411: To Adopt, or Not to Adopt?


I am a sucker for a mewling kitten. I know this from bitter experience. By the time I got a job in Panama, and we were packing up to move from Morocco, I needed to find homes for ELEVEN cats. I managed all but three by the time it was time to go, so at least I only had to book flights for three pets to Panama, and let’s not discuss how much that cost.

The trouble is, once I got to Panama, it took less than a year (only ONE kitten season), to acquire two more. The fact that two of my beloved fur children went to heaven during that time, so that the total number of fur babies remained constant at three, is neither here nor there. The question remains, should I adopt, knowing I will not be able to resist anyway, and also knowing that I will not be staying in this country for another 15 years or so, which is usually how long a cat lives, on average?

It is enough that they get several good years with me and then get another home, as good as I can provide for them? That is certainly better than life on the street would have treated them, because I take them to the vet, and neuter them, and care for them. Still, I know that changing families can be stressful for both people and pets, so am I being fair or unfair to them, loving them for a time, and sharing them with some other good family when I have to go?



364: Off to see the Wiz—veterinarian!!

Monday this week, I called the veterinarian’s office and discussed with them bringing in two cats for neutering – one male and one female. I told them Saturday morning, since I am off work for a week and can stay home to give them their meds and be sure they are healing properly. I called this office because the e-mail I sent to the other vet I sometimes use was never answered. They told me an appointment for Saturday morning was not necessary (just come in), and how much it would cost, and that the meds were included in the cost, about 200 dollars for both. OK.

pets 012

At 6:30 on Saturday morning, I checked with my neighbor who was outside already about a ride to the city – she was taking her dog to her vet for boarding, and could drop me and three cats in crates, too. This was a HUGE favor for a car-less person. Many taxis here in Panama won’t pick you up if you have an animal carrier, and neither will the city bus.  So, we arrive, unload the crates, and I discover once inside the store that the store’s veterinarian clinic is CLOSED FOR REMODELING. Not just that the vet is sick that day and can’t come in – oh, no. Closed for remodeling. And my ride is driving off…….SNIT.

So, I go to the street and start flagging taxis. These two cats have been without food since last night to prepare for their surgery this morning, and I only have this week to be home to care for them as they recover. This has to happen NOW. The first taxi says no when I confess ‘tres gatos in cajas’ (three cats in boxes). The second taxi is more ratty-looking, and he says yes. Since I don’t know where to go, I tell him veterinarian’s office – and off we go. He takes me to Spay Panama clinic, and they have a line of about 50 people already (before 8 am), but the lady there kindly tells my driver another vet office, and off we go…again. The third office has the lady at the front desk selling the Science Diet, but no doctor is in. She comes out and tells my driver another office nearby. I go in to vet number 4 and praise God, I get a yes. It is going to cost more than twice what my original vet was going to charge, but this one is open, and this has to happen TODAY.

Costa Rica 061

I return to the taxi and pay the guy 30 bucks for being so super in my emergency, which delights him so much that he gives me his phone number and says for me to call when they are done and he will take me home. I fill out papers, and leave two cats for neutering surgery, and one for a visit about itchy skin rash (Caruso, above). Then I go next door to the grocery store, and carefully and thoroughly peruse every single shelf, shopping to kill time (a dangerous proposition for me, let me tell you). Plus, the store has a nice, little, inexpensive cafe, and I also dawdle over a leisurely lunch of $3.00 chicken, rice and lentils, plus a doughnut and a slice of cake, with two large cups of some interesting sweet/tart fruit juice.

Then, having nowhere else to go, I tote the loot back over to the vet’s office and settle down to wait in their air conditioning. This is Panama, and I am not a total fool.  It is only 12:00.  I doze fitfully in the chair until 4:00, when the vet comes out and tells me they are fine, gives me the ‘recipe,’ as she calls it, of medicine instructions for all three. The meds are another sixty bucks, on top of the 370 for the two surgeries and the consultation about the skin fungus (as it turns out).

I call Jorge, the taxi driver, and when he arrives 15 minutes later, we negotiate a fee to return home, we load up my groceries and the kitties, and off we go, accompanied by a chorus of stressed-out kitty meows.  It’s been a long day, mom, and they discuss this with me (and Jorge) all the way home.


