Another Animal Rescue Story
Feisty the Cat Said Hold Your Ground
Feisty is not sure what I am doing here
If Jungo is not my dog, as I wrote in my first story, then Feisty is definitely my cat. She was the first one we got some months after arrival. I was sure right away that she was a bad choice.
After we came back to Phuket in October of 2020 my then seven-year-old chimed in a rising chorus about her desire to adopt a kitten or puppy. Both me and my husband were okay with this idea we’d had an older cat Mojo but she had been taken back by a friend. We had no pets around at the time, unbelievable as that is to me now.
We had just come back from a pet shop in Thalang that had been closed. Maybe it was over Covid, or perhaps it was their day of the week off. My daughter was disappointed by this. I knew that there were plenty of kittens and puppies in Thailand so it would only be a matter of time before we found the right fit. As we passed a chicken stand about one kilometer from our bungalow, two tiny kittens scurried out from under the metal rack at the bottom. My daughter near screamed for us to stop the motorbike.
“I want to see those kittens!” She exclaimed. “Maybe they’ll let us have one!”
I was a little hungry and didn’t mind buying some chicken from the stand. My daughter was fascinated by the kittens she had seen, of course, but it became obvious immediately that they were feral cats. Their eyes were wary as they ran under some boxes in a store room. I saw a tortoiseshell mama cat hide under something too as my daughter tried to catch the kittens.
The kittens were about 6 ½ weeks old. “They’re too old, Eliza.” I tried to explain to my seven-year-old. Most feral kittens above the age of five weeks never really domesticate. They’ll warily take food and sometimes will accept help if they are injured, say. But they never turn into purring cuddling cats that will sleep in bed with you. That was my experience growing up, anyways, when I’d been considered something of a cat expert and friends would sometimes bring me injured, abandoned or captured kittens. The feral ones scurried out of the house as fast as they found an opening.
“But I want a kitten! Can I have one?” My daughter questioned to the husband/wife team at the stand. Their private house was just behind the fried chicken stand at the side of the road. We’d talked to them before as we often went into Ba lek’s local sundry shop next door.
The shopkeeper looked at the two wary kittens. “Mai owww.” He said dismissively of the cats, meaning that he didn’t want them. His wife ushered us to chairs as the husband found a cardboard box to trap the little kittens in. He left out food, but the little furbags were very untrusting. My husband wanted a beer next door while we waited. They had a daughter close to my daughter’s age so she had a friend to play with.
Perhaps an hour later they were able to catch one of the kittens. As they tied the cardboard box up the little black tabby ball of fur clawed its way out and shot off like a bolt back into the shop. This was not going to work at all. Despite that the wife had caught the second kitten by then, a little tortoiseshell with markings near identical to its mother. My husband tried to tie the box very thoroughly and the wife brought a rice bag, perhaps realizing that a cardboard box wasn’t going to work. The kitten was fighting its way out of the box and bit my husband’s thumb as he tried to put it on our motorbike.
“He bite me!” He exclaimed as I tried to grab the cat before she could get away. The little hissing ball of spit sunk her teeth into my thumb next, breaking skin. But I was able to grab the scruff of her neck and put her in the rice bag.
“Jesus Christ is she a Feisty one!” I exclaimed. That is where the cat got her name. I could assume that the kitten was female, because she was a tortoiseshell with orange and black markings. When I was a teenager a country veterinarian who I had procured some kitten formula and feeding tubes from had explained to me why orange and black cats were female. She told me that the gene for the color black in cats was contained on one X chromosome while the gene for the color orange was carried on a separate X chromosome. Therefore, all calicos (orange, black and white) and tortoiseshells (orange and black) cats contain two XX chromosomes, so by default are female. Some very rare male cats of this sort most likely have an XXY chromosome. It’s amazing that things like this aren’t taught in school anymore, perhaps owing to the 57 genders some claim we have and how inconvenient these chromosomal realities are to those types.
My husband tied the top of the rice bag and we headed to our bungalow. I could hear the kitten hissing and spitting inside the bag as I drove. “This cat is going to hate us!” I exclaimed. “I need to warn you that there’s a very good chance this kitten will run away. It’s too old to become real friendly with people. I mean where are you going to put it?” I asked my daughter. We could keep it in the bungalow but we had openings in the high rafters to the outside. I was thinking this dedicated Feisty cat would just shoot off into our neighborhood blindly and I felt sorry for the poor thing for taking it from its mother. They had a fried chicken stand the kitten would have been fed.
