that I didn’t believe it. He said, you wait. I told him we’d let him out if he bothered us in the night.

Darwin was glued to us all night long. Not a noise, not a fuss, nothing. So glad for human contact, he was a limpet. The only time he moved was when Brent and I got up to go to the bathroom in the night and then slammed us into a cuddle the moment we got back in bed. I woke up to find him on his back, wedged between our two pillows, Brent and my hands wrapped around him. He was in glory.

Darwin didn’t stray too far from us the whole three days. We fed him left overs and water, but he could find food elsewhere. Because I can’t stand the cooking at the kibbutz, I did bring some baked chicken to eat for breakfast and dinner and put it in the little fridge in the small kitchen in our room. The first morning, I went for a long walk through the desert and came back to take a shower. The door was open to let the cool morning air flow in until the heat came up. In the shower, I heard a crash, opened the sliding door and found the orange tom had opened up the fridge and pulled out the chicken. I dashed out and shooed him away. Then cleaned things up and put the piece of chicken he had been eating on top of the high toilet tank, since I didn’t want to go to the door naked and dripping to close it.

I quickly finished my shower and got dressed and took the piece of chicken outside. I walked far from the room and fed it to the other cats, ignoring the orange tom. I didn’t want to reward his bad behavior. When I got back to the room, he was sitting on top of the toilet tank looking for the chicken I’d put up there. They’re just too smart.

Brent could hardly stand to leave Darwin behind, but we pulled ourselves away.

Back at home, I’d been sorta minding a young new mama cat in our garden (not the park – under the building garden). She and her four kittens were there, and all came screaming to see me, though I noticed that they were scattered around the area rather than all together. She’d moved them from the box with a towel in it that I’d set up for her and into which she and the kittens (after I moved them) had lived for the first four or five days of their life. I moved the box over to the new location and put the four kittens inside and they went right to sleep. I saw the mother go into the box and decided they were okay for the night.

The next day, I found she had separated them again. Not far, but far enough. I was a little worried that she was trying to abandon them, but I wasn’t sure which ones were the abandoned ones. Long story short, that night, after I’d driven way up north to the Galilee to get meat from our fav butcher shop with Maureen, I came home to find that two of them were definitely being shoved aside. Both had lost lots of weight, were dehydrated, and I was sure one of them wouldn’t even last the night.

I brought them upstairs and Brent mixed an emergency food recipe off a vet site on the Internet for newborn kittens, and we went to work feeding them and trying to rehydrate them. I was up every two hours in the night, doing my best. Brent set up a small box and we warmed rice bags and hot water bottles to keep them warm. I called the vet first thing in the morning and just as I turned into the vet’s driveway in the car, the bad one convulsed and died. I raced in with the box but there was nothing to do.

I left the black and white (of course) one there all day for the vet to take care of and when they gave me the go ahead, I picked her up in the evening, Thursday night. All through the night, every two hours, I was up feeding, though Brent took the first two shifts. He stayed home from work on Friday (for other reasons – birds). I took the little kitten back to the vet in the morning for more fluids, and she finally passed the first test, according to the vet, of survival. Yes, it’s a girl.

Brent with the tiny new kitten addition to our lives, photo by Lorelle VanFossenShe is now almost two weeks old (as of tomorrow I think), eyes still closed but starting to slowly open. She has some minor and typical infection in her eyes, but I clean them all the time and she is now on antibiotics. We are feeding her every three hours, and she cries on cue about then, which gives us a little more sleep time. I go to bed early and Brent takes the first one or two feedings and I wake up in the night and do the 3am and 6am feedings and then I’m her feeder during the day. She loves being held to our chests, feeling the warmth and our heart beat. Puts her out instantaneously.

We don’t have a name, as we’re still not sure if she will survive but hopes are high. She is eating and sleeping, but she is pooping good, though still runny, and peeing fine, all good signs. Like all the animals in my family, she will earn her name soon enough. Right now, she is “kittancheek” which is Hebrew for “little one” or “little thing”, something people call their children or something cute and small. “Kittan” is small, and appropriate, but we’ll see.

She is sleeping in the box next to me, lying on the hot water bottle covered with a towel, and sighs a little squeak once in a while of contentment. So we’ll see if this little one makes it and we will have a new addition to our family.

Tel Aviv, Israel

One Comment

  • Anonymous
    Posted July 27, 2005 at 1:03 | Permalink

    wishing all the best, such a precious little thing. with great care obviously given.

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