There's a clinic; at the end of the street that stretches from the town below, to the tip of the mountain above. A small, decrepit house, packed with people, mostly females in their night gown, completely ignorant of their personal hygiene; maybe because they are too sick to bother, or they don't bother at all.
Around the kids are screaming, crying, yelling, swearing, jumping, running, tantrum throwing, either in choir with or in competition against each other. Maybe both.
Some of those females just can't handle it, and hand her kids some money, of which they spend on the numerous gawkers right outside its corrosion stained fence.
And then they will come back inside, quiet for a moment as they stuff their mouth with junk food and then throw the wrap care-freely. Some other can't handle the junk and threw up on the floor, babies had urinary tract accident, and someone step on those and tread it everywhere, but there's no cleaning service.
A typical third world clinic you will find in this country, this town, in particular.
Somewhere around the corner of its cemented front yard, that suppose to be a parking lot, there's a row of suffering withered plants, lack of water, lack of proper care in general, a quiet presence tries to enjoy the small peace out of the sickening riot inside.
I thought she was pregnant. She has very big belly, and her tummy seems to be so heavy, she can only walked a few steps before sitting down and try to catch some breath.
If I come toward her and offer her some food I would have drawn unnecessary attention. Something she won't need because kids tend to have craziest ideas.
Especially to a street cat.
But I feel sorry for her. Her green eyes are telling me without words that her world is heavy, and I don't doubt her. However, to carry a pregnant cat all the way uphill? It's just a mile and a half though.
And it's so happened that I was carrying big bags of fabric for Whiscraft back then. I wouldn't want her to fall from the transport if she squirms.
So I promised myself to come back the next day, though my heart and thoughts are heavy thinking about how am I suppose to support more lives with my strained budget. With a belly that big, I should expect say, four? five?
I came back anyway, and found the clinic overflowing with people, packed into the small waiting room, chattering, handling kids, moaning, perspiring.
I can't find her.
I peeked to the row of withered plants but I can't find her. I look around the corners but I can't find her. So I went home thinking that she might be walking around somewhere in the labyrinth like slums behind the clinic and promise myself to come back the next day.
A few steps away, the corner of my eye caught her sitting in the next building. Alone in the shade, tired, desolate.
I walked as slowly and as calmly as I can, but she didn't seem to bother. She just looked at me wondering what am I going to do with her.
I opened a pouch of Whiskas and offer it on a paper plate I always been carrying.
She smelled it, lick it, and eat it, though she didn't stand.
Her belly is so big.
I try touching her. She twitched, but she didn't run away. So I waited until she finish her meal, and try to lift her up. Wrap her in a blanket, and start walking away.
She just stay still.
At home, one and a half miles later, I put her down in my living room. She looks around, gingerly, and gnarled at the kittens that comes out bursting like bubbles as they see us.
Then she drink, and after that, just sitting there, forlornly, with the kittens staying as far away as possible while sending their long distance sniffs.
It was the ugliest sight I ever seen. Half of her face is swollen. Her body is so thin, her belly is so big. The fur along her back is thinning, exposing a half length tail with a a little curve at the tip.
I didn't have the heart to start poking on her to find out what she has, but I do notice that she was dripping greenish yellow liquid as she eats.
It was a leaking pus from a bite on her cheek. Maybe souvenir of a fight. A little squeeze produces a handful of rotten ooze, so I spend the next few hours trying to clean her up.
I thought at first, since I did not find any other hole other than those two, a good quality food and proper medication suffice. I was very reluctant to employ antibiotics because she was pregnant. So I only administer some Chinese herbal ointment on the wounds, and keep it clean and dry.
What suppose to heal in few days in other cats, takes few weeks. This mama cat's body is just too frail. Eat something wrong, diarrhea. Do not drink much for one day, constipation. Too much fish, scratching, too much egg, gassing. And her wound just keep welling up. I don't know how bad her condition was, but I know it's just worse compared to other rescues
At roughly the same time, Torbie and her siblings are old enough to get out from the security of my bedroom and live rather communally with Hanshin, Florence and Baroness in the living room. Mama Cat, with her big belly, immediately call them like her own, and they listen to her. She naturally lay down and let the kittens nurse from her, and since I thought she is pregnant, I just let them.
Problem arise when some self-addressed rescuer and cat lover who is also a donor to The Whiskers' Syndicate (though a bad one) made me accept a feral cat that she recently TNR-ed. (the whole story here). The feral female was trying to make her personal space, and Mama Cat try to defend her (and her adopted kittens' territory). What happened in the next three days were bloodshed.
