The Kittens

I ostensibly returned early from Seoul in part to get ready for English Camp the following Monday, but let’s be real since when do I plan anything ahead of time. So the rest of that week was spent largely lying on the floor in front of my kitchen sink, watching the tiny mewling balls of fuzz that was Luna’s new brood of five kittens.

So yes, all of a sudden I had six cats.  Luna, Momo, Marama, Kiwi, Gazpacho, and Henry.  At the moment I write this it’s finally just Luna and me.  Four kittens went off to new loving homes after much effort and Facebook posting and patience and anxiety.  Henry first, then Gazpacho, then Kiwi, and last night, Momo.  Marama died following an accident.  Maybe I’ll write up the story some day but let’s suffice to say that I’m still pretty fucked up over it when I think about it.  She was absolutely precious and the one I most wanted to keep.

But at the time, I had six and I kind of understand how moms say that you just soak in every moment of your newborn because they change so quickly.  It was so wonderful to watch the teeny floofs start to squirm around, figure out nursing, slowly open their eyes, figure out walking, and more.  Sure there were super stressful times (relocating kittens from under your sink when mom does not want them relocated, relocating kittens from your bedroom when mom does not want them relocated, removing kittens from behind your stove, removing kittens from behind or under your bed and cupboard, litter training, introducing food and water, when your kittens are inexplicably vomiting and no vets are open, when your cat goes into heat again whilst unable to be separated from the kittens who are unable to be left free to roam your apartment all day, when your kitten tears hole in your silk Marc Jacobs dress, cancelling vacation plans because you have five six-week-old kittens and can’t leave them for an extended period of time or find pet sitters, when you can’t sleep for the sounds of that many cats, when your kitten climbs into the couch and you have to figure out how to drag him out without dislocating his cervical verterbrae, and on and on) but ultimately these babies brought a lot of joy into my life too.  And it’s nice to be able to pick up Luna now, and understand why she hated me picking her up beforehand (don’t squish the babies).  Okay she still doesn’t love being picked up but she tolerates it now.  She’s an “I tolerate you” kind of cat :))


Clockwise from top left: Marama, Kiwi, Gazpacho, Henry, Momo

Back to that first week, I was so grateful to have time to just figure out what the hell to do with the kittens.  Turned out I didn’t need to do much, for weeks they were 100% taken care of by mom, all I had to do was keep her fed and occasionally reposition the bbs when they were freaking out because they couldn’t figure out how to find an open feeding spot.  I put the thin mattress/pad thing I’d got when my dad was here on the kitchen floor and just watched them a lot.  I would steal time every day to pick them up, at least for a few seconds, to see how they were growing and also just get some a lot of pictures and love them. I also recruited my friends into naming them since five of us, five kittens, and they were the first ones on the scene.  I named Momo, the golden tabby.  Well actually I named him Squeaky because he was so gd squeaky, but his second name was Momo because I figured the squeaking would go away eventually (though his current pathetic meowing is still very squeaky).  Francine gave the little black cat Henry his name, named for the super cute insanely charismatic leader from Orientation week.  Nicole gave the grey tabby Gazpacho, aka Gaz, which is just a great name.  Jessamine gave Kawaii, which morphed into Kiwi, to the teeny grey tabby with white feet.  And Cam and Francine gave Marama to the black and white kitten, which was a beautiful name for her.

Months passed, kittens were moved and moved again.  Under the sink for a few weeks, in my room in an ever-growing cardboard fortress (more space, higher walls), into the spare room (so they could run around but I didn’t have to worry about totally kitten proofing the apartment or what they’d get into while I was at work) and finally at about 9 weeks they were let out into the apartment.  I’d started openly broadcasting that they needed homes around 8 weeks, and at 10 weeks Henry left to be the first cat of a lovely and loving expat.  A few weeks later Gazpacho joined a cat named Mozzi, gaining a new brother and a great mom.  Kiwi was taken in by some friends as a long-term foster/potential adoption a few weeks later, which was an insane relief since she was always just crazy terrified of new people and only about 50% of the time didn’t run away from me.  Emily and Andrew are cat whisperers apparently, because she actually willingly approached them within a few days.

