Pandemic Hobby: Kitten Rescuing

This post contains copious amounts of kitten pics. The way I see it, if you don’t like animals, you have two choices:
1) Stop reading now
2) Continue reading and be converted

The beginning of this story isn’t new to anyone. March 2020 happened and countries around the world started implementing various responses to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Jordan had one of the more extreme reactions, locking us in our home for 14 days. After that, we slowly regained rights: Grocery shopping, driving, later curfews, and, eventually, working. Many of those things have come and gone in the last year, as cases rise and fall. Which means we still haven’t experienced pre-pandemic freedoms.

Being locked inside your house/neighborhood, creates the need for new hobbies and ours began with this lovely lady – the only cat in our neighborhood we never named.

We didn’t name her because we hadn’t planned on getting involved. She gave birth to four adorable kittens in our neighbor’s yard and then moved them to our yard three days later. We put out water, but not food, because we wanted to make her life easier, while not making her reliant on us. This was not her first litter. We had met her a few months prior with an older, equally adorable crew.

This plan lasted one week. We bared anyone from entering our yard (not difficult during a pandemic) and we gave her space. Then, our Bawob (think required outdoor maintenance man), got a little too vigorous with the cleaning and scared our new friends off. We were bummed, but not looking to adopt any kittens, so we thought it might be for the best.

A few days went by and we were preparing for our return to school. It was August 16 and we got back home from our first day of teacher meetings to discover two of the kittens had returned. Only this time, they weren’t in our front courtyard, they had made it into our inner courtyard. This would impress anyone who’s been to our house because the only way to access our inner courtyard is via our house or over a roof/high walls.

We didn’t see mom, but we assumed she’d be back soon. A little investigating revealed that while two of the kittens were in the yard, the other two were on the roof above our bedroom.

We worried and we waited and by nightfall, mom hadn’t returned. At this point, we wanted to get the two off the roof and reunite them with their siblings. Picture me climbing the bars on our windows, hoisting myself onto our air conditioning unit, and trying to scramble over the ledge of our roof. It didn’t work out. I cried myself to sleep that night, thinking we’d awaken to dead kittens in the morning. It would be Chandler’s birthday.

August 17th arrived and still no mom, but we went out to find three kittens instead of two – one had rolled off the roof and down the ivy. We texted our landlord to see if he could help with the one left on the roof – he said he’d be by in the afternoon. Which meant we had to find a way to feed the three we did have (and make it to work on time).

Luckily, some friends of ours had rescued a kitten of their own a few weeks earlier and we were able to track down the bottle and kitten formula they used. This led to us feeding three 14-day old kittens. We wrapped them up in blankets like burritos and hurriedly tried to get them to drink as much milk as possible.

Fast forward to after work. Our courtyard (during a pandemic) was filled with people trying to get the last kitten off the roof. Ladders were brought out, more scrambling occurred, nothing worked. Finally, that same Bawob went to the apartment building next door, went to the second floor, and reached out onto the roof with a broom. He brought us our fourth and most special kitten, Pea, carrying him by the scruff. We quickly set to work feeding him and getting into a routine with all four kittens.

The kitten pictured above is Milkshake, so named because he would get milk froth all over his face every time we fed him. He is best friends with Pea because Milkshake is the kitten who was initially on the roof as well. Bean and Burrito rounded out the set and they were equally inseparable – except during feeding time when Burrito snuggled into his towel wrap.

And just like that – we were foster parents.

We reacted to the news the way I assume all first-time parents do – with excitement and also the fear that we were going to kill them. We made schedules for their feedings and kept track of how much they ate. We researched their developmental stages to learn when we could transition them to solid food, get them de-wormed, litter box train them, and when they could, eventually, be re-homed. We learned how to stimulate them after each meal so they could go to the bathroom and we were constantly cleaning them. Somehow, they thrived.

We had previously been a pet-free family because my husband is allergic to cats and dogs and also, because we’ve never lived anywhere longer than three years and that feels like a lot of travel for pets. That said, a few weeks hanging in the courtyard with our kittens and my husband hadn’t had any reactions. Yes, we were outside, and yes, we handled them with gloves (fleas, you know), but we began to get hopeful. Maybe our family of two would become a family of six? (Tell me you haven’t fallen in love with them just from the photos alone!). So after their medical baths and flea drops, we did a trial run – we brought them inside. They were too small to climb out of our sun room and we spent every waking minute together that weekend.

There was a lot of napping and video games involved. At first, everything went well, but by day three, Chandler was having a difficult time breathing and we knew we’d have to find new homes for them.

