23 July 2015

Strays - when you just can't say no!

We love our pets!  From parrots to pups, my family has adopted an animal in every country we have ever lived in although not all of them have made it out to the next posting.  The parrot (Nigeria) was not given an export permit, the cats (Netherlands, Norway and Nigeria) chose to stay with other families and the lamb (Turkey) and goats (Nigeria) were eaten while the Turkey (Nigeria) was given to a colleague of my father as a Christmas present and ended up founding a dynasty of breeding turkeys on a farm instead of on the table).

Expat life is fraught with pitfalls when it comes to pets.  If you have them you need to deal with the hassle of exporting and importing them.  Expats need to find vets in strange and new surroundings and often communicate the most complex of things through sign language.  If you don't have a pet you will be faced with street animals begging for scraps and adverts from re-homing centres desperate to find a home for an abandoned animal before it has to be put down.

My husband and I are firmly dog people.  We both had a cat (or two) as children but dogs were the family pet of choice and, as soon as we were married, we were joined by our truly wonderful Bessie, still with us 14 years later and enjoying life as an Expat Pet.

Bessie, our loving old girl.
  Almost two years ago, in Kazakhstan, we made the mistake of looking at an advert for a puppy looking for a home.  It was 10 November 2013 and I remember saying to my husband that it was such a shame we could not give this little puppy who looked so like Bessie, a home.  We looked at the picture, we knew we would be leaving Astana in 2014 and that another dog was not a good idea, we looked at the picture again and we made a call to the people who were looking after her.  We see lots of photos of dogs wanting homes and we usually harden our hearts, something about Perdita made us think twice.  I hope she lives a long life with us and I know that, by the time it is over this little street dog will have had more money spent on her in terms of flight costs, quarantine and immigration fees than any prize winning pedigree.  She repays that investment every day of her life.

With a household of two dogs, two children and a baby we thought we were full, we had no room for anything else.  We know that Bessie will not be with us for much longer, 14 is a good age for a dog but we notice that she is getting slower, whiter and wrinklier.  She loves her walks and swims, she adores affection, but her legs are seizing up and she is getting some form of dementia.  On our walk a few days ago we were talking about having to get another pet when that happens, someone to keep Perdie company when we are out of the house.

We couldn't say no!
Not more than 5 minutes later we came across a tiny little kitten, dirty, alone and scared on a footpath near a road.  There are (quite aggressive) monkeys in the area and large monitor lizards in the storm drains, she kept walking into the road and we were worried something would happen to her.  Keeping the dogs out of the way we searched for a mother cat, nothing anywhere.  Petrified that she would be killed we took her home and put her in one of the dog crates before emailing the residents association to see if she was an escaped pet.  No one claimed her and first thing the next morning we took her to the vet to be checked over, she told us that there are some unlicensed kitten farms in the area and a few escape only to be killed on the roads, there are also a lot of feral cats in the local parade of shops, apparently she spends a heartbreaking amount of time neutering strays.  

Look who has come to join the fun!
I put adverts up for re-homing but before anyone asked to take her she had wormed her way into our hearts.  It seems that we now have a baby kitten to add to our family.  She is living in the crate (complete with bed, litter tray, blankets and toys) for the moment when the dogs are in the house and coming out for cuddles when they leave.  Bessie, who hates cats, is disgusted that we have taken her in and is ignoring the situation but Perdie is curious and the two are talking through the mesh door.

We didn't want a cat, we didn't want a new pet at this point in time, we have a full house.  The dogs are not used to cats, we know nothing about raising feline pets.  We have to sort out vaccinations and passports.  When we go away we will have boarding fees for three animals.  When we eventually relocate we will need to travel with three pets instead of two (and two is difficult enough).  Taking her in was, to all intents and purposes a stupid decision.

That said, something put this little kitten in our path and made it impossible to say no.  She was meant to be with us and become our Malaysian pet and so Kismet is now one of us.

Posted as part of the monthly Expat Life Linky hosted by Life With a Double Buggy

Expat Life with a Double Buggy

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  1. Awwww we are in the process of deciding whether to get a dog or not (we are definitely swaying towards yes - the only hesitation is the impact on travelling, especially last-minute trips - but with two children at school I figure we won't be doing too much of that anyway). We always had cats and then other random pets as a child (yes, we had a parrot in Nigeria too! And a chameleon; in the Philippines it was quails, chickens and lots of tropical fish - as well as many mice). There have also been many stray cats and kittens that have found their way to us along the way.

    1. Oh do get a dog, the perfect way to cheer up less than happy children. We have not been too restricted by ours - the key thing is to find a good boarding kennels (vets can advise) or friends who want dogs but can't commit to them full time who will sit them when you are away. If you have a maid/amah/steward they might be happy to dogsit while you are away as well for a little extra with the added benefit of having someone housesitting for security. It can be expensive though - one holiday in Kazakhstan the boarding for the dogs cost more than our flights to Bishkek for our easter break and the importing/exporting is positively ruinous.

      Did your parrot come with you after Nigeria? We were sad to leave Pip behind. My parent's parrot from their Port Harcourt days was still going strong with his new owner when we returned to Nigeria 18 years later and I hope that Pip is still giving someone great joy 20 years down the line.

  2. Aw, the kitten (and your dogs) are gorgeous. When we moved to France one of the things we said we'd definitely get was another dog for our Labrador and we did that within a few weeks of arriving. Sadly our Lab died of cancer at the end of last year and we are now back to just one dog but she has all our other animals for company and lots of visiting dogs so I think she's happy enough to rule the roost alone right now.
    I run a linky called #AnimalTales (Tues to Fri) so please do add this to the next one of you want :)

    1. I love reading about other people's pets, your linky sounds fabulous! I am so sorry to hear about your Lab, it is heartbreaking when they go.