In college, my best friend, Katie and I used to talk about growing older. We envisioned staying best friends forever, like girls do. These talks usually came after a heartbreak- a break-up, a rejection, a jerk being a jerk, etc. So obviously we would be single but it would be ok because we’d have each other… and cats. We would be the neighborhood cat ladies. Not the one’s you see on Hoarders- the crazy ladies with 50 cats that urinate and defecate all over the place making it dangerous for both human and animal occupants. No, no, we would be the cute old ladies with 3 kitties that are completely spoiled. Imagine Betty White and Bea Arthur in a cute bungalow by the sea. That would be her and me.
Seven years after graduation, she is married. And me, well, I have a cat.
It’s a kitten, to be precise. His name is Indzia, which means “the way/the path”. And he makes me smile everyday. He also makes me want to pull out my hair and toss him out of the window at least once everyday.
I was minding my own business about a month ago, walking down one of the narrow paths in our neighborhood. It was Sunday and my team was gathering at our house that morning. I was in search of some snacks to feed everyone- maybe some freshly baked “muffins” or some greasy donut wannabes. I was hurrying by one of the neighbor’s houses when I abruptly halted. At my feet was a little furry ball, curled up and sleeping. It was all alone, covered in mud but healthy-looking. I picked it up and wrapped it in the piece of fabric (kind of like an Indian sari) which I wear wrapped around my body whenever I leave the house. A shopkeeper saw me and asked what I was going to do with the kitten. I told her I was going to give it a bath and feed it. That amused her quite a bit and she told me that I should feed it sweetened condensed milk. I told her that umm…maybe, I might think about that. (Not!)
I haven’t quite figured out islanders’ feelings toward cats. They hate dogs! I’ve only seen one dog on the island since we arrived and a foreigner owned it. The story is that a couple years ago some feral dogs attacked some cows or goats- I can’t remember which. After that there was a mass killing of dogs. I don’t know how accurate this story is but the fact is there are practically no dogs here.
Cats are different story. They are everywhere! But they are not your friendly Garfield. These cats are little better than wild. I am treated to a nightly symphony of angry tomcats brawling outside my window. And most of the adult cats walk around injured- not from people- from other cats attacking them! They live among people but they are never touched and they are not fed or cared for in any way. I suppose they’re kept around to eat the mice and rats. But they have a notorious reputation for stealing fish as well. They are regularly kicked around and they’re used to dodging objects thrown at them.
So if being an obvious foreigner (different skin color, language, religion, etc.) didn’t make me a big enough oddity, having a cat live in my house has given the neighbors one more thing to talk about. When our friends visit, they’re shocked and appalled when Indzia attacks their feet or jumps on their laps. Even after multiple visits, they are still scared and tuck their feet under their bodies when sitting on the couch to escape his claws and teeth.
I brought Indzia downstairs one day when I walking out with a visitor. There were about five ladies braiding hair. They were curious about the kitten perched on my shoulder. When I would approach though, they would back up. I told them how happy he makes me and to prove it, I gave him a kiss and one of the ladies about fell over. She was so grossed out!
The conversations have been endless. Where does it poop and pee? Obviously, litter boxes are a new concept. After bath time, when my arms are covered in gauges from his claws, the women cluck at me and touch the scratches. But I tell them it’s ok, he’s just a baby and he doesn’t like water. That led into another interesting conversation with one of my friends. She told me that on Judgment Day, if you’ve ever thrown water at a cat, that cat will testify against you to Allah. I asked her if Indzia would testify against me because I gave him a bath? I tell her that I was just trying to get rid of his fleas. It was for his own good, but he is a cat, so he can’t understand that. She said that he probably wouldn’t testify against me since I’m trying to take care of him. Phew, that’s a relief.
Speaking of fleas- they’re annoying. On an isolated island, where the people have no concept of pets, I have no hope of a veterinarian that knows how to treat a cat. Nor do I have the option to go down the street to a pet store for some Frontline or a flea collar. I’ve had to get creative. I gave Indzia a couple baths in coconut oil to kill the fleas. But since we don’t have a washing machine or hot water, his bedding (my suitcases) stays infested. Sigh.
WARNING: Stop reading if you’re eating or if you just don’t like reading gross things.
But fleas are definitely not the worst of my problems. Indzia has been throwing up for weeks. At first I thought it was because he wasn’t old enough to digest the sardines I was feeding him. So I stopped feeding him those and stuck to dropper feeding him milk. But the vomiting continued. He was sitting on my lap a few days ago when he started to gag. Quickly I threw him into his room. For the first time, I watched him puke and there was a white spaghetti looking thing, about 4 inches long, squiggling around. Yuck!!! This launched an immediate internet search. Conclusion: Indzia has a serious roundworm problem. I found out that his cute, fat belly isn’t from me feeding him so much; his belly is bloated from worms. Internet, help me out again. What can I do to get rid of these worms? Go to the vet; get a prescription. That doesn’t help me here, anything else? Nope. Go to the vet; get a prescription.
While writing this, I realized that I’m more like those ladies on Hoarders than I would probably want to admit. They have too many cats and, let’s be honest, emotional problems, to adequately care for their cats. I, on the other hand, am a lone pet-owner on an island of indifference with the desire to care for my cat but no resources. The result is the same.