Those who know me already might say that they didn't know I had a cat. I didn't, you know! Our dog, Duggu is such a handful, I didn't think we could take on another pet. But a few months ago, a beautiful cat (whom we eventually named Puggle) arrived.
She's not really ours.....
Nope! She's someone else's cat who just went on what the Aussies might call a walkabout. My younger daughter Riya found her on the roof of our house, a pretty calico (three-coloured) cat. Riya was instantly smitten. Some milk was fed to the little creature and the deal was sealed. Puggle has been a regular visitor to our house ever since. And two days after she arrived, in mid-May, she gave birth to four kittens. We'd had no idea the kitty was enceinte.
So what did we do?
What can you do? If a single mom landed on your doorstep and gave birth in your house, what would you do? Try to help, obviously. As the cat bore no identification and had been roaming the colony unsterilised, we'd had no idea she belonged to anyone. We felt that she was quite wild and would never convert to being a housecat. She lurks around the nearby drains and is a mean rat killer. However, we felt sorry for the new litter of kittens, born into a highly populated country with a lot of wild animals around. We knew that there's quite a demand in Lucknow for kittens, so we kept them in our house until they were two months old and then, with the help of good friends and a local animal welfare organisation, we found good homes for all of them.
How do you explain to a mother whose babies have all been given up for adoption, that you've done it with their best interests at heart and hers too? You have to give lots of love, affection and understanding. But on 21st September, I noticed the cat's abdomen appeared to be swollen. On her daily visits, I'd noticed that she'd been searching for a place in which to snuggle in and nest. Sensing that something was about to happen, I put her into an empty room with somewhere comfortable to lie down. Sure enough, when I returned, I found Puggle nursing four new kittens!
Two months later....
The second batch of kittens have now been moved on into new homes. One kitten was adopted by a neighbour. One evening, when the cat was showing distress at being unable to find her babies, we had no choice but to retrieve the one kitten who still lives nearby and he was able to spend some hours with his grieving mamma. Puggle was overjoyed to see her little one again and covered him with love and affection while the baby happily relieved his mother's milk overflow. Noticing the adoptive family's reluctance, however, I haven't repeated the incident.
The previous 'owners'.
Does anyone really own a cat? If anything, the cat owns us. A couple showed up at our door one evening, claiming to be her previous owners. They were very loving towards her but showed no interest in getting her back. They seemed to think we'd adopted her, which isn't correct. We helped her in her emergency and she's been visiting our home ever since. Had they owned her, she should have been wearing a collar with their phone number on it, in case of loss. And what owner would allow a female pet to roam unsterilised? I feel that rather than being owners, they were simply feeders, people like us who help out to the extent that they can.
Anyone adopting kittens from our house is asked to keep them at home and get them vaccinated and neutered as soon as possible. We want them to live as house pets and not have to go out on the streets, scavenging for food. Puggle is not 'our' cat, but we tried to help her as much as we could with her two families. I understand her grief, missing her kittens, Had she given birth to them outside, however, she would have been plagued by many problems. We provided food, shelter and eventually, homes. Her kittens were protected from the dangers of street dogs, monkeys and mischievous children. Hopefully, they'll enjoy a happy life.
I made inquiries about getting Puggle sterilised, but I was required to pay Rs.8,500/- for an operation, which, sadly, is beyond me at present. As long as we're here, she's welcome to come every day. Meanwhile, I'm encouraging our neighbours to take an interest in her, so she will always have somewhere to go, even if we're not here.