The cats in our lives

Having taken care of Kittu and Pudgy, two street cats, who both came with very little time on earth, we were hesitant to get involved again. Momila fought with our Pudgy tooth and nail, terrorizing with her growls and power.

I first saw Momila when we were moving to this house. She was sleeping in the yard. Momi and Tom are the primary cats of this area. In these four and half years, there has been at least two pregnancies each year. Like a ritual, Momila (so the name, always mothering) will deliver somewhere, keep moving and then most of the kitties would disappear, or one or two show up when they are older. Momi is a disgruntled, frowny, grouchy cat who fiercely protects her territory. I ascribe all this to her life on the streets, her survival shields as a female cat.

We started feeding Momila since November 2020 because she looked pregnant again, only a fat belly, rest was all skin and bone. We had just lost Pudgy, and were grief stricken. Momi would wait for us at a designated place on the road, a fussy eater for a feral. Thanks to the pandemic, we were not travelling, and it became a mutual habit. We will sit with her, pet and cajole, coaxing her to eat.

Long ago, I had chanced upon the stall of People for Animals (PfA) in the Lalbagh Flower Show. I gave a tiny donation and took their number. Later when Pudgy came to our life, I reached out to the cat community for advice. Once she was spayed and vaccinated and preferred to be an inside outside cat, that’s when I had first spoken to Colonel Dr. Navaz at PfA. I wanted to check if Pudgy can be a farm cat, moved to a vast space with less threat from vehicles, humans, other cats and dogs. He had thoroughly explained the significance of territory and how shifting may not work at all. Since then, I have been in touch with PfA. The rescued owls stole my heart.

January 2021, Momi delivered a litter of five. Adorable, cute two orange and white, two black and white and one calico. I built a nursery with cardboard boxes and brought all of them home. While the kitties had a blast, playing, sleeping, jumping, Momi whined and cried and cried to be let out. The yard was full of scaffolding, and having lost Pudgy when she climbed up a transformer, we did not want to take any chances and left her at her hideout. Fortunately, all kitties got human slaves and happy homes waiting for them. However, on the day of adoption, Momi got an inkling and escaped with two kitties to another campus. Three of them got adopted.

In the next three weeks, once her mammary glands dried, I planned for her spay. Colonel Dr Navaz at PfA made special consideration for Momi and sent for her pick up. Momi refused and sprinted at the sight of the carrier and that was that, end of story.

Come March, Momi was pregnant again! Early May, four more kitties, all white and brown this time. They would come out cautiously when we went to feed Momi and started licking the wet food and biting the dry food. I had started taking the carrier and keeping food inside to lure them inside. Momi was still suspicious but ventured inside the carrier at times. She preferred sitting on top and dozing. In about a month, one of the kitties was not there. And suddenly, the rest three kitties went missing. Just for a happy ending, I want to believe all found homes.

Momi looked lost, lounging here and there, with her mammary glands full. Suddenly one day, she followed us, entered our house and got all nervous. Neighbours have complained earlier if cats come into the building. She kept coming back to our yard that day, where in many years of making it welcoming for birds, finally a warbler had made a nest and there were three eggs.

That day during her lunch, Momi got inside the carrier and I could lock it. I saw that I was in the position to be a conduit. This was the one chance to get her spayed. I had to take a call quickly as she was on heat and Tomcat was stalking her again.

I called Dr. Navaz. He explained it is a difficult attempt but he will try. I veered between opening the door and letting her out or getting her spayed and bring an end to the endless cycles of child birth and torture of rearing and adoption. I sat near the carrier while she settled down inside and occasionally mewed in such sad tones that I was already pained even before she went to PfA.

The team had a tough time restraining her for surgery. Post surgery, Momi refused to eat. I suggested all that I know that she loves, raw meat, raw fish, whiska. The doctor tried broth, milk, cooked meat. But she just refused to eat.  Dr. was absolutely certain that she needs to be released in her territory. Her wound was clean and she was given pain killer and antibiotics. He was sure she needs to be back to her familiar surroundings to recover, else if she continues not to eat, it can be fatal.

She came back looking stressed and haggard. Scratched a known tree, climbed a boundary wall and walked around a bit. She continued to not eat anything we offered. I was worried sick, with anxiety gnawing my insides. Guilty and sad, I tried every two hours with all kinds of food. She sometimes drank a little water, came when I called, but just did not eat.

Then one day, having refused chicken, curd, milk, paneer, wet whiska, dry drool, she moved to the garden and pooped. I have never felt that happy to see poo! Immediately called Dr Navaz and he said “this means she is eating from somewhere else, and something she likes”. She will recover, he said. That evening Momi licked a little wet whiska form my husband’s finger and I had tears rolling down my eyes.

Over ten days of anxiety, praying for her recovery, of reasoning with my guilt but failing, of trading any good thing I have ever done for her life to be saved, Momi is galloping again! She is socialising, talking, and caught a snake recently, garnering some support from the otherwise unkind unconcerned urban neighbourhood.

Deep gratitude to Colonel Dr Navaz and PfA.

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