you don’t get to decide how things like this happen

A few months ago, my beloved Sushi-cat died. It was so sad, and so terrible, and even now I feel like he’s a little phantom limb. It’s still strange to me to only have one cat, although she’s quite the companion, my little Small Troubled Cat.

A typical pose, equal parts comfort and hidey-space.
A typical pose, equal parts comfort and hidey-space.

We had talked in terms of “when,” not in terms of “if,” about getting a kitten. There wasn’t ever a question, really – my fiance had gone from “no cats” to “ok, one cat,” to “When is Fiona getting a friend?” Not a cat lover, that man, but he is now. I’d like to say it’s because he loves me but, in truth, it’s because I think he fell a little in love with my cats.

There are so many cats and kittens in Abu Dhabi. They roam the streets, these skinny, feral things. The adults are too wild to be anyone’s pet, but the kittens are usually rescued and sent out into a mass network of cat foster homes throughout the city. There are also cruel people who abandon pets – they repatriate and don’t want to pay the fees to ship the animal home with them (which are expensive), and so they just leave them – sometimes in a flat they’ve moved out of, sometimes in a parking lot nearby. There are families who buy purebred animals, only to realize they’re not ready for the responsibilities of having a pet, and they leave animals at vets, or put them outside. This is no different from any other urban area I’ve lived in.

There are multiple organizations dedicated to catch-spay/neuter-release, as well as fostering/adopting those animals who are candidates for pets. I have a friend here who is very active with these networks of support, and who will routinely rope in anyone and everyone who shows interest. When Sushi died, she jokingly told me that she was “biding her time” until I expressed interest in a kitten. And then eventually began emailing some of her contacts to be on the lookout for black kittens.

In early January, she casually forwarded me an email – a contact of hers had rescued several kittens, two of them black. None were from the same litter, rather she was a woman who fostered many animals for several different organizations and had just happened to collect several around the same age. One kitten had been found after being thrown out of a moving car, two others were found in various parking lots. Did I want to come and meet them?

My friend, at this point, had been occasionally sending me pictures of rescued black cats and kittens who were at various foster homes, but for some reason, this one stood out. I looked at their little kitten faces – two black and one tortoise shell – and thought, OK, maybe I’ll just go meet them.

I drove out to the woman’s house one night after work. She met me at the front gate, and led me to the front door. Upon opening it, a tiny herd of paws and tails came running. I kneeled down, and two of them – the two black ones – jumped into my lap, curled up into little circles, and began purring as their little eyes slowly closed.


A lapful of kittens.

I spent about an hour and a half cuddling and playing with the kittens. I’m pretty sure the kind woman was ready to see me go – it was late, and I was sprawled out on her hallway floor letting kittens nibble on my fingers and toes. They were so cute, and I was so not ready to commit to adopting any of them.

I left that night thinking, “Ok, I’m heading back to the States next week for like, ten days. I don’t want to get a kitten before then. And then when I get back, I have that work trip, and then….” And then, and then, and then. I made a list of excuses as to why we weren’t ready to bring any new friends home.

I went to the States, I came back, I went on my work trip. I thought about the kittens. The Gentleman asked me several times about the kittens. I gave noncommittal answers regarding the kittens. We work long hours. Fiona is too old to introduce a kitten into the mix (she’s 10). We’re probably going away for a weekend sometime soon. Kittens make messes and chew on things.

Long story short: I wasn’t ready to commit. The sadness that came with losing Sushi still felt too fresh. Our lives were only just beginning to quiet down a bit after a very hectic first year abroad and after a fall that was packed with marathon-training, wedding planning, travel, a new job (for me), and a second move to a new flat. I decided I wanted some quiet time before we committed to a kitten.

Often, you don’t get to decide how things like this happen. Often, it happens FOR you. As I write this entry, less than a week after we had a big discussion about how “now is not the right time for a kitten,” I have a little black kitten curled up on my lap and a tortoiseshell kitten shyly perched on a pillow next to me. She is out of her crate, which is a big step from where we were this afternoon, and just a few minutes ago she licked my hand when I petted her. Progress. I am used to small, troubled tortoiseshell cats. I’ve had one for ten years.

How all of this happened was this: the woman who had been fostering the kittens had several others come in, and she also had guests visiting. She needed a temporary foster to look after two of the kittens I had visited with previously (the third found a Forever Home at an adoption day). I mulled over it. I came home and talked to The Gentleman about it. It was a temporary situation, we could feel out the prospect of having a kitten without actually having to commit.

I emailed her back in the positive, and met her after work today in the parking lot of a vet downtown where we did the hand-off. I took the crate with the two very-alert kittens back to the flat and set up our guest bedroom as a temporary kitten-home.

IMG_5689 I sat down on the bed, and the little black one – named Wally by his foster parents – immediately crawled into my lap, just as he’d done before. After a thorough washing job of his paws and ears, he curled up into a little ball, yawned, and closed his eyes, purring ferociously.  The other kitten, Rose, remained in her carrier for awhile. She finally crept up on the bed a little later, and it took her almost a full day before she’d curl up in my lap. She’s still very unsure about the whole thing, but we’ll give her some time.

While I’m pretty sure this whole thing is shaping up to be a total #fosterfail, for the time being I’m happy to play host to these two for the time being. We haven’t introduced them to Small Troubled Cat yet – all in good time. All I can say is that I had been worried that little kitten faces would just scrape up all of the hurt of the last four months of Sushi’s life – the diagnosis, giving him a pill everyday, watching him not get better, knowing the inevitable was coming, and then that horrible, terrible day when we took him to the vet and drove home without him. Instead, I look at their little kitten faces and see nothing but love and hope. A chance to maybe make their lives better – they’ve already been rescued, but perhaps I can offer them something more. They’re certainly already bringing so much to me.


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