Momo was the most stressful adoption. He was fun but two cats was never the plan, especially not with the costs of spaying and neutering being what they are in Korea.  About 7 people inquired after him with varying levels of seriousness, but nothing came of any of them.  Finally I set a date to bring him to the shelter, having begun to go insane from a mom cat in heat + an unaltered boy cat at the age of puberty responding to natural instincts + the yowling from keeping him sequestered + the constant stress of finding and losing potential homes + knowing I just couldn’t care for him properly + kittens get less “adoptable” as they get older + I couldn’t bring him back to Canada.  I ended up just openly weeping the other night from the sheer anxiety and stress of hitting the breaking point of realizing everything I needed to do and how hopeless it all felt.  And knowing that I couldn’t wait til February break as I had planned to get Luna spayed, that I needed to do it this week when I just booked a two week vacation to Japan and budgeted like half my post-bills/taxes salary for the next two months to cash savings for that dream trip.

I had thrown myself into planning and getting crazy excited for it after the soul crushing disappointment of losing the possibility of a trip home. I called my sister at about 12am Canada Time, crying, when I found out at work that it just wouldn’t work, just kind of stood outside in the rain behind the school so that students couldn’t see me and my coteachers wouldn’t know how devastated I was, and sobbed at her that tickets were 2,500-3,000 CAD but literally half that during the two/three weeks I’d requested and which every other person I knew had been assigned.   I’d been looking at plane tickets for weeks, been telling people I would go home, been thinking of who I could see and what I could do (Van Gogh exhibit at the AGOooooooo).  This trip to Japan was the only thing keeping me sane over the prospect of spending the latter half of January doing English Camp and deskwarming whilst everyone I knew was on vacation.  Anyway, I digress from my privileged white girl pity party (wahh what if I don’t have enough money to spend in Japan because of something responsible pet owners do wahh. I know, I’m insufferable, but heyo, my blog, my gripes.)

I felt like a monster but requested an hour and a half of leave for this past Wednesday to bring him to the Gwangju shelter.  But it was school volleyball tournament day so I couldn’t leave due to the paperwork requirements, and there was a staff dinner afterwards.  So Thursday, yesterday, I was approved to leave at 3.

Around 2 I went on the shelter website to see if there were fees for surrendering.  The site is entirely in Korean though so I ended up on the photo listings of cats in care and just started crying because they all looked so sad and thin and ill, and there were so many, and so many listed as recently deceased.  I had put out a final desperate plea for a home for him that morning, but nothing had appeared.  After convincing myself and my friends that morning that I was headed to the shelter, I broke down and declared that I would find a fucking way to make it through the three and a half hour bus ride with a kitten that hates his carrier to a potential home in Boryeong (and ordered 50$ CAD bottle of Feliway off of GMarket to help).  On top of that, that morning I booked Luna’s spay at an across town vet (because they spoke English and were the only recommendation I could find), then my coteacher helped me rebook at a local vet who was more expensive but at least nearby and did the surgery on Saturdays.  So now I needed to figure out how to keep Momo away from her as she recovered.

I left school early anyway, I’d filed the paperwork and was just so done with everything.  I stopped in at a cafe and opened up Messenger to see a Message Request that, Eleventh Hour Miracle, someone wanted to take Momo in, that night.

It was a tiny bit bittersweet to say goodbye to Momo but honestly more a relief than anything.  I taxi’d across town with him angrily meowing in the carrier and brought him to his new home, where he was terrified but greeted by the most enthusiastic and thrilled child I’ve ever seen.  The son of the person who’d got in touch, he was nonverbal as far as forming words, but he was more than vocal about Oh My God It’s A Cat This Cat Looks Just Like My Favorite Toy Cat.  So I stuck around for a bit to help Momo adjust and just reassure myself it was a good place (check) and also to play toy cars with the little kid.

So there we are.  That’s the kittens story.  And after this weekend I can be sure it will never fucking happen again Dear God.

End note: I set up a GoFundMe to cover some of the costs of the spay but tbh I don’t blame anyone who’s like “Wow fuck you, you’re going to Japan in January and are employed you don’t need this.”  But also would appreciate small amounts of help.  And shoutout to the crazy generous people in my life.

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