Thursday, September 20, 2012

Little Kitty-cats

What I thought I would be doing today: cleaning out the downstairs toy closet and computer cupboard, maybe going for a swim, definitely taking the kids for their swimming lesson, making Oakhill Potato and the Frankfurter dish and finishing the day chatting with Mum and my sister Jo over a wine.

Ticked off that list: wine.

What I never dreamed I would actually be doing today: being interviewed for a TV soft news piece, adopting three kittens and nearly setting fire to the kitchen...


I was feeling out of sorts this morning as I drove around town shopping for a mini desk for Erica, doing some banking and the shopping for those dishes I was going to cook. I had watched a TV ad for Proactiv, which I hated firstly because it was set in a school room, with the teacher touting the product, and secondly, because one school boy asked "I thought it was formulated for 'gaikokujin' ('foreign') skin?" to which know-it-all teacher replied "It's been re-formulated for Japanese skin!". Only problem is, what exactly is 'foreign' skin? Chinese? Indian? Norwegian? Kenyan? Peruvian? Proactiv is an American product presumably sold to Americans, a population which includes every ethnicity on the planet, including Japanese. 

The 'specially for Japanese skin' line is just a marketing ploy that feeds off, and feeds into, the notion of Japanese people being "unique", which just bugs me.

It didn't help that the other two YokoYamas in town did not sell Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc, only the CabSav and Gewurtztraminer AND I passed a Nationalist truck on the way back. There are blessedly few ultra-nationalists in Japan, but they make themselves heard, driving around town in big black buses with tinted windows (shame, boys, shame!) blaring nationalist songs from a loudspeaker. I rely on general Japanese non-violence, but honestly, those trucks scare me! If any violence is going to start in Japan, it'll start with them. I don't think it's a coincidence that they were out today, with the trouble over those stupid islands and the awful anti-Japanese protests in China.

So I was very out of sorts this morning, and getting a little frustrated that my main goal for the day - to clean out the toy closet - was not getting any closer to being done. I got home in time to air out the mini desks (which were wet, but hey, for 800yen at the second hand store I was not complaining!) and have some lunch and do all the laundry before I had to go pick Erica up from kindy.

It was when we arrived home that I heard the kitten crying. We have a lot of stray cats around here, so every year there are kittens somewhere. At first, I thought it was one of the May lot, that Mum and I and the kids tried to catch/watch. But at the same time I knew the cry was too young, and wondered if another litter had been born. The house in front of me is currently unoccupied (the old lady went to live in a care home) so I surmised that a mother cat had had a new litter over there. I wanted to see the kittens if I could, so I followed the sound. I checked over the front fence and over the side, before I realized it was coming from MY shed! I opened the door to check, and yes, the plaintive MIAOW was coming from within! 

I moved away the kerosene cans, the Christmas Tree, the spare table and the iMac boxes, and I saw a tiny gray kitten poking its head out from between an old shelf and a plastic storage box. I also heard hissing, and at first I thought that this bold little kitten was calling for aid AND telling the world to piss off at the same time. Then I saw the mother cat, and two more kittens, inside the plastic box. The best thing to do was scoop up the kitten and give it back to its mother. But not before I had a wee cuddle and let Erica have a hold too.

A hour later, Lena came home, too late for the swimming lesson (which I had already given up on because I cannot find Erica's swimsuit), but carrying with her a meishi (name card) from TOS, the local TV station. She said that she had met this woman in the street who wanted me to call her. So I thought maybe this is another model scout, and I would call her later. 

It was only when I remembered about the kittens and told Amy and Lena about them, so they could go and have a look, that Lena told me that the TOS lady was looking for stray cats. Amy and Lena leapt out to the shed to see, and I got the story from Lena that the TOS people were here specifically to report on the stray cat problem in our neighborhood, and were wandering around looking for stray cats. 

This was all too bizarre to be true, so of course when I walked out the front gate, the TOS lady was right there at the end of the drive. It was just that kind of day. We spent the first ten minutes talking about bilingualism - turns out she is married to an American, has three children, is from Usuki and just moved back to Oita last year. She wants to do a piece on bilingualism sometime, so at first we chatted about how I kept up my kids' English. Once we got all that over I told her about the kittens in my shed. 

She immediately called her cameraman, who was off somewhere filming god knows what, because they specifically wanted to catch some stray kittens on film for their news report. She made sure the cat was not mine, and I assured her that I had just found them an hour ago! Before long, I had a cameraman in my shed, filming the cats, and they also decided to interview me, for my opinion on the local cat problem and how I came to have three kittens in my garden shed!

So, I will apparently appear on TV tomorrow night, as long as nothing important happens. Bonus - Rie, the news lady, being fluent in English, interviewed me in English. I was relieved, because I was panicking about how to say it all properly in Japanese! Sorry people who want to confirm that we do indeed speak Japanese... it was just too easy to say yes to English!

Part II

Camera crew gone, kids still checking the kittens every five minutes, and Kanji comes home. 

