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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A Brief Word on Poo

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If you’ve never had a bottle-baby and never intend to, please skip this post. If you are wondering why anyone would write about poo, please skip this post. Only someone who has been through hand-rearing a baby kitten would understand why I feel compelled to make a brief statement about poo.

Baby kittens can’t poop or pee on their own, the mama cat licks their genitals to stimulate defecation, and then cleans it up. When the baby doesn’t have a mama to do this, they need help. Not peeing or pooping can cause serious health issues, and I know one sad foster parent who had to have a kitten euthanized when he was unable to poop unassisted.

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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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Shay Almighty

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2014-12-10_1418216845Shay joined the Kitty Central family in December 2014 with her brother Tully.  Their mama was rescued from the streets by Nyree, who runs PurrHaven Cat Sanctuary from her home in Manila. The mama cat was pregnant and not in great health, and she gave birth prematurely to four kittens. One was stillborn, one died during the first night, and the remaining two were nursed by their mama but as she wasn’t well, they needed to be bottle fed. The vet recommended they be separated from the mama cat in case she passed anything onto them, so at the age of three weeks, they came to live with me.

 

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Shay squeaked all the way home in the car, bundled up with her brother in their pastel spotted blanky that I had given to Nyree a week earlier so that their mama’s smell would be on it. Tully was quiet and observant. This is how they were at three weeks, and this is how they stayed. As I had a houseguest for Christmas and the guest room (aka Foster’s room) was occupied, the babies took up residence in my ridiculously large walk-in wardrobe, adjacent to the master ensuite. They had a big cage with a box inside for a nest, and I had invested in a heating pad for them. And so the routine began again – three hourly feeds, except this time the behaviour of the babies was quite different from the Fosters.

 

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Each time I got the babies out for a feed, Shay was squeaking her objections – to what, I don’t know. Being hungry, being taken out of the nest, being away from her mother, not being an only child, being near a human, who can say? She refused the bottle and refused the syringe. She refused to be flipped onto her back to be de-pooped and de-peed.
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When a baby kitten is with it’s mama, the mama cat licks the kitten’s genitals to stimulate defecation, and then cleans it up. Babies who are raised away from their mamas need help with this, so the most common way is to gently lie the baby on it’s back, and massage the lower tummy and genital area with a warm damp cotton ball.

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Shay would have none of this! She refused to lie on her back, or lie still at all. She had too much to complain about! The first days were extremely frustrating until I realised that she had a process and lifewould be easier if I just bent to her will, instead of expecting her to bend to mine. When she was hungry, she needed to smell the milk bottle, then suckle and knead on her blanky for about ten minutes. When she was done, she would take the bottle or syringe with no problems. But any sooner than that and it was just a battle of wills. And de-pooping her required her to be right-way-up, not on her back, and just massage the genitals from that position, from the rear. It wasn’t as easy but it got the job done.

 

As soon as she was tottering around, she was biting her brother, nipping at the big cats heels and exploring widely. She was absolutely fearless, which made some of the big kitties (notably Kai) very unhappy. Kai was just plain afraid of her; she would wobble towards him and he would back away, eyes wild, then turn and run. If he wasn’t fast enough, she would swat his heels and bite his toes. She was about two inches tall! And she complained all the time. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, WOW! Non-stop wowing while she was awake. And no cuddles, don’t even think about trying to cuddle her – she was way too busy.

 

Shay started out like this and she continued in this trend until she was over six months old. Her technique for dealing with the big kitties was to walk up to them and bite them. If I tried to stroke her, she swatted 2015-01-19_1421706983and bit my fingers. She is the only cat to climb the screen doors, the first to climb onto the air con unit from the Hi-Cat, the first to wiggle the door open and escape, well before the kitties were allowed outside. But as she got older (and maybe after she was spayed), I noticed she was always in the same room that I was in (most of the cats are, but Shay is always close). She would sometimes come and sleep next to my hip on the sofa. Lyn reported that when I was out, Shay followed her around the house, supervising closely. And the sweetest of all, was that she was and is to this day, attached to her brother like a conjoined twin. They play together, sleep together, play fight, chase each other around the house and the garden. Different personalities, but as close as close can be. I am so happy these two never were, and never will be separated.

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