My Little Monster

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I’ve got this friend – he’s furry, and has whiskers and a tail. His name is Bowser, and without him, I’d probably go insane.

The last time I wrote about Bowser, he was a kitten of ten weeks. He was too skittish to let me hold him, wasn’t quite litter trained, and was only starting to adjust to his life as a domestic house cat. In honor of his first birthday, I’ve decided to provide a feline update. So much has changed!

Bowser’s my little buddy. He follows me from room to room throughout the house, and loves talking to me. Anyone who’s been on the phone can testify that he’s quite the chatterbox! He’ll announce his presence, or demand my attention with a persistent and boisterous meow. As a kitten, he didn’t like to be held or pet, but now he can’t seem to get enough. A well-placed scratch behind the ear, or under his chin, will make him weak in the knees, and he’ll brush up against my legs if he wants to be held. In the afternoons, he can usually be found napping on his favorite pillow, or in my lap.

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We’ve also learned how to communicate; or rather, I’ve finally learned to understand him. The litter box is a hot topic, and at least once a day, he sits by his box and meows until I scoop his poops and give him some fresh sand. In the mornings when he wants more food, he’ll jump on my bed, walk over to my head, and meow loudly in my ear. If that doesn’t work, he’ll bring his toys on the bed, and when all else fails, he’ll resort to attacking my hands and arms until I get up.

Speaking of toys, this little monster will play with anything! Although his favorites are his mousie and his catnip dolphin, he’ll always be able to find something on my desk or my dresser to bat around and then run off with. He’s also prone to locating random objects around the house and carrying them in. I’ve caught him with scraps of fabric, a small, stuffed teddy bear that he stole from my host-mom’s shelf, and a plastic fork that he played with for weeks. But he has a tendency to hide his toys, and then forgets where he put them. After several months without his jingle ball, he found it behind the wardrobe, and promptly misplaced it a day later.

He must have known I was writing about him.
He must have known I was writing about him.

Bowser’s a great hunter too. In the evenings, he spends his time in the kitchen stalking moths or hunting lizards. At night, while I sleep, he protects me from cockroaches and spiders. All too frequently do I visit the bathroom to find my rug crumpled and a dead roach hidden within the folds. Sometimes, I don’t even find the roach – all I see are its little legs and antenna bits. Last week, Bowser took out a duppy bat!

 

A duppy bat is a large, black moth. Jamaican superstition states that duppy bats protect the house from spirits (duppies)

 

When I last wrote about Bowser, I also said I wasn’t sure if I’d be bringing him home after my service. I wanted to give him a chance to adjust to his new life as a pet, and then make a decision. Shortly afterward, the bond between us solidified, and the idea of leaving him in Jamaica became unimaginable. Now, there is no question. This cat is my best friend. He keeps me on my toes and is an endless source of entertainment. When feelings of isolation set in, Bowser is always there to pick me up. And he’s so full of spunk and personality, that I often forget he’s a feline!

Some of my goals for Year Two include making various phone calls to veterinarian offices and airlines to determine what needs to be done in order to bring him home. He’s already been neutered, and is in good health. He likes to stay inside, so he’s free of fleas and ticks. I give him heartworm medication once a month, and I already have an “airline appropriate” carrying cage. I suppose the next big obstacle (and perhaps the next time I write about him) will be when he returns to Miami with me, and I introduce him to my other beloved baby: Emma.

All whopping 15lbs of Emma
All whopping 15lbs of Emma

 

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But I Didn’t Get Married

Every year around Christmas time, I get a little reminiscent. I begin looking back and remembering where I was a year before. I think to myself, what is today’s date, and what was I doing on this day last year? It provides stunning clarity, and helps me see just how far I’ve come. You’d be surprised how much you can accomplish in a year.

In honor of the New Year – a period of “personal growth” – I’ve decided to include a short list of my top thirteen moments of 2013

Visited 3 cities and 5 friends in 7 days, then visited Chicago for the first time a week later
Got dumped
Moved to a Jamaica
Learned to speak Patios (Patwa)
Adapted to a new culture
Integrated into a community
Made serious headway in the cooking department
Finally taught myself to French Braid my hair
Killed a spider
And several cockroaches
Hiked 30 miles in 30 hours
Adopted a kitten
Read 14 books

My next two weeks will be spent in America. After nine months abroad, I look forward to going home and celebrating my birthday with my friends and family. I’ll write again after the New Year.

Happy Holidays!

Bowser

imagesIn Jamaica, cats and dogs are treated with considerable difference compared to what we are used to in America. Instead of loving and adoring these pets, they’re feared or ignored completely. But the blame lies in years and years of cultural upbringing, dating back to the days of Jamaican Slavery. Dogs, you see, were used to keep slaves in line, and cats are the source of a large number of superstitions. Today, most Jamaicans pay little mind to our four-legged friends, but if you were to ask them for their thoughts, they’d tell you that they are afraid of them.

