October Snapshot

If you don’t follow us on Instagram or Facebook, this is a summary of our adventures in October. We didn’t know it then, but it would be the calm before the storm of November….

I didn’t travel anywhere in October, and we had no houseguests. So we settled into our routine, which involved me working longer hours during the week than the kitties would like, and then working on the sofa on the weekend when they would prefer I was out in the garden watching them run around.

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Out with the Old, In with the New

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Fostering Tully and Shay was quite different than my other experience with bottle babies; a bit like how parenting a second child is easier than the first. The biggest difference was of course that I had four kittens with my first foster litter, which was stressful and time consuming to manage alone. Two were easier, plus – maybe because they had spent an additional two weeks with their mama – they were spotless! None of the perpetual grubbiness of my first litter, Shay was always sparkling white and they both smelled like the sweet little fluffy darlings that they were. I can’t recall now, but I don’t think they were ever bathed as babies – they just took care of themselves perfectly.

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Shay was an independent, spirited little kitten from the time I collected her aged 3 weeks. She complained all the time -wow, wow, wow, WOW, wow. Non stop complaining when she was out of the nest, and very 2014-12-22_1419241962determined to do everything on her terms, not mine. Tully, on the other hand, was sweet and placid – possibly the easiest and relaxed little baby kitten I’ve ever seen. He never cried, he drank all his formula, obliged with a little burp when he was finished, then lay on his back to be de-pooped and de-peed and promptly fell asleep. Feeding Shay was much more difficult. Firstly, she would almost purse her little lips and refuse the bottle; she’d move her head to avoid insertion. If I switched to a syringe it was no better. She was so defiant! Eventually I learned that she had a process and I just needed to follow it for a smooth feeding session. When she knew there was a bottle nearby, she needed about ten minutes to suckle and knead her blanky before she would accept the bottle. So I settled into a routine of letting Shay smell the formula, putting her on my lap with her blanky while I fed Tully, then by the time he was finished, she was ready to go. Whew!
2014-12-22_1419241641Also with my first bottle litter, there wasn’t enough time between feeds to do anything but rest, but with only two, and my houseguest Trisha who was keen to participate in the feeding (but not the de-pooping), I was actually able to have a life outside of the feeding schedule. Handy, given it was Christmas! We managed to arrange the feeding schedule so that there was enough time to go out for Christmas lunch, unhurried, and be home in plenty of time for the next feed.

The little sweethearts started to explore their surroundings more as they grew, with Tully curious and quiet, and Shay nipping at the heels of the big cats, biting Tully on the bum, and generally being a little Madam.

 

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Trisha left on New Years Eve, and we turned in early at Kitty Central, with all the cats bunking in my bedroom for the night because of the raucous fireworks going off outside. Back home, there are organised fireworks on the harbour each year – 9pm for the kids, midnight for the grownups, and most functions gather in view of the display. In Manila, there are no restrictions on fireworks or firecrackers, so  the bang-bang-bang’s start in the morning, continue all day, then once darkness descends, fireworks are hurled off balconies and set off in streets and parks. The kitties were very brave, watching the bright lights from the windows and not at all frightened by the noises.

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2015-01-06_1420535415On the fifth of January the movers came and packed up the apartment for our relocation to Cebu. I was keeping some cat toys and scratchers, the window hammocks, one third of their cat condo plus litter trays and bowls and just a bed and a table and chair for me. Basically the bare minimum we could survive on for the short time until our house in Cebu was setup, then I could take most of the remainder with me in big suitcases, and the large items would follow later.

And then we waited. And waited. Our shipment was delayed in Manila port, partly due to congestion that been ongoing for some time due to a “customs department re-2015-01-07_1420595617organisation”, and partly because the Pope was visiting Manila. The Philippines is the third most Catholic country in the world (by population) since Catholicism was introduced during the era of Spanish colonisation, so the Pope’s visit was a big deal. As he also decided to visit the typhoon ravaged city of Tacloban on the island of Leyte, the port decided to close completely for security reasons. So our brief interlude in a bare apartment stretched on and on and on. Eventually the shipment departed Manila and we were just waiting on a time frame for delivery. I originally planned to set the whole house up in Cebu before travelling with the cats but I was tetchy and they could sense it so were behaving 2015-01-07_1420593160differently. I could tell Pip was stressed without his wheel and there was some hissing and fighting going on, and it was about this time that Maxi started to be very reluctant to go in the cats’ room at night, so she was allowed to roam free.