Part way there, I see a strange, moving lump on the side of the road, and realize it is a three-toed sloth crossing the road – when I exclaim “It’s a sloth!!” Jorge stops the taxi and backs up – I hop out and direct traffic around the sloth until another car stops, and a man with a cloth band hooks it around the sloth and hauls him/her to the other side of the road to safety, and we are all off again. Excitement over. It’s nice that everyone was protective of the sloth. I had never been that close to one before.

We get home, and I pay and tip Jorge and tote everybody and the groceries into the house. It is well after 5 pm, and everybody needs feeding, including me. Then, it is time to medicate everybody. As I do this, I notice that Cielo, the male cat that was neutered, has his tummy shaved as if he were getting the female spay incision – way up his belly and his sides – far more than necessary for the more simple, less invasive male procedure.  I guess the vet got busy shaving before they read the directions on the bottom of Cielo and figured out this one was the BOY, and it was the other one that was the girl!

cielo 008

As I type this, Dulce, the girl, is snoozing at my feet, after antibiotics, vitamins and pain meds, and a nice comfort session in my lap, getting stroked and petted like she likes it. Cielo hates the lampshade collar that prevents him from licking his sore spots with his sandpaper tongue, and he keeps bumping into me and everything else.  But everybody is cared for, and it is DONE!! Now, to get well!!

320: Fez and the Flowers

Fez is my champagne and white kitty girl. She was born in the ancient UNESCO world heritage site of the medina in the imperial Moroccan city of Fez.  I brought her to live with me in  Panama, while I work my new job at a new school.

When you bring in an animal to Panama they undergo a quarantine period of 40 days where you promise to keep them inside and away from any other animals, in case they are carrying some sickness. YOU agree to this, the animal does not. Fez got out Saturday night onto the porch of the house, which I have screened the access door to, so that she can’t go there. She found a way.

Sunday morning I found her inside (how did she get back in?), in an unnatural sleeping position (not sleeping) on the other bed in another bedroom. I knew instantly that something was wrong. She was listless, groggy and groaned in protest when I picked her up. She also had cat pee on her fur – ????? Who peed on her, and why would she have LET them???  I thought she possibly might have eaten one of the half-dead cockroach bugs that I had found lying on their backs, feebly kicking on the floor. These were victims of some insecticide the landowner had used before my arrival – I am careful about poisons, since I have cats. I have lost some to this problem before.

So, before 6:30 am, I am on my way by foot and bus to the center of Panama City to a vet. The first bus said no as I was climbing aboard with the cat carrier, but the second bus agreed to transport her and me. I texted a friend who I knew lived where there was a vet, and she got me directions and a phone number. The vet said, once I got there (took my very last five dollars for the taxi), that she appeared to be OK, and most probably would not die (thanks, doc), 35 dollars, please.

My credit card declined. Fortunately, my friend arrived with cash, and she let me borrow 40 bucks till payday. Fez, the cause of this trauma, slept all the way home, letting out an ear-splitting yowl occasionally, to be sure all of us on the bus were awake. Such fun. It was not until I got home after 1 pm that I found the evidence of what happened.

On the front porch, I had a five gallon bucket of ornamental flower cuttings that I wanted to root. The flower shrubs in the planter bed were skimpy looking, so pruning them made them appear thicker, and if I could root them, I could fill in the thin spots.  Half the cuttings were scattered around the porch, and the leaves were eaten off of them. And the clincher? There were puddles of cat pee everywhere.

Fez, my sober, dignified, staid, elegant cat lady, had really tied one on with the flower leaves. Three days later,

Fez is under the chair

Fez is under the chair

she is still a little hung over. I am just glad it has not killed her – so far…….

Flowers have to GO.

297: Getting Visas – Human and Animal

If I had known how much trouble it is to move country, I probably would have opted to stay several more years at my present school. A friend told me, but hearing about it and experiencing it all first-hand yourself is quite another matter. It is a sheer wonder there is a single hair left on my head, I have been pulling on it in frustration so often lately.

