It was Tuesday. My wife and I had things to do at Telford Gardens. My wife and her sister were hungry for something Chinese, and I wasn't, so they went off to their choice of restaurants while I began making my way to Starbucks for a coffee. On the way though, I was side-tracked by a young lady who recognised me from a veterinary clinic I had visited a few times with Rose our rabbit.
The lady was trying to rescue a kitten and asked for my help. The kitten was behind some building materials stacked up against the wall facing the outside carpark and crying out loudly. While the lady used a plank to force the kitten out of hiding, I waited on the other side and grabbed her when I had the chance. Little did I know how much of a wild cat she was in spite of her small size. She instantly spun around and clawed at me with everything she had. She even managed to bite me at least once, but I quickly grabbed her gently and securely, covering and holding her head with one hand and holding her body with the other. She stopped moving but growled angrily from time to time in protest.
While I switched my position to hold the small kitten by the scruff of the neck, the lady opened the boot of her car and began looking for a box to contain the kitten for transport. The kitten wasn't ready to give up just yet and began struggling as hard as possible to get away. The lady found a box in the car, but it was obvious that getting the kitten into the box would be almost impossible because the opening of the box was far too small and the kitten had all four legs sprawled out, ready to push away whenever the opportunity presented itself.
It was at this time that we realised that the kitten had a mother, and that the mother was in the rafters above us. She had been calling out to Mum all along. We looked up to see the mother peering down at us. There was a fire in her eyes, the kind that only wild animals possess. It was obvious to me that she would never trust us, and that she was worried about her kitten.
Getting the kitten into the box was pretty much pointless, and the kitten's mother was there to look after her so we decided to let her go. As I lowered the kitten to the floor and let her go, she pounced onto the floor with all four paws spread out and disappeared into the building material almost instantly. She was gone.
The lady left. I went into the bathroom to attend to the cuts and bites on my hands. With bites like these, it's advisable to press a little blood from each of the wounds to help wash out any bacteria that might be present, so I bled the wounds and washed my hands.
Back at Starbucks, I sat down to coffee and a sandwich. When my wife arrived, she was none the wiser to what had just happened in her absence.
On Death Row
Several hours later, I returned once again to Telford Gardens to change an order at Ikea. After getting my parking validated, I walked out to the car park and over to my car. While unlocking the car, I was keenly aware of the kitten crying out again. This time, it was in a stairwell. Too curious to be healthy, I peered around the stairwell and saw the kitten. She saw me too, and began backing away up the stairs. I decided to leave her alone and go home. Just as I was getting into the car, I noticed one of the security people carrying a cardboard box, walking in the direction of the stairwell. I was pretty sure I knew what he had planned but wanted to be sure and asked him. Sure enough, he was getting ready to catch the kitten.
A couple of weeks ago, I remember walking down the corridor of Telford Gardens Phase III with my wife when we noticed a medium sized non-threatening nervous black dog walking towards us. As he passed us, we also noted the security guard following closely behind talking with some urgency into his walky-talky. Obviously, he was planning to catch the dog.
I felt sorry for the dog. He wasn't harmful to anyone. He had no problem walking among the hundreds of people shopping in the centre but he wasn't welcome and he'd be caught by the security people soon enough. Once caught, his death was almost guaranteed.
I was familiar with the security guard planning to catch the kitten. I had talked to him several times in the past. When I asked about the kitten, he said that the kitten would be given to the SPCA. I commented that this action was the equivalent of committing the kitten to death (almost all of the animals given to the SPCA are delivered to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department which kills them within days of receipt) but he said there was nothing he could do. People move from Telford Gardens and some of them rather than taking their pets with them choose instead to dump them in the public areas. The pets leave toilet products in the public areas and the company consequently has no choice but to catch and dispose of the abandoned pets.
I had ignored the black dog, but I didn't want to abandon the kitten, particularly because I knew of someone who was willing to home it; the lady who had asked me to help her catch the kitten earlier. I accompanied the guard to catch the kitten.
Just as we exited the stairwell on to the public garden courtyard, we observed a young teenager chasing the kitten, enjoying himself as he instilled needless torture and fear into the kitten. How can people be so ruthless? Is it really so macho to persecute and terrorise small animals? These people are so pathetic. I reprimanded the teenager (whose father was watching nearby) with 「有啲人道先得嘅！」 and the guard and I proceeded to catch the kitten which I then took home.