And wanders into the kitchen, as he does. "So, I'm going to be on TV tomorrow" I said. "eee?" he said.   And in one moment, me, Amy and Lena tell him what had just happened. Next minute, they all went out to the shed to view the kittens again. 

When they came back in, we had to talk... and answer the question the TOS interviewer asked: "What are we going to do with these kittens?"

"Call someone to take them away" K suggested. We all groaned. There must be another way! I suggested that we should find someone to take adopt them, there must be some place we can take them where they can find a home... but I already know that they put them down within a week. Even the verb he used, 'tsutete' means to throw them out. 

For a long time I've wanted a cat, but even so, I never thought I would keep these ones. They were too young. I think its better for kittens to stay with their mother for the first 3 months, and I judged these kittens being about a month old, so I thought the best thing to do was to give them back to their mother. At the same time, I knew I would never see them so close again. She would abandon this nest that had grown so dangerous. And they would end up like the last bunch of kittens, and the ones before that, too old to be caught, let alone tamed. 

It was the girls who went out to the shed again to see them. But it was I who encouraged them to pick them up. The mother had gone, so I said it was okay to pick them up for a cuddle. Besides, there were only two, and the other one was stuck behind the box. So I shoved some other boxes aside so I could remove the box, and get the last kitten (still aiming to leave them with their mother). But then we had the box in our hands... and I could see K was relenting... and then...

And then we had them inside. I guess once they had crossed the threshold there was no going back, even though at the time I still thought, "well maybe we should given them back to their mother... " We saw her a half hour later, passing the front door on her way to the shed, sniffing around for her babies. Then she just sat down on the path. This is exactly what she did when we Kanji and I saw her when she was still pregnant. She just flopped there. I don't think she's very healthy. I feel so guilty for stealing her babies, but I also hope that I gave her a chance to regain her health! I'm just a dedicated nanny! 

In the meantime I've read some websites, and learned that I got them at just the right time. They start to wean at 4 weeks, and the Vet judged them to be about 6 weeks. The websites say that for stray cats, you have to adopt them before 8 weeks, or they can't be tamed. I also have the sick one - she was weak and shivering just 12 hours ago when I met her, but after the milk and cat food I've fed her, and the medicine for her eyes, she's come to life! I'm pretty sure she'd have died soon, like the runt of the last litter in May, who I never saw again. Justifying baby theft.... saving kittens... 

The next thing to do was consider what to do with these kittens we suddenly found ourselves in possession of. K and I have both kept cats, so we knew we had to do vaccinations and stuff, but were a bit non plussed about what to do with such wee ones. So we called Yuko, our good friend and major cat lady. She was in the bath (this is important, because I started cooking dinner), but when she called back, she told us to hightail it to the Vets RIGHT NOW! 

So we all piled into K's van, the kittens still in the box that we had pulled out from the shed, and headed for the Vet's. Kanji seemed to know exactly where to go, and the Vet's reaction when he saw us was not 'hajimemashite' (nice to meet you) but 'hisashiburi!' (long time no see!). He commented that the kids had gotten older, while I tried to place him, but I gave up trying when he saw Erica and said 'oh, you have another one!'. I still don't know how we 'know' him! Small towns...

He weighed the kittens, judged their age to be six weeks, sexed them as girls (with a maybe on the little one), and gave them a birthday (August 1) so he could set a care schedule for them. He de-flead them with spray (we go back every month for that treatment, 1000 x 3), booked them in for their shots and even scheduled the spaying for February (18,000 each, eek!). He gave us eye drops for the little one, and a shampoo for the spot of mange on her left leg, with instructions on how to administer them. He explained about litter boxes and litter, then undid all his sales talk by accidentally showing us his newspaper version in the back rooms, but recovered by giving us a litter box! And he told us exactly how much to feed them, how to prepare it (pellets soaked in boiled water) and how many times a day, and most importantly, that they don't need milk! 

Unfortunately my babies don't like that food he recommended. Kanji just told me that his cat didn't like it either. So for today, I've been feeding them the melted pellets with extra water in a dropper with the end cut off. Now they love me and miaow whenever I walk past the cage. I will buy them some canned kitten food tomorrow, because as much as I love being a much loved Mama cat, I do like kids who feed themselves. 

We also bought a cage, so they have somewhere safe to sleep with a litter box and a food bowl (that they have no idea how to eat out of) and a water bowl (that they keep ever-so-cutely stomping their delicate little paws into) and furnished it with some hot water bottles, some old towels, and a Hello Kitty blanket. They are calmly sleeping now. Until I walk past the cage again. 


OH and the kitchen?? When we left in a hurry to go to the Vet's, I left the sausages boiling on the stove. The ones I had bought to go in the Frankfurter dish that I didn't have time to make, and then decided would just go in bread with some cheese and tomato sauce. I remembered about them at the Vet's and we spent a very stressful ride home worrying - I came home just in time to hear the first peep of the smoke detector and fine one very ruined pot and absolutely inedible sausages. 

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