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2015-01-20_1421788949I couldn’t stand it any longer so decided to relocate the cats to the new house, where they could get used to their new environment and recover from the journey before our stuff arrived. I experimented with some natural calming medications for the cats to relieve the stress of the journey. I didn’t want them knocked out as I had had a bad experience with that years before, but I did want them to chill a little. I chose this one for it’s not-so-subtle effect on Kai especially! The flight was only 90 minutes, but airport regulations for travelling with pets are strict. I had to present all their vaccination papers to the Bureau of Quarantine to get authorisation for them to travel. They had to travel in IATA approved crates with access to provide them with food and water – I bought these ones from Amazon.
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On moving day, we packed up everything, I gave the kitties some medication and got them in their cages – seven cages for eight cats as Tully and Shay were sharing. Two vans arrived to take the seven cages, fourteen pieces of luggage plus myself, my wonderful helper Lyn, and my friend Alex to the airport. At the airport, eleven porters came to assist us. The cats were terrified of the noise, the sights (I forgot to provide a cover for the cages), and the porters and spectators meowing at us as we passed. I snapped at the porters to stop scaring them, but the onlookers were still fascinated. After check-in, the cats were taken to a separate area and the three of us waited to board. We had to be at the airport more than three hours prior to departure, and the flight was delayed so the cats had been in their cages for more almost five hours before we even took off.

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I was worried about them during the flight, knowing how frightened they must be, feeling every bump and startled by every noise. Fortunately Cebu Pacific serves alcohol (unlike Philippine Airlines domestic – why is that?) so Alex plied me with several drinks. We had been advised that the cats would come out at the same area as our luggage (which is also what happens in Australia) but on arrival into Cebu, we were told we had to pick them up from the cargo area. After collecting our bags we travelled the ten minute journey to cargo, only to be told the cargo was more than an hour away from arriving. This was the last straw for me – we had left home at 11am and it was now almost 7pm and no sign of the cats. I exploded in a stereo-typical expat torrent of tears and frustration, much to the bewilderment of the staff. It’s just cargo, right? Oh pets. Well, just cats, right? Finally the cargo arrived, in the dark, all kitties present and accounted for but very very frightened and stressed.

Alex, Lyn, the luggage, Maxi, Pip and the babies travelled in one van to the house, while Kai, Lulu, Chico 2015-01-07_1420619025and Asha travelled with me. The van didn’t have foldable seats, so the cages were propped on the seats, and I took Asha out of her cage and cuddled her all the way home, sobbing pathetically into her white fur, glad I was alone in the van. The final horror of this journey still haunts me. As we travelled home – it took more than an hour – poor Lulu’s cage kept falling off the seat, and I couldn’t get myself in a position to secure it. I can’t imagine how terrified she must have been – her ordeal was ongoing.

At last we arrived home – first priority was to get all the cages into the cats room, which was already prepared for them. Lyn was in charge of getting food and water, I sat in the room with them, while Alex took charge of getting the luggage unloaded and paying the drivers.

It was over. Needless to say, I will be spending the rest of my cats’ lives in Cebu, because I will never go through that again.

December 2014

 

January 2015

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Sunday in the Life of Asha

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My mummy is having a break from writing historical posts, so instead I am in charge of writing about what I did today.

On Sundays mummy serves us breakfast outside at 6:30am. It’s a bit tough getting to the food, we all climb over each other as soon as our bedroom door is opened and then run as fast as we can to our breakfast bowls, usually trying to trip mummy up as we go. Once we reach our bowls, we are very polite and take one bowl each, but Tully and Chico eat theirs very quickly and then move on to others’ bowls. Shay and I don’t usually eat breakfast until the rush is over, and Shay prefers biscuits anyway.

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Preparations

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The back end of 2014 was spent planning and preparing for a number of changes in our household. I had decided to locate my new company in Cebu, the second largest city in the Philippines and one of the top ten most beautiful tropical islands in the world. I spent a bit of time travelling back and forth from Manila to Cebu to find us a house and to secure office space. I could have moved us as early as November, but a good friend was coming to stay in December for almost the whole month. We had met in Manila more than five years earlier; she arrived about the same time as me on a posting with the Australian Embassy and returned to Australia the same time that I moved to India. We had lived in the same apartment complex and she was coming back to visit former colleagues and friends. I had extended the invitation for her to stay with me over six months earlier, so I would not relocate until after her visit.

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I planned for the apartment to be packed up on 5th January, leaving minimal belongings for us to live for the 7-10 days it would take for our stuff to arrive in Cebu. I’d fly to Cebu, get everything packed and set up, then return to Manila for the kitties. That was the plan anyway…..