Anyone who knew us during that time would tell you that we had a difficult time conversing about anything that wasn’t kitten related. So it didn’t take long for word to spread about these guys. A short while later, a family from our school reached out and asked if they could adopt two of them – we were stoked! Two of our boys would get to stay together.

A month and a half after they showed up in our interior garden, Pea and Milkshake had a new home. I’m not going to lie – I cried the hardest for these two. Giving them up wasn’t something I was used to yet.

Another month went by and we hadn’t found a home for Bean and Burrito. We were getting worried and had even talked about bringing them to my parents in Minnesota. All of a sudden we got the text we had been waiting for – another couple at our school wanted to adopt. And once again, they wanted the pair!

Of course we were over the moon! It was easier to say goodbye to these two. One, because we’d done it before, but also because we’d recently noticed some sick kittens coming into our front yard. The day after Bean and Burrito went to their forever home, we took in Harvey.

By this point, we had started getting attached to our neighborhood cat colony. So, in addition to caring for our first four kittens, we had also been putting out food and water daily in our front yard, which is how Harvey came to find us. She got her name from the Batman character, Harvey Dent, because calicivirus had eaten the lower half of one side of her face.

She was a beautiful dark calico cat, about three months old. She spent a week at our neighborhood vet before moving to a more upscale vet a few circles over. After another week with them, she came home to us. But she was different. Because of her surgery and missing skin, she couldn’t be outside. So we made one of our spare rooms pet friendly and brought her inside.

We spent the weekend holding her and petting her because she didn’t have enough energy for much else. When we finally felt she was healthy enough for some time on her own, we ran out on a few errands. When we returned home, we discovered that Harvey had had a stroke. We took her to the vet where she had to be euthanized. This is the only photo we have of her:

That was a heavy day for both of us. Now she’s resting in our interior garden, buried beneath the ivy.

During Harvey’s initial hospitalization, we had rescued another kitten. Jude looked like he had broken a paw and we wanted to see if we could have it set. The news from the vet was that he had nerve damage and everything up to the shoulder would have to be amputated. In for a penny, in for a pound – we moved Jude inside.

We thought we had known cuddles before this guy, but we were wrong. I could read in that spare bedroom for hours with Jude cuddled up next to me. He also loved going outside in the courtyard with Chandler. That was where we learned he would be just fine with three legs – the day we watched him catch a mouse. To his deep disappointment, we rescued the mouse and released it out front. I’m assuming a different cat caught it, but at least I didn’t have to watch.

In no time at all, we found a home for Jude – who wouldn’t want an adorable tripod? But there was a delay – he had developed ringworm. His new owner already had a cat and so we wanted him cleared before they met. As an aside – this was the same woman who had adopted the kitten our friends had rescued back in the beginning of this post, so whatever you may think of kitten fosterers, she’s the real hero!

One month went by, and then two. Jude still had ringworm. We finally discovered that the first vet who had seen him had prescribed too low of a dose for his medication. We added some topical cream and soon he was on his way:

But not without leaving me with something to remember him by: My very own case of ringworm.

At this point, I had to be extra careful, because during Jude’s last two weeks with us, we had taken in a seventh rescue kitten – Jack. What initially looked like an eye infection turned out to be quite serious. After a week at the vet, he was on a lot of antibiotics and I didn’t want to pass the ringworm on to him. No need to worry, we found out a short while later that he already had it.

The neighborhood vet did their best, but they just didn’t have the training for an infection to this extent. We once again had to upgrade vets. It was touch and go at first – Jack spent nearly his first three weeks with us at the vet, but he finally turned the corner. It took another two months to get him from this little monster to this adorable, healthy kitten.

As you can imagine, Jack wasn’t all sunshine and roses. He required multiple medications and that didn’t even begin to touch on his personality. He was the most unruly of our rescues – escaping twice before finally agreeing that we had his best interests at heart. This only added to his recovery time.

He didn’t like to cuddle and hated being cooped up in the spare bedroom. But little by little, we got to know each other. He liked to play with his food, so I’d toss it and he’d try to catch it/pounce on it. He loved throwing his toys in the water dish. And most of all, he loved having a friend.

Meet Adelaide:

Adelaide was the first healthy kitten we rescued – she chose us more than we chose her. We often kept our door open when we received deliveries and one day she just walked right in. From that moment we were smitten. She had clearly been a house cat and was abandoned by her owners. That’s happened a lot during the pandemic. I try to give owners the benefit of the doubt – maybe they couldn’t afford to feed them or they were unable to travel with them. But mostly, I think they’re terrible people for taking in an animal and then abandoning it.

We kept Adelaide in the front yard, but soon she wasn’t satisfied with our daily hangs (which I was doing in addition to caring for Jack). She continued to devise ways to break into our house – through the door, through the window, and then she found her way onto our roof, into our inner courtyard, and would beg at the glass door.

