99: Fur people

This is a fur person. This fur person’s name is Enrico Caruso, in recognition of the mighty power of his pipes. He has a formidable voice, much like the opera singer whose moniker he bears. He is a veritable youngster at only seven weeks of age. He is charming, engaging, affectionate and rapidly becoming my favorite fur person of the eight we have adopted while here in Morocco.

I became acquainted with Caruso one Saturday morning when my husband and I were walking home through a residential section. It was cold – near freezing: low 40’s at best, with a wind blowing, and it was raining into the bargain. Nasty weather that made me grateful for my warm jacket, my gloves, and my fluffy head scarf, which protected my ears. Even protected, I still heard the meows. There was a kitty person in trouble.

I  could not see a kitty. Morocco residential streets are pretty bare. The houses come right up to the street pavement, with cold, metal doors giving entrance to the homes. Occasionally, there will be a teensy flower bed, or a grapevine that snakes from the flower-pot size opening where it is planted in the ground, up to the roof. There was not a cat in sight. But I could hear one! My husband was not thrilled to be out in this weather, and he was making hurry-up noises as I began to search in earnest. There was a kitty in trouble, and I was going to help if I could, and if kitty would LET me help, which is another issue altogether.

There were two tiny little flower beds there, and both were planted with ivy. Ivy makes a rather thick matt of greenery. I looked and looked, but I could not see a cat. Then, finally, my eyes identified a perfectly camouflaged little kitten body, laid out prostrate in the ivy leaves – soaking wet. COLD. That was my first thought. There is no mama cat around. That was my second thought. I reached out and scooped up the little fellow, who did not struggle. What he DID was meow. LOUDLY, over and over. I tucked this kitty person up against my jacket, and pulled my head cover down over him (at that point I did not know male/female, it was just a kitty) so no more rain would fall on him, and we continued home, meowing loudly all the way.

When we got home, I uncovered and inspected my rescue. This kitten is TINY, I thought – MAYbe four weeks old. This kitten is freezing, was the next thought – I have to warm it up. I got a towel and snuggled the kitten against my skin. After a few minutes, I realized this was not warming the baby fast enough. It was still freezing; so cold that it was not even shivering, and it could not hold up its head. How to warm it faster? I have a friend who raises goats. When a mother goat gives birth in winter, and the baby does not get up and nurse quickly, they get chilled, and they can also die of cold if not warmed quickly. She puts them in warm/hot water to bring up their body temperature fast. I headed to the kitchen, but when I got there, I saw my counter-top oven, and had another idea. From experience, I know how toasty-warm the top of the oven gets when I am baking. So I put cold kitten on top of the oven, still wrapped in the towel, and fired that sucker up.

I stood by and held my hand on the baby, so I could judge the heat of the oven. I was afraid it might get TOO hot – but it didn’t, since baby was in the towel and not touching the metal of the oven. Soon, baby was shivering. That’s a good sign, I thought, he’s warming up enough to shiver: another half hour in that ivy bed and he would probably have died. After another few minutes, he was warm enough to wake up and eat a bite of soft cat food (which I keep on hand for my adult cats as a treat). He was so young that he did not really eat it, he was sucking it, like he was nursing on it. This is a very young kitten, I thought, if he’s not even really eating yet. As he warmed, he relaxed into sleep. I turned the oven down to what I thought might be a comfortable temperature, and busied myself making breakfast, so I could stay in the kitchen and keep an eye on him. I did not want him waking up and falling off the oven: it was sitting on top of the counter, and that would have been a pretty good fall.

After an hour, I figured baby was thoroughly warmed, and took him off the oven, and laid the towel-wrapped baby beside me as I worked on the computer. He slept and slept. My husband occasionally came and checked on him, too. We discussed whether we thought he might make it, and what consequences there might be from his near-death experience. A cold, distemper, pneumonia…it seemed there was no limit to what the tiny fur person might suffer. We’d have to wait and see.

I am happy to report that Caruso suffered no ill effects, and seemed to pass off his experience with no harm. I had to teach him to drink from a saucer, and how to eat real kitty food.  He’s had to grow up fast! He still occasionally misses his mama, and snuffles on me, looking for the ‘nursing’ place, which tickles. He’s a keeper!


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