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I Rescued Two Kittens in Jakarta -- In Return, They Saved Me

I knew nothing about cats, but that didn't stop me from saving these two. They've changed my life.

 |  Jan 23rd 2013  |   36 Contributions


I have loved cats all my life, but I never had the courage to adopt one, although I would feed and pet stray kitties here and there. My husband and I live in a small studio in Jakarta, Indonesia, and wanted to have babies. Having a cat was out of the question. First, the landlady wouldn’t let us, and we didn't have the extra budget for vet bills, food, and litter. And toxoplasmosis is a concern when you want babies! (Of course, I was totally clueless about toxo back then.)

This changed two and a half years ago. We were vacationing in my hometown, Bandung, a two-hour drive from Jakarta. My uncle told me the family had found a kitten and put her in a box to keep her warm.

All sorts of animals turned up at this house, including giant bugs, a huge toad, one or two turtles, wounded birds, and lost kittens. It was bizarre how they chose this sanctuary, but maybe they felt safe there, with the backyard, tropical shrubs, a fishpond, and the loving people who lived there.

When my uncle opened the box, I thought I'd just have a quick look and get on with my day.  

Mell the day we found her, so small, so soft, so terrified.

The kitten was so tiny, and scared, and beautiful. It was love at first sight! I had never seen a kitten like her. Her eyes looked like a wolf’s, and her soft coat was a mix of caramel and vanilla ice cream. She was meowing with no sound; my uncle said she had meowed all night and lost her voice, poor baby. She was trying to climb out of the box.

I had a strong feeling that I had to take her home. I didn’t care about the landlady, the bills, toxo, and the huge lifelong commitment. I’d make it work! 

I asked my husband to come and see the kitten. Always a sensible man, he reminded me how difficult our situation was. I pleaded, but he didn’t budge.

Happy new mom and dad, but Mell was trying to get away!

Then this little kitty found a hole in the side of the box and put one of her tiny fuzzy paws all the way out. This totally melted my husband’s heart! It was like she reached out to him to accept her. He has never forgotten that moment, and she has been Daddy’s little girl ever since.

Foolishly in love with the little furball, we scrambled to make arrangements. We needed to find a place to keep her until the day we could take her home. We didn’t have a pet carrier; no one had one. No one I knew had ever properly adopted a pet.

We didn’t know what to feed her or how to take care of her. Where could we find a vet? What would it cost? We needed to rent a car, because public transport did not allow pets. We were helpless and clueless. And we didn’t even want to think about the landlady.

Mell is forever Daddy's little girl.

We turned to the Internet, and I read lots of tips, articles, and guidance. I knew the best care I could give Mell was to be with her every single day. I spent as much time I could with her, playing and talking kindly to her.

I had to leave her in a town shelter in Bandung for a couple of weeks. It was shabby, and the vet wasn't sure how to treat her scabies, but that was the only place I could find in such a short time. I left her in tears and promised to get her soon. (Today I know some better pet boarding places, but back then I was totally clueless.)

Two weeks later we went back to Bandung to take Mell home. Meanwhile, when my husband went to see his mom, he saw a small white kitten bouncing in and out like he owned the house. He was told the kitten showed up every day, no mother in sight, and no one came to look for him. Sometimes they saw him playing in the gutter alone. He was dirty and hungry. 

Baby Miu the day we found him, the bouncy little snowball.

My husband sent me a photo of the kitten. Once I saw his clear blue eyes and white coat, I knew we had to adopt him, too. I thought it’d be nice for Mell to have a friend. I named him Miu.

We had no time to research adopting additional cats, so we just put him in the carrier we'd bought for Mell. (Later, I regretted my ignorance.)

Then off we went to the shelter to get Mell. When she saw me, she jumped and meowed happily. I was surprised she recognized me! Her skin condition was worse and she looked thin, but she seemed to have grown in two weeks. 

On the way to the city, the strangers stayed far away from each other.

I thought she’d be pleased to meet her new friend, but the moment I put her in the carrier, she hissed at Miu and refused to go near him. Poor Miu -- he was smaller, and so scared! She hissed and batted at Miu all the way home. I had to keep my hands between them. Two hours later, my hands were covered in painful scratches.

Later I read online about introducing cats and learned that you should separate them and give them time to get to know each other, not just shove them together inside a small carrier! But that was me: clueless, inexperienced. I was not the only one. 

Chaos in the house, fighting for a scratching spot on my sofa!

Pet ownership in Indonesia is not as common as it is in the U.S. Yes, lots of people here love pets, and there are owners -- mostly wealthy -- who are responsible, knowledgeable, and willing to pay vet bills. But when you live in a country where lots of people still find it difficult to provide for their families, proper pet care is usually at the bottom of the list. My family struggled; when I was growing up we never had a real pet, and because animals were considered "just animals." They got scrap food.

My husband and I work really hard to give Mell and Miu the best care and food possible. Even though our friends and family understand our devotion, some others still don’t get why we care so much for what they see as just common animals.

Very happy yin and yang kitties.

As an inexperienced cat owner, I had a mini breakdown. I got so exhausted from work and coming home to kittens always fighting and running, a never-empty litter box and never-ending vet bills, and painful hands and feet full of scratches -- well, one night I just had it. I sat and cried and cried and cried. I told my husband to get rid of one of the cats or both. I just couldn’t take it anymore. 

My husband agreed to ask some friends, but fortunately for all of us, we never found a taker. And it turned out the landlady was OK with the kitties. 

We got used to having kittens and changed our routines to work our life around them. Thankfully, Mell and Miu learned to be pals, too. They now sleep together and bathe each other for hours. People think they are siblings because they are inseparable -- even their fur matches!

Cuddling up together.

Two and a half years later, we don’t know how our lives would be without Mell and Miu. We didn’t know that having them would change our life forever! We might not have a real baby, but we are as happy as a real mom and dad. 

It wasn’t easy, but we have learned commitment, patience, love, courage, and many other things new parents learn. When anyone asks me, I tell them we are a family of four: Mell, Miu, and proud Mommy and Daddy. 

Relaxing after a morning walk.

Having Mell and Miu has strengthened the relationship between me and my husband.  We laugh a lot, we kiss, we hug each other more.  We are just ... happier! It’s a wonderful feeling to be needed and wanted, to have someone waiting for you at home.

Mell and Miu: H-E-A-R-T.

Each night when I feel Miu sleeping on my pillow above my head, purring like an engine, and Mell snuggling on my feet and my husband at my side, I feel complete.

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