Dr. Jekyll, Ms. Hyde

Simply put, I screwed up, and worse than anything else, I drag one of my precious rescue with me.

At least, it is what I feel about Martha.

A few weeks ago I brought two kittens: Chicco and Mio for a check up at the vet clinic, only to be tangled in one of their very many emergency. It’s an old, new story: I open one of the empty cages, throw Chicco and Mio inside, and get my hand dirty.

I peeked on the two kittens from time to time, and they seems to mind their own business. They eat the food inside the cage,they went into a small box inside the cage and roll all over, and they pat each other’s cheek; so in a glimpse I knew they were OK and I too, go back to my own business.

When it’s finally my turn, I just go back to the cage and found out that Chicco and Mio were not alone. They were poking around with a tiny Tortoiseshell kitten, who is so small she was drowned inside the small box there.

“Hey, where’s this Tortie came from?”

Stupid question. Since no one went near the cage, it suppose to be logical to think that the tiny kitty was there to begin with and I overlook her when I just throw my two kittens inside.

One of the vet came closer and tell me story about how the janitor found a small kitten inside a box right under the door the morning before. The janitor had thought someone was throwing away a box full of newspaper shreds and was about to throw it away to the fire, when he found out hat there’s a small cat in there giving him eyeballs.

OK, so I am not the only one who missed the catling.

The story became interesting when the vet continue with “She comes with a love letter”

I raise one of the tips of my lips.

The vet continue and said that the love letter was attached to the kitten, and demands that the kitten be well cared for and given good food.

I scratched my head. Whoever throw the kitten must have been a fan of Moses, though fortunately they are smart enough not to have the box drifted in the river, or being thrown away from speeding car.

The end of the story is, when we are done with Chicco and Mio, the ever eyeball-ing (I swear her eyes are huge, and she can stare at you forever) tortie-la chip came home with me.

Or rather Godzilla, if only I knew.

I call her Martha (from “Martopo Veterinary Clinic”) and she came with a quirk: she has very short attention span.

And what I mean “very short” is very short. VERY short. She was a bottle kitten but when I tried to feed her with syringe, she will jerk away and claw my hand after a few drops, running in circle around the living room, and come back to me 10 laps later. Another few drops and she dashed into the kitchen, crashed onto one of the cabinets, and came back to me scrambling to cope with her dizziness (I guessed)

Honestly I thought she was just showing off her Tortie-tude, and that includes when she cross the speed limit, dove into her milk bowl head first and ended up looking like a Santa Clauws.

martha milk

I thought it’s her way of saying she had enough, but she chased me with a lot of grumble when I took her bowl to the sink.

martha milk walk

Then her cute antics become annoying. Sometimes she is as sweet as caramel and sugar (look at her colour!) a second later she is as fiery as hell flame (again, look at her colour). We were having fun giving her milk and all of a sudden she will bite my hand and claw it to shreds., then go away and amuse herself with toys. When I was bewildered at what I might do wrong she will come to me and give me head bonks and purring “I love you” out loud.

One time she walks around leisurely like Pretty Woman and all of a sudden she will growl and lunged at a sleeping cat (who of course, either run away in fear or growl back and give her some beating)

At another time she allow me to pick her up and cradle her in my arms, and a few minutes later she suddenly bite me very hard and jump off my arms though she lands on the floor belly first. Then she will do her usual laps and won’t stop until she crashes onto some wall.

As days passed Martha grow away from a cute kitty to a diabolic annoying kitten. She continue to shift from her light, sweet personality, to her dark, diabolic personality more often, as if she is truly living out Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the cat way.

I won’t join the two face game and herewith made a public statement that I lost my patience handling Martha, especially when she ask for food and when I give her some, plunge into the bowl, step all over it, dash somewhere else and leave the floor dirty. I tried to be patient and think that she might want some other food, so I gave her her favourite Fancy Feast only to see her lick once or twice, bite a teeeny tiny bit, kick the bowl upside down and hide under the fridge as I practice my anger management techniques.

And the more I angry, the more she acted up. My love for her dissipates in a speed of light as my hatred blew up like Hiroshima.

No matter how angry I am, however, when the night come, she always darts into my room and keep herself busy destroying it as I work, stopping only when I either lost my mind or too exhausted to care for whatever she wrecked and flop onto the bed.

Then she will creep under the blanket and sleep beside me, sometimes on top of me. Even at certain days when I completely ignore her, or put her down on the mat to sleep alone, she will climb back onto the bed and find her true love in my stomach.

