My heart went out to a cat with her litter of three

Begging for food outside the café, Brownie,before she was able to gain weight.

Begging me for food outside Brown , “my” cat before she gained weight.

If I didn’t travel so much, perhaps I would have invited home the stray and her two tiny surviving offspring.

I spotted the mom perhaps two months ago at the Brown café I frequent.  A calico, she was painfully thin and suffered from diarrhea.

From the employees and parking attendants who have come to know me because I am at the coffee place so often, I learned that she had given birth.  But the kitties were nowhere to be seen in the cluttered staff room in which she had taken up residence.  Nor was she always around.

I named her — what else? — Brownie, began purchasing food for her and enlisted the Brown staff to look after her during my absences.  But I was worried that the waif, who was nursing until a couple of weeks ago, would soon become pregnant again.

Thus began a saga that pretty much ended before dawn Sunday morning — don’t worry: she’s fine.

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The shy black kitten amid the staff room’s clutter.

First, let me mention the drama that ensued.  The owner of a small company that rents space above Brown tried to get someone to round up the cats.

According to a sympathetic underling I met, the boss attributed to Brownie the presence of what he said were fleas in his office.  All I know is that I never was bitten all the times I handled her.

I worried a lot about the man, who never made the phone call that I requested from him.  Through the Cambodian employee, I made veiled threats if harm should come to the cat I long have considered to be mine.

Still, the potential danger to Brownie continually dogged my thoughts.

The other drama concerned the litter.  I’d heard from the parking guys that there were four.  On Sunday, an unusually helpful attendant said there had been only three, one of whom died.

Orange kitten is happy to be held.

Orange kitten is happy to be held and petted.

In the last week or so, I actually laid eyes on one orange and one black ball of fluff.  The orange one couldn’t be more relaxed with me, while the other is, well, a scaredy cat.

Thanks to what seems to be a one-woman organization called PPAWS, Brownie was spayed on Sunday in return for  a donation of at least $45 for that procedure on a stray.    Moreover, Nareth, a Khmer-American friend of mine, miraculously found a home for “my” now fattened Brownie after the vet releases her.  A Western girl named “Autumn” fell in love with her photo.

While some Cambodians have pets, most hardly value or keep them in this land of rampant poverty.  While knowing about that indifference, I was in for a surprise this week when I asked relatively well-off Cambodian acquaintances who have cats to accept just one more: Those nice folks told me that they don’t feed the ones they keep.

What brought me to the still shuttered Brown three or four blocks from our apartment in Phnom Penh on Sunday was the need to ensure that the calico had nothing to eat or drink since the previous night.  After considering various impractical schemes such as locking her in our bathroom overnight (and undoubtedly going sleepless as a result), I lit on the idea of keeping her behind the staff room’s closed door.

I went there and waited until the last waiter departed, closed it myself and was able to get home for dinner by 9:45 Saturday night.

Making sure that she didn’t go out to forage meant being there before they started preparing to open the café, as early as 5:15 a.m., on Sunday.  I tend to wake up by then, but my anxiety about being on time meant that 4 a.m. was when my day began.  When I arrived that morning, the door was open, so I’m not sure how successful I was in keeping Brownie from wandering.  (My fingers were crossed all day as a consequence.)

Nicola Scales, whose group does a remarkable amount of work, wasn’t able to show up in a car with her four dogs until 6:45 a.m.  So I had plenty of time to reflect on Brownie’s future while sitting outside, enjoying the cool clear air and looking onto streets that would be cacophonous for the next 13 or 14 hours.

Although I have been trying online and in person to find new homes for the kitties, I have struck out.  Cunningly, I like to think, I lured Nicky to the staff room, where she was taken with the orange one and plopped her in the carrier with the mother.  When I can catch the black one, I’ll get her/him to Nicky as well with the goal that PPAWS can re-home both of them.

Finding them a permanent home would a good thing.  Anyone?  Giving a donation to PPAWS would be pretty wonderful as well.

If you have read this far, you’ll want to know how Brownie has fared.  She came out of the surgery without complications and soon will be in her new home.  As my feline odyssey winds down, that is a huge relief.

So much involvement never crossed my mind at the moment I decided to make Brownie mine in absentia, yet how can I say that I’m sorry for having more or less saved a life and having definitely prevented more animals from being born into suffering and danger?

Brownie will never thank me, of course, but I am reminded that the smallest unplanned efforts can produce psychic rewards in ways that are wholly unexpected.  Those are thanks enough.

E-mail: malcolmncarter@gmail.com

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