I THINK I have the cats booked. Had I known how much trouble and expense there would be associated with taking my beloved fur children with me…….I would probably have done it anyway. I love their furry faces. I tried Delta, Delta’s Pet first, Lufthansa, Ryan Air, Jet Blue, American Airlines AND their Cargo Department, Air France, Iberia and three international pet shipping companies before I figured out that I did NOT have enough money to hire someone professional to get my three cats from here to there. Bless Royal Air Maroc. They accepted the cats. Now, I just have to complete the paperwork necessary for them to clear customs, which is pretty much about as much paperwork as is required for a human – and about as expensive. They have to see the vet here in Morocco for a rabies booster shot 30 days or more before their flight, but their vet health certificate and certificate of origin (born in Morocco???) have to be issued not more than 10 days before their flight. Those papers have to be copied and certified. Their kennels (travel crates) have to have LIVE ANIMAL on two sides, and be large enough for them to stand up and turn around. I have to include food for them, and bowls for food and water that can be serviced from outside the crate without opening the crate door. There must be bedding to absorb the inevitable accidents that will occur on a long flight. I have booked an extra-long layover in NYC to be sure we have enough time to clear customs and change planes for the last leg of the flight, to Orlando.

Once in Orlando, I clear customs again, and pick up my rental car. Once in the US, I have to see another vet and re-do the health certificates, copies and certified by the USDA or the US or Panama Embassy, to be able to fly them to Panama City, Panama. I have 12 days to do this. Bonne chance to me. PLUS, for the last months, I have been practicing with the cats in the crates. The boys still fuss, but Fez, the elegant lady, just settles down and waits patiently……..

For the human, we have applied weeks and weeks ago to the nearest Panamanian Embassy, in Madrid, Spain for a tourist/temporary resident visa that they tell us by telephone there should be no problems with getting. But, the man helping us mentioned that we needed a C-class visa in order for our friend to travel THROUGH the US on the way to Panama – just to be in the airport in the US and change planes. I kid you not. Being US citizens ourselves, and not knowing any better, it did not OCCUR to us that our friend would need an “alien in transit” visa. There pretty much IS no other way to get to Central America from Casablanca, Morocco except to fly through the US. We did not think anything strange about this, or that any additional paperwork would be required. WRONG. Sheesh.

SO, I logged on to the Embassy Web site and filled out an online application, which conveniently dumped me out of the application over a dozen times before I could finish it, regardless of the number of times I pressed SAVE, and asked questions no person in their right mind would ever answer yes to: Have you participated in genocide, forcible sterilization or abortion against someone’s free will, drug trafficking, terrorism, etc. Do you know anyone who would answer yes, even if they HAD?? Me, neither. Problem is, once all these questions are answered, you must register for an appointment time online to come in for a personal, face-to-face interview, where apparently they ask you the same questions you already said “no” to, while they are looking at you, so they can “tell” whether or not you were lying. Yeah, right. Anyhoo – the appointment calendar with available days for appointments went through the first week in August only – and every single available day was filled. OMG. What now?

We called, and explained our ignorance/stupidity. They have graciously agreed to squeeze her in, and see if they can help us. Now, THAT’S America, and reflects everything I love about my country being willing to give people second chances. They could have said: tough titty.

SOOOOOOO – we are waiting again to see if all the pieces are going to fall into place, or if the chips are gonna fall where they may. AND I need to re-pack my suitcase – I am 10 pounds overweight, darn it. The suitcase AND me.

209: Rest in Peace, Number Five



Yeah, I know some people would say, Jeepers, creepers, lady, it’s just a CAT – as if that makes the loss hurt any less. We lost sweet number five last night to his automobile injuries. Yes, I know that I have eight other cats that I have brought home, but each and every one is a special personality, just like my human children are individual people. They are all my fur children.

Humsa (Arabic for number five) isn’t hurting anymore, thank God, and I sure do want to believe that Heaven is a big enough place for all those special creatures who make human life so much sweeter. If being loved on Earth is a qualification for an animal getting into Heaven, then he’s there.

Yes, we could have saved him from the car if we had kept him inside the house all the time, but he loved going out. He’s the one who would go next door to the mosque at prayer call and wait by the door for the people to come to prayer, graciously accepting pets from everyone coming in to pray. Then, he would make the rounds of the street vendors who also come to the mosque because of the people coming in to pray. Yes, he had some close calls with cars before.

