Well, it’s happened. I’ve picked up my first, and hopefully last, Cairo street kitten. But don’t worry!! We’re not keeping him. A friend from work, who came here with a kitty (ironically one she grabbed at the Khan a few years ago) had expressed interest in getting another one, so after determining that Albert was healthy (despite being 4-5 weeks, alone, hungry and extremely filthy) I sought out to see if she was interested. Even without meeting him, she apparently came in to work the next day and told Ron that Albert better enjoy feathers as she just bought him a new toy. She won’t be in permanent housing until February, so we’ll keep him until then. And we’ll get some proper veterinary tests run to verify his overall health before we attempt to introduce him to the Big Boys, as he’s currently living in our third bathroom, with periodic exploratory visits to our spare bedroom for playtime.
This all came about this past Tuesday as I walked home from Arabic class. Typically, anywhere you walk in Cairo you pass stray cats and kittens, but they’re usually semi-feral so they either scamper away as you approach or they watch you warily. But as I passed this scrawny little pathetic kitten, just hunched on a dirty piece of tarp on the sidewalk, he didn’t run away, or even move. He just lifted his head and looked at me and I had the strongest urge to just bend over and scoop him up. But I refrained and walked on. But I did keep peeking back over my shoulder to see him just sitting there.
As I walked on, I told myself that I can’t fix the problem here in Egypt. But then I remembered about the starfish* and knew I had to do something. So I came home, grabbed Ron, who was home finishing his research paper that day, a fabric shopping bag, a towel and a ½ can of cat food and we walked back to where I’d seen him.
As I rounded the corner I saw the dirty tarp and thought that I saw something in the spot I’d left him. And I was right. In 20-30 minutes, he hadn’t moved an inch. So I scooped him up, gave him the can of cat food which he ate ravenously as I carried him home in the shopping bag. (I wasn’t being mean, I just figured, correctly, that he’d be riddled with fleas and didn’t want to infest our airline carriers.)
I did attempt to take him directly to the vet next door, but I hadn’t made an appointment, so I made one for the next day and we prepared our third bathroom for him. I spent the next 24 hours feeding him and trying to get some of the Cairo street crud off of him, out of his ears and nose and eyes (he loved these washcloth baths, and would roll and purr constantly). We did some flea-removal and verified that there were no obvious injuries. The vet visit the next day was a little disappointing as I was hoping for a more thorough check, but all he did was take his temp and give him an adult-dose of flea meds despite his age of about 4-5 weeks and weight of less than 1.4 pounds.
But after five days, Albert is thriving and adorable!! He has been gaining confidence daily, branching out from the security of my lap to explore the bedroom; loves a shoelace and ping-pong ball we’ve given him; sleeps with one of Clifford’s stuffed toys (I figured Clifford could give up one of many so Albert could sleep with something soft); enjoys visitors; had his first nail-cutting and survived the “trauma” of it; and loves to nuzzle under your chin purring loudly and kneading constantly. He’s a very happy and grateful kitten.
I did have a brief flash at one point that Ron and I were being given remedial parenting classes. Ron had said he’d hang out with Albert in the bedroom, while I went and started getting dinner together (Mrs. Cleaver, watch out!). While cooking, I kept hearing things like, “Oh, no!” and “Albert, don’t!” and “Are you okay?” I finally asked how things were, and Ron said they were fine, Albert just tumbled off the bed after clambering up the quilt. If we fail remedial kitten parenting, does that mean we have to go back and start over with plants (maybe I shouldn’t mention that our basil plant died…)?
*(I was introduced to the following, written by Loren Eiseley, almost twenty years ago and it has stuck with me ever since.):
There was a man who was walking along a sandy beach where thousands of starfish had been washed up on the shore. He noticed a boy picking the starfish one by one and throwing them back into the ocean. The man observed the boy for a few minutes and then asked what he was doing. The boy replied that he was returning the starfish to the sea, otherwise they would die. The man asked how saving a few, when so many were doomed, would make any difference whatsoever? The boy picked up a starfish and threw it back into the ocean and said "It made a difference to that one..."