We got her spayed, vaccinated, and de-flead so that I could spend more time with her. Rascal that she is, she devised a way to stay inside – she refused to let herself heal after her surgery and we had to take her inside and put on the cone of shame. Jude and Jack had also worn this cone, but Adelaide disliked it the most. I could only take it off when I was in the room with her and she would use that time to fight with Jack – despite being double his size, she preferred to attack with the cone off!

They may have played rough (picture WWE), but they loved each other. Jack was so sad when Adelaide was healthy enough to return outside. She would sit outside his window and hang. We knew we needed to find her a home.

The problem was, we had tapped out all of our resources. We had already re-homed five kittens with families from school. So, I turned to the internet. I joined three Amman Facebook pet adoption groups and I got half a dozen responses within the day. I checked out a few of them and agreed to meet one.

This was new territory for me, but the woman (an Iraqi artist) and her partner were incredible and just like Chandler and I had, they instantly fell for Adelaide. I had planned on taking Adelaide to their house the following day to “scope out their place,” but everyone had such a positive connection that they brought her home that day. A few days later I got the text that Adelaide had escaped. They were frantic, wanting to know if Adelaide’s microchip had a GPS locator (I had her chipped in case I ended up taking her to the US). An hour later, I got a video: Adelaide had been found – she was simply exploring her new neighborhood.

I had such success with finding Adelaide a home online, I thought I would try with Jack. I posted him and then I waited…and waited…and waited some more.

Finally, someone reached out! He was an engineer who liked to draw in his free time…pictures of people and animals with their eyes falling out. Clearly I didn’t get great vibes from him. Next up was a lawyer and his girlfriend. I invited them to the house and Jack refused to come out and greet them.

Chandler had left the month before to get his Covid vaccine in the US and Jack had only been around me and his vets. He didn’t know who these new people were and he had no interest in meeting them. He spent their entire visit running to different corners of the house to hide in. I wasn’t surprised when they texted me to let me know they rescued a different kitten instead.

After that, it was like a switch turned on in Jack. He started to sit in my lap, then cuddle, and then he started sleeping with me. I couldn’t believe it. At this point, Chandler started asking about my exit plan – what I was going to do if I couldn’t find Jack a new home. It was looking like no one in Jordan wanted a one-eyed, former street cat. I kept telling Chandler I’d release him shortly…

In the meantime, the vet kept finding new things wrong with him – a gum infection and subsequent antibiotics delayed his vaccinations and I was all too happy for the excuse.

Around this time, I became eligible to receive my Covid vaccine in the US. It got me thinking…Bean and Burrito hadn’t gone to the US, Adelaide hadn’t gone to the US…maybe Jack could. We rushed his final vaccines and I spent days researching airlines that would allow pet travel during the pandemic. With all the flight paths cancelled by airlines, I couldn’t get Jack from Amman to Minnesota on the same airline. But I could get him to Texas.

Which is why, on March 11th, Jack and I boarded a Qatar Airways flight and I had to say goodbye to him for 24 hours. Let me tell you, traveling with a pet is stressful! But Qatar made it manageable and before I knew it, we were in the US. We boarded him with some family friends until we were able to fly to Minnesota.

I could see, letting him out of his carrier at my parent’s house, that he was surprised but excited. He’d only had a spare bedroom to explore in Amman, an apartment in Texas, and now he had an entire furnished basement. My parents had purchased him more toys than I knew existed. We spent a week there helping him adjust. At that point, he gained control of the entire house.

That goodbye was probably the easiest and hardest, simultaneously – Jack had helped me through the six weeks I had been separated from Chandler and he had been with us longer than any of our other rescues. But I also knew I’d see him every time I video chat with my parents and when I go to visit them. And the best part – they’re looking for a local rescue so that he can have a friend.

And with this, our rescue days are over. Chandler had been having a difficult time once we moved the kittens indoors (especially with Adelaide, our only medium-haired cat!). And we figured if we had to fly a rescue to the US, we really had tapped out our market here in Amman. Eight kittens rescued and seven re-homed seemed like a pretty good run.

We still have a number of cats in our neighborhood colony. We continue to put out food and water for them every day. We’ve even gotten involved in a local TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) group here in Amman. Each cat we bring in gets de-wormed, de-flead, spayed/neutered, and vaccinated. They then get returned to their colony with a little more protection.

Right now, we have five regulars we see just about every day: Mario, Zelda, Felix, Odin, and Imogen. With new ones we have yet to name. They all deserve loving homes, but we’re happy to be doing our part.

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