And a major headache for me, because I have to help the feral cat heal as fast as she can (so she can be returned) while at the same time take care of a pregnant Mama Cat with four baby kittens.
Mama Cat ended up got bullied when I am not around to intervene; and she can't fight with belly as tight and big as a basketball. She just sit there, tucking her ears, with kittens scattered all over places watching their "mom" in terror.
It wasn't until well into the next month (after the feral cat was picked up by her rescuer) when her wounds start healing.
But she is still pregnant. Her belly was bigger and bigger and bigger, I am afraid it will burst, or worse, like the previous Mama Cat.
I called a vet and after some examination she think that it might be Pyometra. So we agreed on a date and put her on the operating table before it's too late.
Turned out it's not Pyometra. Well, not Pyometra only. One of her bladder sticks to the wall of her stomach. Her intestine are all twisted, unlike normal intestine, and her blood is not red. It was bluish as if it is a blood of a carcass just came out of a long freezer nap.
One of her ovaries was tucked below one kidney, and the other were buried among the intestines. We have to pull all her gut out to de-tangle all sort of organs and put them back in proper order.
We had to remove the entire ovary because it's in such bad shape due too much breeding. Later on the vet told me that she must have sustained an internal injury at one time in her life, but it went untreated, though somehow she survives.
It was like a horror movie; but we're not the bad guys. We're the clueless ones desperately trying to understand the forensics of what the heck was happening to this cat and what made her survive, and how we can help her.
While Mama Cat herself seems to endure the entire procedure quite well, we are the ones who ended up with tremors after all those suspense with her messed up gut. It was the first time the vet ever asked "Do you have some coffee?"
As we cleaned up half in trance, the vet and I agreed that after this, Mama Cat will be able to live in peace, away from complications.
Evidently, she won't stop nursing; even with all those sutures and post op pain and bandages. Her adopted kittens didn't help at all
I was in a cross road. Is it all right for her to nurse, since it seems to come naturally for her and the kittens are not made sick because of it? Wouldn't it be dangerous if her mammary glands were stimulated after she has Pyometra and whatever internal injuries? Would it turn into a mammary tumor?
I choose safety over sorry, and so I put her in the cage. She was angry that I cut her maternal period off, but I continue to convince myself that I am doing the right thing, though cruel.
She still try. All day long, I heard her cooing and calling and purring from inside her jail, probably instructing her kids what to do and what not to do. Once every so often, I would hear the cooing turned into the real meow, when her kittens did something bad or running far enough into the kitchen and off her sight.
I am humbled by her resilience and I turned my admiration into motivation to do better for her. My budget was way too strained, with her unsuspected long and complicated surgery, but I still buy her the best food I can afford, give her immune boosters, give her vitamins, probiotic, and keep her environment as clean as possible so that her wrecked immune system doesn't have to work as hard, but still has chance to grow.
The vet, who usually prefer to avoid antibiotics, told me that since her condition was so bad, she will make an exception and prescribe me some strong antibiotics.
I tucked it away, and continue giving my best. Mama Cat has been through so many things and she survives until today, it means her regeneration ability is at least above average. I believe in her. I know she will survive, so I listen to my heart and tucked the prescription away.
Two month later she heals completely without antibiotics.
She has normal belly, she has a good appetite, she is never sick, and definitely look like a cat.
It was Mama Cat herself who asked to go to the backyard, although I give her the privilege to stay inside the house, and she walked into the Syndicate like a true conqueror. She has no problem smacking even the biggest mobster cat on the face if they are snooping on her too much, and soon the other cats learn to avoid her for the love of their lives.
She walks like nothing happened, she lives like nothing happened. In fact, it seems like she gladly embrace her second chance in life and enjoy it to the fullest.
To go through all sort of those bad things and still keep on going is inspiring.
Every time I passed that clinic, my spirit is renewed. If Mama Cat can do it, I can do it. Whatever hell life throws at me, I will just keep trying. I have a mentor now, and though her shape does not convey her wisdom, I am happy to follow her lead.
Who knows, maybe she was once one of those three wise men, led by Christmas star to guide a spoiled brat like me to grow up and keep moving.
PS. Mama Cat is looking for a sponsor. If you find it in your heart to celebrate her second chance in life with her, you can click: Sponsor Mama Cat. It's only USD 10 per month.