The white cat by the university, climbing through the weeds and brambles. Crying crying. Lost. Was this cat lost? Sick? This desperate cat looking for something. Had it lost its nest of kittens? Food? Or was it ill?
In Mostar, there are so many cats, so many cats living in the dumpsters. In my block, there are three strays, who appear healthy with strong muscles and thick coats. Looking closely, you can see the wear of street life on these animals. One stray, a beautiful orange tabby, comes by three or four times a week. If he sees me, he will come running and crying. He eats leftover food from my rescue kitten. He will lick his plate clean. Somehow he has survived a couple of years outside. When I first saw him, he was one third of the size, but long past the age of being domesticated.
One day, a rainy day in November, I left my house for an appointment. Sitting on the neighbor’s boots was a tiny tuxedo kitten, crying piteously. It was pouring rain and I was running late. Still, I would have put him in the house but just then my neighbors appeared and the kitten ran off. I thought of him all day, and was upset i hadn’t put him inside. I wondered if he would return.
Two weeks later, the kitten turned up as I was coming home form a trip. Crying again, he refused to let us in our house unless we fed him. What could I do? I brought him inside. This poor shivering little kitten, not much bigger than my hand, clung to me for two days. Now, this kitten, far older than I had assumed, is happily living inside, playing with toys, snuggling with me, and sleeping on his blue towel on the heater.
As I carried him to the vet, many people stared at me and the cat carrier. Why would anyone take in a street kitten? But a couple of women did stop me, and coo at the kitten. Still, I can buy kitten cat food in the grocery store. So, other people must own or take care of a house cat.
I remember so clearly how his entire body was shaking when he ate that first plate of food, and how I wasn’t sure he would last through the night. He was literally skin and bones. Now, he is twice the size, muscular, keenly interested in everything. The other dumpster cats just survive.