Lately, however, small changes in attitude have been made, and Jamaicans are slowly beginning to appreciate these animals for what they have to offer. Dogs are kept in the yard to protect the house and eat the scraps, and cats are kept around for mouse-ing purposes. Most surprisingly, there are a few Jamaicans who DO love their pets and spoil them like we do.

Understanding this cultural apprehension is important when considering the next part of my story.

DSCN1310Sometime during the summer, I was having a conversation with a Jamaican friend and I mentioned that I wanted a kitten. To my utmost delight, he declared that his cat recently had kittens and he’d be happy to give me one. They were born about a month ago, he explained, so in another month, they’ll ready to leave their mom.

I was elated. I’d found myself a kitten, and six weeks later, he calls me to tell me he’s ready to find them good homes. But first he had to catch them. It took a few more days, but I finally got the phone call I’d been waiting for. “Mi catch di puss, finally! Mi a bring ‘im now.”

When at last his car pulled up in front of my house, I hurried outside to greet him. He was standing at the trunk of his car, untying something, then quickly thrust the kitten into my arms. Tiny, wet (it had been raining for days), and terrified, this little kitten was handed to me with claws bared, fur on end, and hissing. It also had a shoelace tied around its neck. I knew this was to keep the cat from running, but it wasn’t until I tried to hug my friend, who quickly backed away, that I realized what was really happening. The poor man was just as scared as the kitten, and the kitten was feral.

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Feral is a word used to describe a cat who has never had human interaction. After a certain age, this is irreversible, and feral cats who are forced into human contact will become aggressive and vicious.
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The first four days with Kitty were a nightmare. He wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t come out from hiding, and cried all night, keeping me awake. At one point, he ended up behind my dresser, climbed into a drawer, and got stuck there until 5:30am, which is when I finally found him. I also realized that he hadn’t been properly weaned from his mother, which was why he wouldn’t eat, and was probably starving. This required fishing him out, suffering tiny claws, and making him eat some canned tuna. It only took me one try before he learned that he enjoyed eating, and everything went uphill from there.

On Friday, I had the house to myself, and in the quiet, Kitty came out from hiding. Skittish though he was, he wanted to remain in my sight, cried when I left the room, and would periodically wake up from his much needed nap to make sure I was still there. That night, as I fell asleep, Kitty settled in on top of a large pillow against my headboard, scant inches above mine. He stayed there all night, and it is now one of his favorite spots to doze.

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Bowser, from Super Mario Brothers

Within the next week, much happened. Kitty rolled over enough times, allowing me to finally determine his sex and name him Bowser. And if you’re at all familiar with this fella (pictured left), then you’d understand when I tell you that Bowser is an incredibly fitting name.

Having a kitten is like having a toddler, and this little furball is exceptionally troublesome. He gets into everything, plays in his litterbox rather than use it for its intended purpose, and continuously tries to climb the curtains. I have to make sure to secure all my electrical cords before I leave the room and hide anything he might break.

But he’s just so cute!! The day he discovered his tail was particularly entertaining to observe, and when I’m not paying attention, my toes are victim to pounces. Naturally curious, he likes to watch me in the mornings and evenings as I move about my room getting dressed or undressed, and he’ll sleep curled up with me at night.

Unfortunately, I’m still not allowed to touch him. If my hand comes anywhere near him, he’ll back away or hiss. He’s territorial about his food and likes to pee on my bed.

After three days of using his litterbox properly, I decided it was safe to leave my jeans on the bed. I was mistaken.
After three days of using his litterbox properly, I decided it was safe to leave my jeans on the bed. I was mistaken.

Everyday, however, Bowser improves. In the mornings, he’ll pounce my fingers as he would my toes, and he’s taken to exploring beyond the confines of my room. A loud bang will still send him into hiding, but he’s not as timid as he used to be. Luckily, pooping in the litterbox isn’t an issue, but burying it is, so air fresheners have become my new best friend.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be picking him up whether he likes it or not, and petting him and scratching behind his ears until he figures out that he likes it. I’m not okay with having a cat that I can’t hold or pet.

And if you’re wondering if this cat will be coming home with me in two years, that has yet to be decided. When Bowser gets a little bigger (and a little more normal with me and my host mother), I’ll begin letting him outside to explore, like most other Jamaican cats. If he loves the outdoors and never wants to come in, then I’ll consider letting him stay. There would be nowhere in America I could bring him that would compare to the wild outdoors that is Jamaica. If, however, he prefers to stay inside and becomes the lovebug I hope he’ll be, then we’ll have another option to consider.

For now, I am experiencing a brief taste of motherhood, as I watch him destroy my room, pee on my jeans, and keep me awake at night because he thinks it’s playtime. When I’m at school, I’m fretting over what kind of mess I’ll come home to find. No, he can’t draw on my walls with crayons, but sooner or later, I’m convinced I’ll come home to find something broken, or spilled, or knocked over and peed on.

When he's not busy getting into trouble, he's snoozing in his favorite spot
When he’s not busy getting into trouble, he’s snoozing in his favorite spot