Once I had a house picked out, I was so excited for the kitties! I did love the benefits of having indoor cats –  they were always clean, always safe, and I didn’t have to worry about the wildlife, or them getting lost or injured. But I really wanted them to experience the kitty joy of lying on the grass in the shade of a tree on a sunny day, and chasing butterflies, and the sights and smells of the outdoors. How exciting for us to live in a house with a garden! I knew I’d miss my big-city views from the 30th floor of my condo, but suburban living beckoned.

There was just one thing that still bothered me, after all these months; those foster kittens Munro and Leyte, that I had never been able to recover. They haunted me, and one day I realised there was only one thing that would help. Now, I have a lot of Instagram followers, and while I don’t always thank people for their comments, I do read every single one, and I answer all questions. I also check out the (non-private) accounts of all new followers. And so it was that one day, I looked at the account of a new follower, Purr Haven Cats, and realised it was also based in Manila. And – whoa! They had a houseful of tuxies!! My only contact with a tuxie kitty was Munro, and I had loved him to bits.

I contacted Nyree from Purrhaven, and told her that if she had a tuxie kitty, I would adopt it. Just the one, and I’d prefer a little one. She didn’t have any just then, but she had just rescued a pregnant cat who was black and white, and she promised me one of the kitties when it was old enough. We kept in touch over the coming weeks, and then the mama cat gave birth prematurely – she was young and unhealthy. The first poor baby was still-born, the next three were live births – two “cow” kittens and a tiny baby panther, and sadly one of the cow-kitties died in the first night. Over the coming weeks Nyree shared information and pictures with me of these sweet little babies, until one day the vet said they would be better off separated from their mama who was unwell and not producing enough milk. Of course I wasn’t going to say no to another house panther! And in my nice big house in Cebu, an extra two kitties would be just fine. I collected the two babies, when they were there weeks old and brought them home – my houseguest was travelling for the weekend but had a nice surprise when she returned! I named them Tully and Shay, Irish names for a very good friend of mine. The mama cat, still with Nyree, has also been given an Irish name – she is now Bailey and a really beauty.

My household of six kitties, two babies and a houseguest celebrated Christmas together, and ushered in the New Year with much anticipation of our upcoming move.

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In Between Days

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We had a few months of stability after Kai joined us and before the next batch of fur-faces arrived. The apartment was filled with happy galloping and playing and the kitties fell into two pairs – Pip and Maxi, Asha and Kai. They were thriving and getting along well and I made a happy discovery. After years of being a non-photographer (I didn’t even take my camera on vacation) I found that with a favourite subject, I loved snapping pics! My photo’s weren’t great, I used my iPad for all of them, so I jazzed them up a bit with filters and frames and other tools to disguise the out-of-focus shots, the poor lighting etc., but it was a thoroughly pleasant hobby to fill my days. I took so many photos and wanted to share my wonderful kitties, I was pleased that I had discovered Instagram so that I had a place to keep all these memories for posterity.

During this time I also left the kitties alone for the first time, while I travelled to Bali for a week to celebrate a “significant” birthday, leaving the kitties in the capable and loving care of my helper, Lyn.

Lyn is the secret to my sanity with the kitties. I am fortunate to live in a country where I can provide image employment to domestic staff. It’s not exploitation – as a Westerner, it is expected that I will employ staff to provide a living for locals. I have a helper and a driver and they are fantastic companions to me as well as getting stuff done that foreigners in this country can find unfathomable. Lyn was originally hired to clean my home (including litter boxes) and care for the kitties while I travelled, but she quickly fell in love with them and often feeds them too. When I moved to Cebu, she moved with me at her own suggestion as a live-in, and I have subsequently relocated her family her to join her. Since working for me, Lyn has rescued and cared for about 8 kitties of her own!

After returning from travel, my container finally arrived from India with all my much-missed belongings, so there was excitement amongst the crew as they got to sniff all the new stuff, discover new places to sleep and for Asha to discover the hole underneath the sofa…..  At first I thought there were rats in my sofa! It had been in storage in India for 6 months after all, but that naughty monkey Asha was running around in there and then invited all her buddies in. When I eventually had someone over to repair the hole, we found SD cards, iPad cables, an earring, toys, a scarf of mine and various other things that I had lost – all which Asha considered her personal treasures.

Below are some pics and vids from these early years of the four big kitties, before “The Fosters” arrived.
 
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Enter Pip and Maxi….

Snuggles.

In January 2014, when I arrived in the Philippines from India, I decided I needed a kitty. No wait – I did actually decide that I should have two. My former ginger in Sydney was a very friendly kitty and was lonely when I worked long hours or travelled. He made friends with all the neighbours and had more friends than I did! So I did make a conscious decision to get two cats so they would be companions for each other.

