Threading Through The Red Sea Part 2: The Fantastic Four

Easter in pagan perspective has been associated with spring: a month full of heavenly showers that brings earth back to life from its deep sleep in winter.

In Indonesia, a tropical country right on top of equator, Easter will mark the shift from rainy season (October – March) that pours rain every day, to dry season (April – September) that never rains.

Bandung, however, is a little bit different.

Geographically speaking, Bandung is located in an ancient crater that was once a Jurassic lake between three giant volcanoes. This will mean water does not evaporate that fast, and it makes this town damp all day long. For people who lived in 4 season countries, Bandung will be in eternal spring.

Demographically speaking, Bandung is a small town, with lower level of education, slower economic growth, and as result, prehistoric attitude. Bandung’s state of mentality is like USA or Europe at the start of 20th century. If that doesn’t seems too far behind, we are now in the first quarter of the 21st.

But what is heaven for humans, is hell for the animals. The endless showers, the dampness, the constant cold is a killer combination for cats, especially those who doesn’t have a roof to hide from the rain, ones who can’t find a warm attic to run from the cold temperature, and for all that roam on the merciless streets in the breeder capital of Indonesia, where approximately one thousand of unwanted animals were dumped in landfills and abandoned in traditional markets, cemeteries, and the streets to fend off for themselves.

May I remind everyone once more that Indonesia doesn’t have animal welfare law?

Enough for the academic lecture, because what I saw year after year as a rescue in Bandung is no more than feral (automatic) genocide. Bandung is in perpetual kitty season, and every month of two my house will be flooded with sick and hopeless kittens, or weak and helpless seniors.

Due to limited space that I have (again) I have to choose which one is coming with me, and which one has to live communally in abandoned lots or cemeteries, with rations of food that I regularly distribute. Whiskers’ Syndicate does not have volunteers, we do not have people, much less communities like those boasted by the “sanctuary” or “shelter” or “rescue” organization over the internet in USA or Europe, or wherever. Whiskers’ Syndicate is a tiny, rented studio filled with hopeless cats (and occasionally dogs – horses goes somewhere else) undergoing their green mile while they are queuing to climb the rainbow bridge. I am the only man power behind the “rescue” though for long, I consider myself a competitor of the animals’ undertaker who tries to give them comfortable last mile in life.

One of the most common undertaker that I encounter is called Feline Calicivirus, which is:

virus of the family Caliciviridae that causes disease in cats. It is one of the two important viral causes of respiratory infection in cats, the other being feline herpesvirus. can cause a rapid epidemic, with a mortality rate of up to 67%. Initial symptoms include discharge from the eyes and nose, ulceration in the mouth, anorexia, and lethargy, and occur in the first one to five days. Later symptoms include fever, edema of the limbs and face, jaundice, and multiple organ dysfunction syndrome.

Diagnosis of FCV is difficult without specific tests, because the symptoms are similar to other feline respiratory diseases.

It has a beautiful nickname too around vets: Calici. It sounds more like the name of a pretty woman than a microscopic grim reaper don’t you think?

Let me translate to English: cats infected with Calici will not develop severesymptoms. It will start with sneezing and watery eyes. They they will grow ulcers on their tongue, which grows in number and the sneezing will block their ability to smell food. When this happened, the cat will lose their ability to eat (naturally because it is painful to chew or swallow). Since they aren’t eating, they got dehydrated, and finally, meeting death in a slow process in which their body will convulse for hours, depending on their physical strength, as they scream in pain due to the endless spasms until their last breaths.

Kittens without adequate motherly nutrition is better in this case, because death come quicker, and therefore, less painful.

Calici has a very simple body structure, so they are easy to duplicate. It can disperse through air, water, even simple touch, which is why it is highly epidemic in cats, because they groom each other, the sniff each other, and often share food and water bowls.

This is our version.

Easter week this year started with Sue and Tykes, whose stories I shared in another post. Tykes had moved on sooner, but Sue lived on for another month when I brought Spring home.

I met Spring near a monumental park, five minutes bike ride from my rent. She was sitting helplessly by a deep gutter under torrential rain, because some maniac put mud on her eyes and cut all of her whiskers.  I think I don’t have to explain why people done that.  Some do it to pass their already useless time, and because it’s “cute” (yeah? in which part?).

As soon as I dried Spring up and lay her down in a warm pillow at home, I set out to buy some medicine, and on my way home, was almost made stumbled when a rabbit jumped across the street under the heavy rain.

Or I thought it was a rabbit. The white fluff shiver under some neighbor’s doorstep and I don’t have a heart to just pass, because whomever rabbit it is, it must be cold and scared. So I pull aside and bent down, and met Tutti Cutie in the eye.