“I’ll put it under the mosquito net on the bed!” My seven-year-old daughter exclaimed. “Maybe I can feed it and play with it and it will calm down.” My daughter set up the mosquito net as a makeshift cage on our bed. The hissing ball of fur tried to run through it but got tangled in the link fabric. My daughter tried to hold it for an hour. The kitten had calmed down, but still didn’t like the arrangement.
Eliza tried to feed the kitten a bit of bologna from the refrigerator. I was realizing then that I had no cat food, no litterbox, and no supplies. Feisty, who I had named on the spot when she bit me, was too wary to eat. My daughter grew bored with the kitten after her friend from next door came over and they started playing outside. Then the kitten, still stuck under the mosquito net, pooped on our bed. It had nowhere else to go. My husband was not happy.
“Take out!” He said as he opened the mosquito net and threw the kitten out front. I tried to grab Feisty but she darted under our car. I bought some canned cat food at a nearby shop and was happy to see the kitten was still under our car when I returned. I fed the tortoiseshell and she ate warily. Maybe this would work out.
The kitten stayed outside and didn’t run away, but Feisty was wary of people and my daughter lost interest within a few days. I decided it would be good to have a new cat around if only for the mouse and rat hunting. A few days later my husband’s brother had some friends over one night. At around midnight I heard what I was sure was our new kitten wailing mournfully from somewhere outside. I looked for Feisty with the flashlight on my cellphone, but couldn’t find her in the bushes. Had the kitten gotten caught in something or perhaps been attacked by a snake or other animal?
I was able to find the little thing in the morning light. The kitten had stopped meowing and I worried that she was dead. We had a rainwater collection black plastic trashcan on the side of the bungalow. Feisty was in the trashcan, with water up to her neck, shivering visibly at the bottom of it. I could see little white claw marks on the inside of the plastic but she had no way of jumping high enough to get out or of clawing her way out of it. The cat was extraordinarily lucky as we had gone through a long period without rain and there was very little water in the reservoir compared to normal times. She’d have died from exhaustion if she’d been forced to swim around for 7 hours or so.
Perhaps one of the friends had cruelly thrown the kitten into the reservoir, but I doubted it. There was a large tree stump next to the can that the kitten could easily have clawed her way up to. Perhaps she had been thirsty and fallen into it with no way to get out. I had left a water bowl out for her but my husband had dumped it and cleaned it with other dishes. It was the dry season.
I retrieved the shivering mess of fur and found a towel to wrap her in. Feisty was still shivering 30 minutes later. I have no idea how long the kitten could have survived in 75-degree water up to her neck, but google claims unconsciousness and exhaustion will set in within 3-10 hours in humans in that temperature range. Feisty was not feisty at all that morning. My daughter held the still shivering kitten for another hour as she played on her smartphone. By the time the kitten started grooming herself on my lap, she was officially domesticated. I guess the cat figured that we were trying to save her.
Feisty liked to curl up by my feet purring after that, but the kitten had less patience with my daughter’s 7-year-old antics. Sometimes she liked carrying the cat in her hands to shops and friends nearby and forced the little thing to climb up trees. The kitten became my cat after our neighbor died and their house became vacated. Her husband had died four months before that and the family believed after two deaths in such a short time that the house was haunted. Everything was moved out. They left three four week old kittens and their calico mother in front of the abandoned house next door. Soon I learned that the neighbor had been feeding a few other feral cats in the area. Within four weeks I went from having no pets to inheriting four chickens and six cats from next door.
My daughter liked the male white kitten with a large black spot on his back and a little Hitler mustache, who she named Sprout. He had a much better temperament for my 7-year-old, as he was an easygoing ragdoll type cat who flopped around and didn’t mind a little abuse from a playful child.
Feisty and Sprout on my daughter’s bed
Feisty had two other near-death experiences in the spring. In one case my husband threw a bottle which hit the kitten on the head, setting her into seizures. He performed mouth to mouth on the kitten, who was unstable for a few hours but rebounded quickly. In the other case my husband insisted that we needed to go to Muang Mai market.
“It’s only noon.” I said dismissively of his suggestion. “Muang Mai market doesn’t open until 3 PM or so. Wait a few hours.”
“No I want to go now.” My husband said as he opened the car door. I rolled my eyes and tried to argue with him, but I was getting nowhere. Our motorbike had been out so we were driving the car everywhere. The night before Ka had rolled up the windows on it after we came back from somewhere as he was worried about it raining overnight. It had not rained. It was a hot day and the sun was emerging above the coconut tree shadows and was shining brightly on the car.