The first photo of Pip in his new home.
The first pic of Pip in his new home.

I visited CARA – the local Animal Welfare group and met Pip on a Monday morning. He was tiny! This little boy had been found at the tender age of four weeks on the median strip of a major arterial road in Manila called EDSA (Epifanio de los Santos Avenue). Someone rescued him and took him to CARA, where he was promptly named Edsell, and there he stayed in a cage for the next 3 months. So he was 4 months old when I first met him, so tiny, with huge eyes and ears and the loudest purr ever. It broke my heart to put him back in his cage, but I didn’t even have my own apartment yet, and no furniture. I returned a few days later on the Thursday morning to collect him.

Funny Pip kicking back with his feet up.
Funny Pip kicking back with his feet up.

I had wanted to name him Max. I liked the name and thought it would be cute for a cat. But when I got Edsell home, I reconsidered. He was so tiny! And had the silliest little squeak of a meow, Max just didn’t fit. I named him Pip because he was such a pipsqueak.

Pip in the first cat tree.

Once home he was a delight – not frightened, just friendly and playful and happy, like every ginger I’ve met before and since. When I put him in his room at night or when I went out, he went to his little bed and stayed there till I returned. He was, and still is, a good boy, a rule follower, the kitty that’s never in trouble.

Darling Maxi, before she came to me.
Maxi, before she came to me.

Meanwhile there was a little kitten out there in Manila, raised by a breeder but in danger of abandonment as she had ringworm. I saw her and fell in love immediately – the most beautiful kitten I had ever seen. She was handed over to me in the car park of a petrol station, terrified at 8 weeks old, just two days after Pip arrived. When I got her home, she was twice the size of Pip despite being half his age! So she was promptly named Maxi. I got my “Max” after all! Maxi is half Persian, half Lynx-Point Siamese. I didn’t know much about Lynx-points then. They are not considered a “true” siamese as they are half tabby. But they have the “points” and the blue eyes.

Dear Pip in his first few days at home.
Dear Pip in his first few days at home.

Now back then I knew nothing about introducing cats to each other. Pip had been so easy, I assumed the same would apply to Maxi, who was absolutely terrified of everything. She was scared of me, scared of the apartment, terrified of the über-friendly Pip. If I had my time again I would handle Miss Maxi very differently, but back then I just thought she would settle with time. And she did to a degree. After a week, Pip and Maxi were snuggling together and playing.

It would be another 3 months before my container arrived from India so I had no

Pip was twice the age of Maxi but half her size.
Pip was twice the age of Maxi but half her size.

furniture. I borrowed a table and chairs, bought a new bed and a cheap armchair and a second hand sofa. My apartment was huge and on the 30th floor in Makati – the central business district of Manila – so I had lots of space and light, huge windows and a fabulous view. It wasn’t long before I started acquiring cat furniture and realized that I loved to take photos of my cats with the view as a backdrop. Instagram followed although these early pics are really poor quality. And with it, was the birth of Kitty Central Salcedo.

Pip
Pip
Maxi is quite embarrassed by Pip's lack of inhibitions.
Maxi is quite embarrassed by Pip’s lack of inhibitions.
Enjoying the condo.
Enjoying the condo.
The day after Maxi arrived - playing games.
The day after Maxi arrived – playing games.
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Welcome!

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Welcome to the Kitty Central blog! If you’ve been following us on Instagram or Facebook for a while, you probably know all about us so you can skip this post. For newbies, here is the background on Pip, Maxi, Asha, Kai, Chico, Lulu, Tully, Shay, and how we all came to be known as Kitty Central.

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I am Michelle, and I’m Australian. I came to the Philippines on a 3 month business trip in 2009, which was well-timed because my 18 year old kitty Milo had just died. I ended up staying 3 years! Then I was despatched to India for a year, and rather than be repatriated, I left my corporate job and headed back to the Philippines. I loved life here, had made fantastic friends so decided to call it home. And what’s the first thing you do when you put down roots? You get a kitty of course!
Over the next 12 months I brought 10 kitties into my home, and only 2 of the 5 fosters went to new homes. In January 2015 I relocated from Manila to Cebu to start my own company, and flew with 8 cats in 7 342-604cages. I now have 7 former-street cats aged from 8 months – 22 months and they fill my days with joy with their funny antics. They have huge personalities, generally get along well, and showcase the awesome toys and furniture I’ve been fortunate to provide them with.

I hope you enjoy this peek into the life of a foster fail Aussie and 7 crazy kitties and also see what a beautiful place I have the privilege to reside in – the Philippines.

Michelle

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