We have a spare cage which I unfolded and placed on my desk next to the computer. I wanted this wild kitten to see me as much as possible, to adapt quickly and lose its fear of people. I placed a mat inside along with water and dry kitten food I had picked up at the pet food store on the way home. I then gingerly placed the cardboard box with the kitten at the door to the cage and opened one flap of the box. The kitten didn't come out. It was cowering in one corner of the box. It not an option to place my hand in the box with the kitten so I opened every flap of the box and gently shaked it while keeping it pressed up against the cage to prevent the kitten from escaping. She went in.
We have eleven dogs, and fear was not going to help this kitten settle down, so I covered most of the cage with towels keeping the kitten blind to the world around it; except for one small area facing my chair.
The next thirty hours were incredible. I'll never forget the change that unfolded in front of me.
Every time the kitten cried out for her mother, I popped into view and gently meowed back to her. She cried all night long, even when her voice began to get dry and raspy. We didn't sleep much that night. I got up four or five times and went over to her. The more she saw me, the easier she would become with me. At least, that was the plan.
Day time came and the kitten continued to cry for its mother but she was getting tired. She hadn't touched the dry food, nor the diluted milk I had set down for her. Throughout the day, she became quieter, and began nodding off. It had been a terrible and exhausting ordeal for her.
Later that day at the advice of a friendly vet, I bought some canned kitten food for her. The strong smell of the canned food would make it more enticing to the kitten, and sure enough, not long after I set the food down, the kitten began to eat a little.
Over the next several hours, the kitten changed dramatically. Little by little, the kitten relaxed. She slept some, then she ate some. She cleaned herself, and she began to roll over and play around, even playing with her own tail. She talked to me more and more without the loud crying we had been subjected to for nearly 24 hours. Throughout the second night, she would sleep and then wake up and call out, but instead of calling out for her mother, she was calling out for me; it was a different sound. I would get out of bed and come over to the cage and meow back to her. She began to rub herself up against the cage, and suddenly, she was purring!
The second time she woke me with her calling, I came out and sat beside the cage. She came over to me and began rubbing against the cage again. I sensed that she had changed and I began to take small risks, tentatively poking my fingers through the cage and rubbing her tummy and back. She rubbed back and purred.
The third time she woke me, I decided to take a bigger chance. I opened the cage and was pleasantly surprised to find that she let me pick her up. I nursed her and she began to purr incessantly. She then walked up to my shoulders and became curious, wanting to explore the room we were in. I allowed her a limited amount of freedom, keeping a careful eye on our other kids to make sure they understood that the kitten was out of bounds.
By morning, we were good friends. The wildness in her eyes had disappeared, and in its place was an abundance of affection, comfort and joy. The change was miraculous. She was so beautiful.
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A New Beginning
We couldn't keep her. I wanted to but there were too many reasons that it wouldn't be a good idea. She'd have to live in the cage for several weeks while I trained the kids to leave her alone. That wouldn't have been a good life. Then after growing up, it was entirely possible that she would decide one day to attack our rabbit who is after all a species of rodent. And she'd probably go after the birds that like to come down to the ground in our garden every day.
I made a few calls and was very lucky to find someone who had a friend who was looking for a kitten. After taking my wife to work, I drove over to a temporary holding area where the kitten would begin its new life. She was not completely tame and managed to claw two of the assistants who were trying to put her into a new cage. When I looked in on her, she was shaking with fear again. I hoped that she would adapt quickly.
Two days later; i.e., yesterday; my wife and I drove over to visit her. I had missed her badly and wanted to be sure that she was ok. When we arrived, she was sleeping under the shirt on the tummy of one of the assistants. The assistant lifted the kitten out and I began nursing her, stroking her and talking to her. Half an hour later, she was that precious bundle of affection again, with a look in her eyes that would melt the heart of even the hardest criminal. It was a wonderful time.
I grew up with cats and have always loved them. When I was young, I broke my leg trying to save our favourite cat Jacob. Jacob eventually grew to a ripe age of 21 years old and died after I had moved to Hong Kong. I have seen Jacob in my dreams on many occasions, usually walking back to me from the bush that surrounded our country home in Gympie at the time. Jacob was an incredible pet and friend, and I'll always miss him.
The kitten will be staying where she is for one month until she has fully adapted to people and until she is old enough to get her first shots. She already has a home to go to and hopefully, she will have a wonderful life. In the meantime, I'll visit her as often as I can and take full advantage of the situation. She is simply too amazing for words, and I feel so so lucky to be able to spend time with her.
Unlimited affection. How could anyone not fall in love with her?
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