The car was hot inside and I waited for my daughter, leaving the car door wide open as it was so hot in there. Just as she sat in the back seat I heard a plaintive meow.
Was there a cat in the car? I hadn’t noticed Feisty in the morning but now that I was feeding a lot of cats I didn’t pay as close of attention. My daughter was able to find a very weak and disoriented Feisty kitten well hidden under the driver’s seat. She was falling over on trying to walk. Once she was out in the open I was able to get the kitten to drink water. She rebounded within several minutes.
I had to contemplate how horrific and sad of a death it would have been for the cat had my husband not insisted on going to the market three hours before they really opened. Feisty would have run out of air and perhaps died of heat exhaustion under the seat. She was very close to that point when he opened the car door, as the kitten did not even meow until three or four minutes later. With the noonday sun already beating down on the black car the interior was getting hotter by the minute. She would have been dead within an hour tops. We probably wouldn’t have made the grisly discovery of her body until we started noticing a terrible smell in the car days later.
Perhaps my husband had seen the kitten in the car the night before when he had rolled up the windows. He said that he did not. Maybe he just had a good sense of her.
As the Spring of 2021 wore on I made plans to get out of Thailand. I was working on my husband’s visa and seemed to be making fast progress. The Embassy was returning emails only a few days later. Everything had completely stopped in 2020. Once the Covid “vaccines” rolled out, cases and deaths in Thailand skyrocketed. The government answer to this was to increase restrictions. The world looked dark and dystopian. I was sure that they were going to enter the stick phase of vaccine mandates. Many friends told me I needed to get out of Thailand while I still could without having to get a conjab.
I was worried about what to do with the animals in such a move. By that point we had two dogs, who I had originally planned on bringing back to America. But then the CDC banned dogs from Thailand and 170 other countries from coming to the USA. I thought with Daisy still being a puppy that she would be adoptable from Soi Dog, so I thought I would drop her off there if no other option presented itself. I worried about Cooper but thought perhaps he would be okay in front of the high school near where he came from.
I knew that I was going to simply leave the feral and semi feral cats next door where they were. Another neighbor sometimes fed them too. They were not friendly enough to be adopted and forcing them into a cage so they could be euthanized by an animal rescue place was not something that I suspected that the cats would vote for. They would have to fend for themselves, but we were able to adopt out Sprout’s two sibling kittens.
The chickens were easy, as chickens provide both meat and eggs. Anyone in our neighborhood would take them on for free and we might even be able to sell the flock. There were about 10 of them by that point.
All that left for us to worry about were the cats Feisty and Sprout. My daughter insisted that Sprout needed to come back to Las Vegas. We had three cats there already counting my mother’s two.
After prodding from both my husband and daughter I made the decision in June of 2021 to leave my cat Feisty in front of the same fried chicken stand where we had originally gotten her from. I figured the kitten would know the area and would be fed and tolerated. Now that she was pretty friendly with humans I even had hope that the cat would be adopted by someone. It was a hard choice but I wasn’t sure what to do with Feisty.
My dreams were terrible around that time. I had multiple nightmares of airplanes crashing and one or two dreams where I arrived in America and realized on landing that I had made a huge mistake. I told everyone that this concerned me deeply, but I was still trying to make arrangements for getting out of Thailand. I was warning my husband that if process on his visa stopped again, I might have to go without him. He put on a strong front for this, but with the encircling madness I had a strong feeling that if I left him I would never see him again.
I woke up at 3:00 AM one night after a disturbing dream in which I was in an airplane that was upside down and crashing. We had thrown Feisty back to the chicken stand about four days before. I walked into my daughter’s room to check my cell phone when I heard a familiar plaintive meow.
Feisty emerged and rubbed against my ankle. She’d lost weight and I was sure that the cat was very hungry. The chicken stand was a little over one kilometer from our bungalow. It wasn’t an insurmountable distance, but I hadn’t expected to see the cat back at our house again. She’d found her way home.
I patted her as I found some dried cat food and sighed. “What am I going to do with you Feisty?” The kitten didn’t hate us anymore, apparently. The cat chomped down on the food gratefully.
Feisty seemed to be psychic. All progress on my husband’s visa stopped around that time. The US Embassy stopped answering emails again, because of Covid shutdowns. Soi Dog was closed to outsiders again, because of Covid shutdowns. Everything was frozen in place. I knew well that when they reopened there would be mandates. Hatred was ramping up worldwide and there was nowhere to turn.
The encroaching totalitarianism was global. I needed to shelter in place and make a stand where I was.