Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Adventures in Kitty Care

Almost my entire life I have had pets. One of the things that stuck out to my in all the PC literature I got before I left was that it explicitly stated a “pet policy,” which allows PCVs to have pets, but asks that we take care of them. Before leaving, I swore I would not get a pet while I was here because I most likely will not take it back, and it’s just cruel to raise an animal to be a palagi pet, then abandon it to someone who treats it differently. But of course I couldn’t do that, and now I have a pet.
Her name is Nora and she is a tiny gray tabby. The PCV I got her from told me all sorts of endearing stories about what a wonderful cat she is, but now that she’s gone, I’m hearing from all the other PCVs how she always said “Nora is the cat from hell.” I can see how that would apply to Nora, but I still love her, although sometimes I feel like she just uses me because I feed her.

She has a tendency to go crazy at least once a day, usually at night just as I’m getting into bed. She starts clawing on anything she can catch, then she scrambles around the room, darting from hiding place to hiding place. If you’re not a cat person, I can see how this would be annoying, but most of the time I just find it highly entertaining and always egg her on. This is probably another form of animal cruelty – I get her all riled up only to keep her trapped inside my room.

One of the less fortunate aspects of having a cat is that she kills things. Rather, she likes to play with things until they’re dead, then she leaves them wherever they were when she lost interest. First, this happened with a bird. A bird was flying around inside my fale, Nora caught it in the hallway, then dragged it into my room to play with it. By the time I got there, my room was covered in gray feathers, and the bird was limp at the door. Nora, I don’t like it when you do that! The next time something similar happened, it included three instances in one day. I was putting her food dish down in the morning when something small scrambled across my feet. Of course it was a cockroach, and of course I immediately jumped on my chair, and Nora started to play with it. She left it dead next to my desk when a lizard caught her eye instead. The lizard managed to get away, but it was one of those that leaves its tail behind, and Nora ate the tail. That was all in the morning before school. When I came back from school, I found Nora with something cornered in the hallway behind a rock. I couldn’t see what it was, but she would lose interest or it would get away soon enough. So I went into my room and started my usual after school routine when Nora burst into the room after…a mouse. Immediately I was back up on the chair, screaming to the high heavens, telling Nora that she could do anything she wanted with the mouse as long as she got it out of the room. Eventually, she was close enough to the door that I could shove both of them out with my broom. Then I locked her out and did yoga, and when I was finished, she was sitting there completely satisfied with herself, the now dead mouse further down the hall. Ugh….

However, the most difficult situation to date occurred outside my fale. I let Nora wander around because it means I don’t have to keep a stinky litter box in my room. She was over in the neighbors’ yard when their dog saw her, started barking, and chased her up a tree. My neighbors came to get me to tell me she was in a tree. I figured it was just a low branch and she would jump down soon enough, but no. You really do need firemen to rescue cats stuck in a tree. She was perched probably 12 or 15 feet up in the air. First my neighbor climbed on a broken cement water tank to get closer to the branch, but Nora wouldn’t come when he called her. She was shaking and clinging to the branch with every last claw. So I climbed on the water tank too, and while I got her to walk out a little way, she never came close enough for me to grab her. So my neighbor pulled himself up in the tree to try to pick her up, but he’s 12 and afraid of her claws, so that didn’t work. After about 10 minutes of his telling me not to climb the tree, I just pulled myself up, and picked Nora up. She was still terrified. My neighbor climbed out of the tree and back onto the water tank, but he wouldn’t take Nora from me because she still had every single claw out. He threw me my lavalava (I had abandoned it so I would be able to climb), intending for me to wrap Nora up in the lavalava so I could hand her down to him without claws sticking out everywhere, but I wasn’t particularly fond of that idea. Eventually, he and his sister went to get a wooden ladder the family had constructed, then they put it up on top of the cement tank against the branch so I could climb down holding Nora. From the water tank, maybe 5 feet in the air, Nora was brave enough to jump down, but immediately ran away and I couldn’t find her. We commenced a search party and after about 10 minutes, my 12 year old neighbor discovered her sitting up on the wall between the shower and the toilet in the tap out back. Of course Nora wouldn’t let go of her grip so I could pull her down and carry her inside, so the older sister, 15, helped pry Nora’s paws away one by one while I pulled her down from the wall, and finally I had her back inside. Overall, the tree rescue took at least a half hour – I don’t think I spent as much time in a tree hanging even the most stubborn bear bag at camp – and the search and rescue took another 10 or 15 minutes. It was quite the afternoon event, and I came away with plenty of little scratches and ant bites.

Of course everything Nora does she sees as a huge accomplishment and something that should make me love her even more. I always tell her not to leave dead things in my room, and now I tell her that she’s not allowed to climb up trees until she learns how to climb back down, and I tell her she doesn’t appreciate me enough, but I don’t think it gets through to her. She usually wins though, and I love her anyway.

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