On certain days, however, I succumbed to my curiosity and snap some pictures to find out how a sleeping cat with tortie-tude will look like.

      Can I be angry to something that looks like this?

Watching her sleep quench the fire inside me. A storm by day, Martha is just an ordinary, cuteness overdose kitten when she sleeps.

The only thing I can genuinely appreciate about Martha is that she is a fast learner. She weans herself off KMR early, and she even show the right way to do it by pushing an older, bigger cat off its bowl and take over all the kibbles.

Still, I should have known at that time that something is wrong with this kid, but that time, my attention was taken by Mama Cat and later on, Bobtail.

My journey with Mama Cat alone drains me, even for days after she passed away. The long fight that I have put up for her for the whole week leave me with nothing left in my mind but tears. I know I need to dust myself up and continue walking. I prayed for all my friends who lost a pet that week that they be given strength to move forward. It’s just embarrassing that I myself was unable to pick myself up and move forward, although I pray for it.

During that time Bobtail was still delicate. He had a bad self concept and literally lost his trust to human due to his experience, so I try to be as calm and steady as possible not to resonate bad vibes that might make him more anxious.

The whole week when I was busy with Mama Cat and Bobtail, Martha is completely forsaken. I just let her destroy anything she likes and when I need to go to the clinic, I’ll just leave her with a bowl of Fancy Feast, heck if she wants to eat it or mess with it. I am often too tired and stirred up (emotionally) when I arrive home from the clinic down town so no matter how savage Martha became toward me, I just brush her off and put her on autopilot.

She is back to my attention when I heard her breath grunting like a pig. Martha caught cold, and unless I move faster than her dashes, we’re going to have that nasty endemic bacteria again.

So I went back down town with her and while I met the vet, I give her the payment for Mama Cat. The fund raiser missed the target by USD 90, but I have to pay none the less, so I gave what I have.

The vets refused the money.

Because the surgery is not completed they decided to waive the fee, so I only need to pay for Bobtail. They also told me that they know I was trying to safe a street cat, and as fellow cat lovers it is their way to share the load.

When I wait for Martha finishing her nebulizer at the clinic, I praise the Lord that what came at first as a lack of fund, now become a surplus.

I was wondering what I should do with all the money we raise, and with careful consideration and advice from the vets, I decided to use the spare money to buy a nebulizer.

Tissor side
Our new nebulizer.

A nebulizer (or nebuliser) is a drug delivery device used to administer medication in the form of a mist inhaled into the lungs. Though it has been used widely by veterinarian and pet parents in the more advanced part of the world, it is only recently that the inhalation treatment been introduced to Indonesia to help cats with respiratory troubles who otherwise can only rely on conventional pills and injection (that adds the misery to the suffocating animal). With thorough training and information, a nebulizer is a quick and safe solution to nasal blockage. There will be another monsoon (that sent us back to rainy season) in October, and the street cats natural genocide will start over again. A nebulizer will help me safe the life of more cats in less time, or in severe cases will help me buy some time until I can go all the way down town to get vet service.

At that time Martha already lose a lot of weight. She has not been eating properly (and instead mess her food no matter what I put inside). It doesn’t help that she has nasal blockage so she cannot smell her food, which in turn make her stop eating. She was dehydrated and her outlook is not looking any better.

I know what will come if I keep my autopilot. I am still burned out and it takes time until I am back fighting again, but Martha’s life depending on correct timing, so I re-ignites my engine. Every morning I give Martha her sub-q fluid, and in the afternoon, 20 minutes of Nebulizer.  At that time I can’t be more glad that we now have a nebulizer, that hopefully will help her calm down and handles her nasal blockage, courtesy of the donations from our supporters.

Unfortunately, her switching personality made it difficult to feed her with syringe. Martha can jump onto my face any second, and it can be fatal if she decided to do it with the syringe in her mouth. The sub-q is just as testing. She can’t stay put long enough that the both of us take turn to bleed because she pounced endlessly as I tried to insert the needle.

Then the riot ensues when it’s time for her nebulizer. I know it’s impossible to hold her and made her breathe through a mask, so I put her in a crate, wrap the crate in linen, pluck the mouthpiece into the crate and turn it on. I hope the darkness will help her calm down, but instead she yells and trash around like crazy. The more I tried to calm her down, the more mad she become.

It was then when I stumble upon a paediatric forum that said that it is all right if babies cry or move around when they have nasal blockage (as long as they are under supervision) because the more they cry, the more they move, the more they breathe.

