kitten

Heard a kitten inside the walls between my room and the bathroom. What was that short story that had a cat meowing from within the walls? I couldn’t bear to think of letting the cat starve to death there, so Kathy and my dad pried out large sections of the bathroom wall to get to the kitten.

Having rescued the kitten to the great detriment of the wall, we tucked the kitten into a hurriedly scrounged-up shoebox and sped off to the zoo. The kitten was fed, cleaned, and put to bed by one of Kathy’s friends, and we took the kitten back home after being given some instructions on how to take care of her (her!).

There are some complications, of course. My dad is a bird person, my sister is a dog person, and I don’t know how the KittenWhoMustNotBeNamed (my sister fears I’ll get too attached if I name her) will get along with Lucas (a big black Labrador), Kaygee (a somewhat grumpy toy poodle) and Picco (the Lovebird of Death).

Maybe I’ll get to keep her if I ask for her as my graduation present. If I do get to keep her, I’ll probably name her something like “Nano”. ;)

Cross-reference: KittenWhoMustNotBeNamed#1

Making arrangements for my cat

Trying to arrange my cat’s transit isn’t easy. Today I called the Japanese Quarantine Service. Not trusting my command of the Japanese language (it’s been two years of no practice!), I decided to just try to make it in English. I’d rather repeat myself using creative analogies than have my cat turned back at the airport!

The woman at the Yokohama head office assured me that I didn’t need the microchip and quarantine system they have for pets brought into Japan. A health certificate would do. She advised me to call the Narita Terminal 2 branch for more details.

So I called up the Narita Terminal 2 branch and explained that I wanted to bring my cat from the Philippines to Toronto through Narita, and that I wanted to know what papers I needed. The man on the other end of the line apologized, saying he spoke little English.

After trying to explain it in different ways, I gave in and said, “Ummm… neko no koto desu.”

“Oh, cat! Nihongo ga wakarimasu ka?”

I explained in the fragments of Japanese that I remembered that no, not really, I’m really bad at Japanese (heta desu), but we could try. In broken Japanese, I explained what I wanted to do. Relieved, he launched into a confident (and fast!) explanation, which I had to interrupt with “Gomen nasai, zenzen wakarimasen deshita! (Sorry, I didn’t understand a word of that!)” He slowed down and made an effort to intersperse English words whenever he could–and that’s how I found out that I just need to check with the airline.

See, if Neko were here, my Japanese would probably be better. I had been studying Japanese when we tore open the bathroom wall to save this tiny ant-covered kitten, so naturally I named the cat “Cat” in Japanese. (My sister calls her Catastrophix, based on the characters in the wonderful series Asterix and Obelix.) I practiced my Japanese on her, and that’s probably why she won’t listen to anyone else in the household. Anyway…

So I need a health certificate no earlier than 10 days of departure and a document from a vet showing rabies vaccination no later than 30 days prior to departure. As I won’t be there a full month, I’ll need to ask my family to take care of getting the rabies vaccination certificate.

I’ve missed my cat so much. I’m looking forward to bringing her over. Don’t know what she’ll do about snow, though. Looks like she’ll be an indoor cat with a heated bed and all! ;)

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Slice of life: Meowrnings

Almost every morning, we can count on being meowed awake by our cats. They seem to do this in shifts so that only one cat is meowing at a time. They don’t really have a snooze button or a time sitting, but they seem to pause for a little bit if you meow back or fully close the door.

imageThis is one of our cats, Neko. (Yes, I have a cat named “cat” in Japanese.) She’s usually the early morning meower. We’ve been trying to figure out why she meows. So far, we’ve determined that:

  • it’s not about breakfast, since there’s plenty of food,
  • it’s not about water, since she has that too,
  • it’s not about being able to drink from the bathroom faucet, since she doesn’t always do that even when I offer, and
  • it’s not about not having company, because she still meows me awake even if W- is up and about.

My current hypothesis is that Neko is checking if I’m still there, since she doesn’t meow W- awake if I’m already up. It seems to match experimental observations. She’s only temporarily satisfied by voice; she insists on seeing me. She doesn’t cuddle or anything, just walks downstairs with me and goes about her usual cat life.

I raised her myself (hello, 2AM and 6AM soy milk feedings!), but when I moved into the dorm for university, I saw her only on weekends. And then there was that six-month span when I was in Japan, and four years (four!) when I was in Canada. Whenever I was home, Neko took to sleeping on top of me, probably to make sure I didn’t go anywhere without her knowledge. (Then she would bite my ankles at 5 AM so that I could let her out of the room to do her business.) My mom says that even though Neko avoided her most of the time (my mom’s not a cat person), Neko would cuddle up with her whenever I left on my trips.

Leia is usually the next one to meow. She usually meows if our door is left open a crack (for circulation), but closing the door often helps. Leia just wants to be picked up and cuddled. (She usually sticks around in the bathroom, meowing, until I get the message.) Luke is the meower of last resort. I think he meows because he wants someone to play with and sometimes the other two cats won’t give him the time of day. (Luke is usually the only cat at our door when he’s the one meowing, while we often wake up to all three cats waiting if it’s Neko meowing.)

I try to avoid anthropomorphizing the cats too much, but it’s fun to speculate at what goes on in their head, especially if you can test the hypotheses. =)

Neko is about ten years old now, and the other cats are four years old. The Internet says that indoor cats tend to live between 13 and 17 years. There will come a time when our mornings are quiet. In the meantime, I can appreciate the racket; our cats and their quirks.

One of the tricks I picked up from A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy is that of negative visualization: imagining loss in order to enjoy a deeper appreciation of what you have. I practise it frequently. Not so much that I dwell on it, but enough to sharpen my enjoyment of life and be ready for the inevitable sadness. There will most likely come a quiet morning, maybe years from now, when I’ll look back at this sketch and and trace the outline of a memory. I practise imagining loss with pets, with friends, with family, with W-. Emotional exercise.

Sometimes I’m up earlier than I’d like, but the cats are worth it.