Once, my husband and I had been to the weekly souk (the Moroccan version of an old-fashioned flea and farmer’s market). Mojo was wearing his favorite khaki shorts, and we both heard the ominous ‘rrriiipppppppp’ when he squatted down to check out the quality of a freshly-dug pile of potatoes offered for sale. He’d split the seat out, pretty thoroughly, too. I gave him my jacket to tie around his waist for emergency modesty (for some reason, he was also commando (of course). If you are not wearing underwear, that WILL BE the day you split your pants wide open. We quickly finished our grocery shopping for the week and walked the block to our car repair shop, where we’d left the car for a minor repair while we shopped. Since we finished the shopping too quickly because of the shorts, the repair was not finished. so Hafid, one of the two mechanics we take our car to, gave us a ride home once we explained Mojo’s predicament. Muslims understand modesty very well.

When we were almost home (at the noon prayer time), we saw Humsa crossing the street, dangerously in front of a car that was not slowing down in the street that was also crowded with people. Moroccan drivers are famous for their disregard of life and limb when they are behind the wheel of a car. Mojo was incensed, and shouted to Hafid to stop the car, and he got out and yelled at the driver (who was also endangering PEOPLE), and bent to scoop number five into his arms to safety. What he forgot, in his concern for sweet-natured Humsa, was that his shorts were split wide open. I quickly got out of the car and attempted to shield my husband’s bare behind from the view of about a hundred people who were coming to the mosque to pray (not to get a free peep show). He was so worried about Humsa, he didn’t even notice, and I walked closely behind him (and the kitty in his arms) blocking the view of his trim and compact, but hairy behind as we made it the few feet to the door of our apartment building. Hafid was laughing, and shaking his head from side to side at the same time. He met my eyes, and we both shrugged – what can you do? At least Humsa was safe, that time.

He was the one little Honey Bunny danced up to and swatted the first day I brought her home. Humsa was a husky, eight-month old boy – and she was a tiny little scrap of a kitten, but fearless all the same. Humsa was immediately charmed, and he played with her (gently) for quite some time. Everybody else hissed at her, for weeks, but not easy-going Humsa.

Humsa and Caruso iinvestigating snow

Humsa and Caruso iinvestigating snow

When I got him, some of the apartment children were playing with him, and one of them announced loudly when I showed interest in the kitten “He’s MINE!” so I didn’t interfere. Two days later, I saw him at school, alone, and figured that mama had seen the kitten and had said “NO!” Since he was not claimed then, I brought the hungry little boy home, and we found out he had a tummy problem (which was probably what got him evicted). He also had ringworm, so we began treating him, and feeding him. He was so used to being hungry that he had what I call a “poverty belly” for weeks and weeks. Remember the pictures of famine children? When you don’t get food, your stomach swells. Humsa, who was our fifth cat at the time, ate every chance he got. I was sure that he was thinking: at least if THESE people throw me out, too, I’ll have a full belly. Eventually, he began to get used to having food, and he didn’t stuff himself every chance he got anymore. I figured he came to the conclusion that he could stay.

We had thought he was getting better from his final, ultimately fatal, meeting with the car. It appeared to the vet and to us, that he’d just taken a powerful whack to his hind end, and he was limping, but no broken bones. We gave him pain meds, and kept him inside, and he seemed to be doing OK. When we finally realized that he wasn’t doing OK, it was a Moroccan holiday weekend (Thursday, Friday, Sat. and Sun.) and the vet was not in town. We bought him antibiotics, and started them right away, but whatever was wrong inside was just too much. We made him a pad of towels in front of the heater so he would not be cold – he would often lie there, like his house mates do, in a warm kitty pile, basking in the warmth of the fire, like all kitties like to do. We petted him a lot.

Humsa and friends

Humsa and friends

Rest in peace, sweet boy. I miss your big golden eyes already.

203: Poor Humsa



Last night, our landlord’s son knocked on our apartment door. He was carrying number five – no, not the robot; Humsa, number five kitty person in Arabic, who is the friendliest one with all the neighbors. Humsa goes to the mosque when the prayers are called to get pets and scratchies from all the people who are coming to prayer at the mosque. He sits beside the door and accepts all petting graciously. Our neighbor told us that Humsa had just been hit by a car. I panicked.

