Thursday, December 18, 2008

#7 I’ve gone and done it now…

I got myself hitched. He’s a real cutie. His name is Lempira. He’s about six weeks old, I’m guessing. He’s got a few fleas and a swollen belly likely full of round worms and, don’t worry, Dad, he’s a kitten…No…a real kitten. He’ll go to Brenda, one of the students at the school, when I leave in March. I am just trying to see him back to health and vigor, which includes keeping him away from homicidal toddlers.

It isn’t uncommon in India, Bangladesh, and many impoverished places, for younger children to attend school with their older siblings. The only difference here is that many of the older siblings show little to no interest in their toddler hermanitos. We don’t have volunteers or space for these guys but we aren’t about to turn them away from a reliable source of nutrition.

But I think we need to draw the line when the toddlers bring along their small, starving, dirty, flea-ridden kittens to play with. This was the second cat I had to watch be tormented by a homicidal toddler in the last two days. Homicidal seems a strong word for a three year old, doesn’t it? But this three year old was hurling the kitten to the ground with all the force he could muster, then picking it back up while it was still stunned and doing it again.

And, yes, this was while I was trying to teach geometry.

I know that I have limitations. I am one woman and cannot single handedly wipe out endemic poverty and its woes. But I could do something in this situation.

So I took the kitten away from the three year old. To him it was a cute ball of fur with no more rights or feelings than most people attribute to, say, a three year old. There isn’t any reasoning or explaining that can change a very limited mind. So, I stopped teaching geometry and took the role of the responsible adult…and ten minutes after I took it away, he seemed to have forgotten it completely and had started playing with a plastic bag over his head (which I also took away despite the urge to let nature run its course.)

The kitten stayed, quite happily, in a box on the table in the corner of the room. Anyone who approached it was threatened with no milk or lunch if they so much as touched the box. The kitten curled up and went to sleep. He awoke when I brought in a little of the milk mixture we give the kids, which I diluted with water and he gobbled down hungrily, then crawled onto my hand and fell asleep again.

It was the kitten version of a kidnap victim’s response. Food! Sleep!

So, I made up my mind that he wasn’t going back to the toddler. This child comes from the poorest family. They don’t have enough food for themselves. This little guy wouldn’t last but another two incredibly miserable weeks at the very most. After lunch I convinced the oldest child in the family (she’s six) that it was sick (and showed her the distended belly to prove it) and that there was no way they could care for it, so she gifted the kitten to Brenda, another girl of about ten or eleven. This I found acceptable, as Brenda seems in good health and, even better, sane mind. As I was leaving, Brenda ran up to me with the kitten and asked me to have it.

It is amazing how when you have nothing, it causes you to see value in nothing…or everything. The toddler’s sister couldn’t care less about the cat. It would likely die anyway. There would always be another amongst the limitless hungry, unsprayed and unneutered population. Brenda valued what the cat needed, that I could provide it, and what caring for the cat might mean to me. She and I had bonded over her great work in Geometry, and she wanted to show me how much I mean to her. I asked Brenda if she could take it when I have to go back to the US, by which time it will be bigger and healthier and won’t need so much constant care, and she said yes.

Crap. No more excuses. And how could I say no to those green eyes?

So, feeling a little bit like the Wicked Witch with Toto in the bike’s basket, Lempira and I came home to Ceiba. Together we learned online that he is indeed likely a he (it’s hard to tell at this age,) that he is likely about 6 weeks old (his baby teeth are almost all in but he is too small to be a full two months,) that most likely his belly is swollen due to roundworms (for which I am trying to find a treatment here,) and how we would go about litter box training, etc. At the store we found Kitten Chow, some yummy treats, Ivory Dish Soap, Combs, and a large plastic tray with sunflowers that will be serving as the litter box. Cats here are always outdoor cats. David says they just pee everywhere and hates them, but I am determined to succeed with the plastic tray and the fine silt that I collected at the side of the road.

Lempira has now eaten his fill (which took two platefuls of Kitten Chow.) He has had a bath (which he did not enjoy but which seems to have killed most of his fleas) and lots of cuddle time to warm back up from said bath. He has explored the room with gusto and discovered a feisty enemy in the form of my backpack. I can see that his fur and gait have already begun to improve a bit just from a bath and the sense of safety. I am laying on my bed, and he has curled up in the crook of my neck (he wants constant contact) and gone to sleep purring.

At least I will have succeeded in positively touching one life here…

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad that you have stepped in. This is a great opportunity to teach the that ALL life is precious (well, mostly - Darwinism was at work with the plastic bag). You may not have gotten through to the original toddler or sibling, but I think that seeing this little kitten grow big and strong will offer these children an insight into how they, too, have value in the world.