Close to two years under siege in these endless lockdowns, I decided that I had enough.
I had to throw away a cardboard cat house Sheilla made after its resident kitten died of Panleukopenia, two days after I brought him home.
A girl from the slum nearby ran off and dragged her mother along, asking her to ask me if she can have the house.
In shortage of clear mind, I told her I would make her a new cat house if she would give me time and come back the next day.
When she came the next day, I only have my two hands and hopefully good enough memories of how Sheilla made all our cat houses.
I took her board cutter and started working; while more of her friends came to watch over time. Though these girls come by often to buy cat food and chat, it’s becoming more uncomfortable; I am not quite a people person, but the sooner I finish the labor, the sooner I can return to my comfort zone.
As I keep going, I learned that they had found a stray mother cat who gave birth in one of the girls’ front yards, and they had meant to take that thrown away cat house for the mother. I learned that they have been taking turns using their pocket money to buy food for the mother. When no one has enough, they put together a bit of what they have and buy food together.
Kids are too noisy for me most of the time, but those are the reasons I always open my door whenever they dropped by, no matter how busy or how tired I am. These girls draw courage from I don’t know where, picked up street kittens they found on the street, and see me ask what best to do. They don’t have much, and most of the time, the cats just ended up roaming on the streets around their houses, but they care for them as much as they can, and that’s a lot better than following the example of their ignorant parents whohave done nothing in the face of animal suffering.
Every once in a while, one of their parents can do nothing but comply when their children drag them to my place and ask them to buy cat snacks, food, or medicine. Every time it happened, I’d ask the parents to help their kids become the better generation, give them my number, and ask them to call me when the cat is ready for spay or neuter.
With one last breath, however, I showed them the house, asked them if they want an extra window (they said, “No, because it’s cold at night”), and ask them if they are willing to pose for a picture with their new cat house.
Kids are too noisy for me most of the time, but just that time, I found the peace I have lost somewhere during the strenuous lockdown. Just that time, I found hope knowing that, when I am gone, there will be others who take care of the animals.
They treated the cat house like treasure. The quiet and empty street suddenly turned merry and bright with their cheers and goodbyes and thank-yous.
Back alone, cleaning up, I heard my door opened.
The youngest girl, the one with curly hair in the red shirt, stood alone.
I thought I’d ask her if she needed something else, but she beat me into it.
“Big sister, thank you for the cat house. May God bless you abundantly, and may lots of people come and buy from your shop”
Then she closed the door behind her to catch up with her friends.
~ Josie T Liem
These girls (and boys) do not have much. Most of the time they only have enough to buy one pouch of cat food (the cheapest one is 50 cents for a saucer of wet food), but they happily share with the many street cats roaming around their slums.
I don’t have much. Most of the time I have to beg for donations before I have enough to buy cat food for the sanctuary residence. Unlike US, or England, or Europe, my government does not hand out cheques to put us into lockdown. We have to figure out our own survival, which is why many of us, including me, choose to keep working, or we won’t stay alive.
Though I have such a wonderful time with these kids, it breaks my heart because I, an animal rescuer, cannot help them more than making them cat houses.
If you can, please help me help them care for stray, neglected, abused, sick cats on the streets.