At least he was still alive! We called the vet quickly, and placed Humsa on a big pillow for support and comfort. The vet said he’d come right away…we have nine cats, and we know this wonderful man quite well. While we waited anxiously, I saw Humsa move the tip of his tail – good – probably meant his back was not broken. I pinched in between his toes on the leg he seemed to favor and he whimpered/growled at me in response, so I knew he still had feeling in the leg – another good sign that his back was not broken.

When the vet arrived, he checked Humsa thoroughly and felt carefully the bones in his hip and leg on the side he would not put weight upon, while I held Humsa’s front paws so he would not scratch and his head so he would not bite, because it didn’t feel too good to have the sore place checked out. Humsa grumbled and growled because it hurt, but he was a VERY good boy. Our doctor told us that the bones were not broken, thankfully, and he could feel no internal injuries, either. Praise God!! He gave us a prescription for pain, and told us Humsa would not be a happy camper for a few days while his blunt force trauma healed. OK – I am just glad he was not killed!

196: Getting the “Snip”



My husband and I have fur children – lots of fur children. Some are girls and some are boys. When they reach reproductive age, they all go to see the vet for spaying or neutering, because Morocco has too many stray cats, and we have too many of Morocco’s stray cats that we have adopted. I canNOT resist a mewling kitten. I’ve tried.

So, we have already taken and paid for three males and three females to be “fixed.” No, nothing was wrong with them, except for the capability to reproduce literally hundreds of more stray cats. That was enough reason, but neutered cats really do make better pets, especially when they are indoor cats, and ours are. Last week it was time for Timinia to go meet the vet. Timinia is the Arabic word for eight, which at the time, he was number eight. Also, Timinia sounds very much, in English, like too-many-OF-ya, which he also was. Nobody should have eight cats! *sigh*

Be that as it may, my husband and I took Timinia for his appointment in a duffle bag, since a friend had borrowed our “real” cat carrier. There was a small cut in the bottom of the bag I did not know was there, and it was just big enough for Timinia to stick his nose and one eye out of the bottom of the bag, so he could see where we were going. It is not far to the vet’s office, so we walked. When we got there, the vet was amazed at how big Timinia was at only eight months of age. Usually, Moroccan cats are pretty small, since they have to scrounge for food anywhere they can find it. Timinia has had fresh kibble available since I picked him up one cold rainy morning when he was about five weeks old. He eats A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G. Literally. He is always starving, no matter that there are always bowls full of kibble everywhere in the apartment. He eats tomatoes, melon, olives, bread, corn, lettuce, cooked turnip greens, almost ANY cooked vegetable (like carrots, peas and beans of all kinds), potatoes (especially mashed) pasta, pies and cakes, you name it, he’ll eat it. As a consequence, he’s a big boy. This quest to eat gets him into trouble, since he is always on the lookout for a handout.

At any rate, he knew something was up, and he was nervous at the vet’s, like most pets are. The vet got his sleeping potion ready, and my husband and I held Timinia for the shot, which apparently stings quite a bit, because Timinia let us know THAT SMARTS!! Then I held him and comforted him while the anaesthetic took effect, which took a few minutes or so before he relaxed into sleep for the surgery. Twenty minutes later, I returned with the car to pick him up – less jostling after the surgery on the trip home. The real treat is when the vets (here in Morocco), to prove to you that they actually performed the work that you paid them for, bring you the removed testicles and show them to you: something I can do without, thank you very much. My husband nearly had a heart attack when they did that the first time: he is male, after all, and had an unexpected, unanticipated, violently empathetic moment with the cat……

Inside the apartment, we put Timinia on a pad of towels in front of the heater to keep him toasty warm since anesthesia makes their blood pump slower and they get cold, and we darkened the room, since his eyes were still dilated and sensitive to light. After an hour or so, he started coming to. That’s when he got the head collar. Cats will lick a wounded place, and that is NOT good after surgery, since they have sandpaper-rough tongues that can tear stitches and re-open cuts. The collar keeps them from licking – or at least, makes it really difficult. He’ll wear it for a few days, until he’s healed enough to go without it. He also really dislikes the disinfectant spray: you probably would dislike Lysol sprayed on your removed testicles, too. Still, don’t want infection! His new favorite position is both back feet in the air, trying to lick his sore spot with the collar on.