So the next day I lined the inside of the crate with towel, brace myself, put Martha inside, cover the crate with linen, and turn on the nebulizer for twenty minutes. It feels like forever. Like I predict she trashes around and yelling until her voice sore, but I am less worried because the towel inside will prevent her from getting hurt. I keep calling her name and ask her to calm down, but I am less panic because I know all those chaos inside that crate means she breathe a lot. 

On the day she is on a good personality, she stays calm and quiet inside the crate and the nebulizer session was less stressful, but I found out later that she is quiet because she chew the mouthpiece all the way.

Well, at least that will also mean she breathe her medicine straight from the source, and the chewing gave me a great insight of her actual mental condition. Now I know that Martha is not crazy. She just freaked out.

Martha is always exhausted when she came out of the crate, due to all the rioting, but her nose is very pink, and she breathe normally (which means the medication is working). Taking that chance, I usually give her a strong smelled food, and she starts eating, though still while running around.

One day I wondered out loud, asking her what is so good about eating while running, and I see it in her eyes that she is as disturbed as I do, having to do that. I came to realize that something might be wrong with her nerves and she probably doesn’t have control over what she is doing. 

But we do not have an animal psychologist here, and the vets doesn’t have any experience with it either, so we are on our own.

Putting what I learn during my four years in university, I talk to her whenever she is inside the nebulizer crate. I read the journals aloud or humming cheerful songs so she knows that I am around and am not angry, and it made her calmer.

It really kill me reading that almost all of the articles and journals that I read recommend euthanasia as a humane solution to save the cat from her “suffering”. Here I am trying to drag myself to continue living while coping with the loss of Mama Cat, and all those expert told me to kill another cat because she is annoying. While Martha is clearly neurotic she doesn’t seems to suffer. Martha is disturbed by herself, but she doesn’t lost her mind completely. If Martha really lost herself, she wouldn’t be creeping into my blanket and sleeo on my tummy. If Martha is insane she will not know that I am angry about the food she spoiled and hide under the fridge.

All those means to me that Martha is still sane and therefore, she deserved her birth right to be happy, to be safe, to be full, and grow old and have fun. Martha believes in me, so now it’s my turn to return her faith.

Besides, I don’t think God put her in my path to be euthanized. 

Now that I have better knowledge on what might be going on inside her small head, I can plan better. 

Whenever Martha is in the nebulizer, I talk to her about my hopes. I told her that I don’t mind keeping her as she is, and I make sure I tell her that I love her, over and over and over. I know that Martha cannot speak human language, but I know she can understand me. 

When it’s meal time, I get her into the same crate with her food, put the crate her in the middle of the other cats and stand by her side. At first she came trashing around again and have her food all over her, but after three days, she will eat calmly without diving into her bowl or dancing all over it. I can’t put her in the crate when I give her fluid, so I just put her on the table and tell her over and over that she is loved, she is wanted, and she is a great girl when she is calm and sitting quietly like now. She is still fidgety, and she pounced on me from time to time, but after three days now, she is less anxious and stay still longer.

Martha is still young. She is only four months old and have a long way to go. I am not sure if she will stop being neurotic, and if she is not, it is going to be a great challenge for the both of us. There will be, inevitably, times when we think we will ended it right there, there will be times when we yelled our lungs out and pull our hair to the root, but even so, I decided to embrace Martha as she is and join her in her rocky road to life. She might be born with a demon inside, but as much as she believes in my good side, I am going to believe in her good side.

Until the day we both beat our demons.

And all of this, all of this intriguing adventure, started with a donation that everyone help us get. I wish this story can convince all of you that in the lonely planet of Whiskers’ Syndicate, a little goes big way.

martha capuchon

In an ongoing effort to overcome my grief over the loss of Mama Cat, I forced myself to write another story, in the hope I can shift my focus into what currently need my attention. However, although  am finally able to finish it, I an not satisfied with the result. I feel like a different person,  and therefore, feel compelled to revise this post as best as I can.

I tried re-writing this post three times already, and they all feel foreign to me. Then I remember the advice of a friend that it is all right to have a different, personal writing style that differs from “professional blogger” and that it is all right if I put my raw feelings/emotions into my writing because it is the real, honest me (Thank you StellChen!)

Although this post has been completely re-arranged, all the same fact remains the same. There are more details, more feelings, more emotion, and of course, more me. I hope that’s all right.


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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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