Now scroll the screen back up, and look at those round, hopeless eyes, and you will see why I can’t turn him down.

So I come home with medicine, and another soaked up kitten.

Two days later I saw Sue stared outside through the gap of the fence for the whole hour and when I peeked out of curiosity, I found Patch, not much better from the other kittens: shivering, sneezing, and starving.

With that condition I was bound to have a showdown with pretty Calici again and so I geared myself up, just enough when Sue started to refuse her food, and grow a white speckle on her lips. The grim reaper is coming.

Handling Calici is generally symptomatic. For those who really love and care (and pay attention) to their cat(s) it’s not that hard, as long as you keep an eye on your kitten and detect it on the first symptom appearance, be it lethargy, or mouth ulcer, continuous sneezing, or even food refusal. Keep your kitten warm all the time, continue to rehydrate her, never stop the antibiotics, extra dose of vitamins and immune boosters, and if he or she can hold on over a week or until his/her sinuses dried up, there are good chances that they are going to make it.

However, that also means you will have to monitor your cat practically 24/7. My rescue years had given me a solid training in giving intra venous re-hydration so that I can handle the initial stage without having to go back and forth with a sick cat and expose them to the elements and instead, keep them in the warmth of their isolation basket. I made myself a night lamp with 15 Watts bulb to keep the kittens warmer, and if necessary, add a bottle of warm water inside their cage.

The challenge will escalate when they got into the next stage, because you will have to force feed them. None of them would want to eat because their tongue and lips are full with ulcers, hence it’s painful to even swallow. In some cases, they can have cramps on their jaws that they can’t open their mouth at all.  I am sure you know how much patience and skill is needed to tube feed a sick cat.

If nothing can go in, you will have to leave your cat at the vet’s because he/she will need iv, which is yet another challenge.

Working with feverish cats means they will be trashing around due to the uncomfortable heat and pain in their muscle, and if you cannot keep them calm and still, the iv needle can’t go in, much less help them.

Sometimes, instead of appreciating what you are trying to do to save their lives, cats in pain will bite you.

So here comes my dire warning: if you are not tough enough to master your temper, don’t touch your sick cat. Bring them to the vet, and let them handle it, with the risk of ripping your wallet or draining your pet insurance. Trust me, it is still better than killing your beloved pet with your own hand in a fist of anger.

Handling Calici, in short, require patience, and high quality care. Your cat will need your totality, and if one cat need you that much, I have eight.

It is impossible to hold three side jobs in a week and still spend sufficient time to attend the sick properly, So I took my leap of faith, and gave up all my side job. I left our food solely to the strength of my salary, and a lot of prayers that one of God’s angel, or God Himself, will drop His wallet somewhere around my account.

Luckily, He did. Otherwise I would have been hitting the headlines when my starved body, along with twenty cats, were found inside a small rent in a beautiful resort city of Bandung. He sent a few of His angels to drop extra money so I can buy cat food and stock up on rapidly-decreasing medical stock.

And then, there is some quote saying that you a ray of light, no matter how small, is the brightest when you are in the darkness. Of all eight, four shone out brightly.

Fantastic Four 1
From left to right: Sue, Spring, Tutti Cutie, Patch

While other kittens come and go like the swift breeze, these four: Sue, Spring, Tutti Cutie (spell it like you want to spell Tutti Frutti ice cream) and Patch fought harder. They do not refuse their iv, they embrace the warm bottle, they stay still when the iv needle puncture their emaciated body, and they tried their hardest to eat, though only one lick and leave everything else to the tube.

Sue fought a good ten days before she gave up and went over the bridge on Holy Thursday, just when I read the bible on Last Supper as my atonement for not being able to attend mass. Early in Good Friday, Spring moved over, and in the evening my Tutti Cutie call it quits on my laps. She is the youngest of the four, and the only one to develop jaundice.

Patch went on in early Saturday.

I hate myself for losing, but one of the two vets to whom I am a regular warned me that Calici is not every cat’s fight. Here in Indonesia, in damp, damned Bandung, Calici is certain death. For those orphaned cats who has no guarantee of immune system to hold on over a week are magnificent, and I should never forget that I still have another four that I need to defend. Not to mention the other twenty that I manage to keep healthy.

My brother’s text is even more cruel. Here is a copy paste:

Not everyone can stay. Noah’s ark can only hold a pair of each animals, and you’ve only got two hands. You’ve got four more to fight with, so better keep that chin up and those eyes open rather than crumbling for the dead.

It is the most cruel comment, but probably the truest.

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Josie And The Whiskers' Syndicate

The first and only cat refuge in Bandung (West Java - Indonesia) a capital breeder of a nation without animal welfare law. We care for Bandung's unwanted animals, operate a TNR as much as our budget allows, and continue to educate people about compassion to animals

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