When you have been on the road for eight years, away from friends and family for most of that time, there are times when you feel … alone. And when you have moved seven times in those eight years, having friends on your travels can be difficult, as well.
I marked eight years on June 1. I meant to make a big deal out of it, but it passed without note. During that time, however, I have had many close friends, the furry kind.
I’ve been a cat lover forever. Not that I don’t like dogs, it’s just that they take too much care compared to a cat. They’re dirtier, too.
Cats must know I’m a cat lover, too, since they seem to find me everywhere.
Last weekend, my latest feline friend, Mama, trotted out into her neighborhood, as she did every day, never to return. Got me to thinking about my cat history on this global journey.
It began before it began. Originally, I intended to bring my U.S. cat, Cool Hand Luke, with me to Costa Rica. All the necessary veterinary shots and paperwork had been completed, only to have Delta tell me at the last minute that I couldn’t take him on the plane.
My last minute panic ended with a good friend volunteering to adopt Luke. That friend recently died but Luke lives on.
In Costa Rica, I didn’t actively seek out any cats, but one found me anyway. Scat came for food and ended up lounging around my apartment, a safe haven in a dangerous cat world. We had hardly connected, however, when I decided to pack it in and hit the road for Europe. He was on his own again.
My stays in Croatia and Sicily only lasted three and two months, respectively, so no cats. Indonesia was next, but my stay was tenuous and I didn’t want to risk another short-term cat encounter. One found me anyway.
But first I tried to create my own kitten. I was working and living at smiling Hill and there was a calico that hung around the office, always seemingly with kittens that always died. If I wanted one of her kittens, I would need to find a way to make them healthier.
At first, I tried feeding the kittens. No good. Then it occurred to me that feeding the mother was a better idea, making her healthy when the next litter happened. That worked, sort of. She ended up having a healthy litter but I had already bumped into my next cat – Hati (heart in Bahasa).
He was a scraggly little thing, walking around alone in the area, more than willing to let me pick him up and take him home. And then, my job ended, at the same time I was offered another job in the Caribbean. I left Hati in the good hands of Smiling Hill employees.
St. Kitts & Nevis was a disaster, so I headed back to Indonesia. Hati rejoined me in my new apartment in town. One day, however, he, too, walked off into his neighborhood and never returned.
It wasn’t long, however, before I found a black kitten in a small litter in an alley close by. I took him in and named him Spock, after Leonard Nimoy passed away. Great little cat, loved to get in my way on the computer.
A confluence of events ended my stay in Batam and I had to find a home for Spock before leaving. Luckily, my taxi driver had two kids and took the cat in. Later, he would text me asking for money for cat food.
Here in Thailand, I’ve had good cats but bad results. First, I was proactive, going to a local shelter and adopting a black kitten. It ran off, never to be seen again. Then, I found another kitten, a calico, but she, too, ran off.
I know this all sounds bad, but I treat my cats like kings and queens. They get good food, medical care and lots of attention. The cats weren’t running away; it’s just a dangerous world out there for them.
Eventually, a white and grey spotted cat, an adult male, befriended me on the street and eventually followed me home. I named him Gypsy. Shortly thereafter, an orange tabby followed him. I think they were friends on the street and both obviously had previous owners, who had abandoned them.
This newest one was female and much younger than Gypsy, maybe a year old. Before I knew it, she was pregnant. I originally named her Tigger, but when she had the litter of five her name became Mama, and it stuck.
What a great cat. It was amazing to watch the birth of her four males and one female, and to see her raise the litter, her first and last. I loved having the kittens around and eventually found a home for them, which was harder emotionally than I expected.
Not long after that, Gypsy died. she just laid down in an upstairs bedroom and passed away quietly. Mama now was in charge and took it seriously. She learned to open the front door to let herself in. She flummoxed me with what kind of food she would eat. She languished around my computer, often propping her head on my speaker while classic rock played. She liked my music.
One day she brought a rat in to play. It took several days and a new rat trap to fix that. Then five days ago, she disappeared.
We all know the effect pets can have on us. They’re entertainment, unconditional love, responsibility. They fill in the gaps of our loneliness, they make our lives a little better, maybe a lot better. They make you laugh, and sometimes cry. They are your friends.
There will be another cat.