Sunday, May 30, 2021

Cats on a Cat!

When we left on our world cruise in May 2007, we left my cat Annabelle with my daughter. Though both Dave and I are cat people, and cats do well on cruising boats, the amount of "inland travel" we planned to do would make it difficult to keep a pet. Trying to find someone to cat-sit in a strange country while we were off the boat for 2 months at a time would be nearly impossible. We have held fast to this plan until 2019, when another cruiser asked us to cat-sit their cat for a few months while they were in NZ. This rekindled our affection for cats. But we were still sure we really didn't want to have a cat aboard.

There have always been boatyard cats at Oceanview Marina, where we spent all of 2020 and almost half of 2021. The strays seemed to have litter after litter--there were always cute little kittens hiding around the premises. But it was difficult to get close to them. In January 2021, we started putting out scraps for the two kittens hanging around the condo building. One little stray kitten captured our hearts by actually coming up to us and rubbing on our feet. After a couple of weeks of this, we finally succumbed and invited him/her in to the condo where we were staying (next to the marina). After a couple of days, we were hooked, and we decided to make this cat part of our family.
Our New Kitten, First Night in Condo

Without consulting a vet, and seeing little knobby things on its back end, we assumed it was a boy.
Looks Like a Boy to Me!

Many people (and the internet) told us that 90% of all yellow tabby cats were male (it's a genetic thing). So we assumed he was a boy, and named him Perkins, after our old faithful engine on our previous boat "Mr Perkins".
The Local Vet Makes a House Call

A couple of weeks later, we finally arranged for the local vet on the island to come out to the marina and give Perkins his first set of shots, Dr. Glaiza Luna. Can you imagine Vets doing house calls in the USA??

Perkins didn't like having a stranger in the room, so he spent the vet's visit swaddled in a towel, except for a quick jab with the needle, and a yukky experience with the (oral) de-wormer. (This is why the vet didn't notice on the first visit that Perkins was a girl not a boy.) We set a date for when we would get Perkins fixed--amazingly the vet agreed she could do it there in our condo room when the time came.

Meanwhile, Perkins, having been a starving stray for the first 4-5 months of his life, ate and ate and ate. As a stray, he got our shrimp peels and chicken bones. As a member of the family he got hand-peeled shrimp and nibbles of chicken breast. Oh the life! Perkins started getting noticeably fat, and we commented several times about how we needed to cut down on the food he was getting.
Our Too Fat Cat

In late January, we started telling everyone in the marina that we would be leaving a few days after Perkins was "fixed", in a few weeks. Boat preps went into high gear.

On the appointed date for castration, the vet came by, and gave Perkins a tranquilizer, and then started prepping for the operation. When she turned Perkins over, she laughed and laughed and laughed, and said "You've been pranked! This is not a boy, Perkins is a girl! And what's more, she's very pregnant!" OMG! The little bumps on his/her posterior turned out to be just tufts of hair, not male organs. And his/her "getting fat" was tiny little kittens growing in her belly. No wonder she was incessantly hungry!
Our Very Pregnant Cat! (One Week Before Giving Birth)

So now what could we do? We can't leave the marina with a pregnant cat! So we settled in to wait for Perkins to give birth, in about 4 weeks, we hoped.

On Feb 25th, Perkins presented us with 4 squirmy wet blobs that turned out to be the cutest little kittens. Even though she was only a teenager herself (about 6 months old, as best we could tell), she knew exactly what to do to squirt those babies out and make sure their first hours of life were good ones. Of course, Dave and I were there watching and were ready to help (but no help needed, thankfully).
10 Hours Old

3 Days Old

10 Days Old

10 Days Old

After a few days, we named them all after some of our favorite people. Since everyone told us that 90% of the orange tabbies turn out to be males, and they were too young to tell definitively, we gave them all boys names... Gordo (after my Dad), Henry (after Dave's ex Father in Law), Andrew (after Prince Andrew, who was in the news at the time), and Charlie (after my ex-husband's childhood nickname...Charlie was the smart scrappy one.) Later, thanks to a vet friend in the US, we found out they were 2 males and 2 females. So Gordo became Gordita and Charlie the boy became Charlie the girl.
OMG, They're Climbing Out!

Oh My! What Big Ears You Have!

6 Weeks Old

4 Cats in a Box

Doing Their Business in the Box!

We spent the next 2 months enjoying watching the kittens grow into their legs and their ears. What fun having 4 kittens playing hide and seek around our one-room condo (including at 4am). How exciting the first time one of them actually did their "business" in the sand box. We had to pin the drapes up in the condo to keep them from climbing up the drapes. We used a big cardboard box to keep them in, until they learned how to climb up and jump out. We had to switch to using real sand in the sand box for awhile, instead of clumping litter, because oddly, the kittens liked to eat the clay in the clumping litter.

Now, what to do with 4 kittens?? We eventually decided to keep one kitten, and the chosen one was Charlie--one of the smallest but smartest and most adventurous. A friend wanted a male cat, so Henry went to him. And the other two were placed by the vet to two sisters. By mid May, we were down to only Perkins and Charlie.
Kittens Going to Their New Homes

Finally the day came to get Perkins fixed. Neutering a female cat is more difficult than a male cat, so the vet insisted we bring Perkins in to her office for the procedure. A cruiser friend with a car gave us a lift, so we didn't have to take her on a trike! The operation was over in about 15 minutes, and the vet handed Perkins back and said "Keep her quiet for today."

When we got back to the condo, little Charlie couldn't understand why mommy wouldn't play with her. So we had to lock Charlie out on the balcony to let Perkins sleep and recover from her surgery. As I was closing the sliding door, Charlie dashed back in, and I closed the door on her head...hard. OMG I thought I killed our sweet kitten! It knocked her back and she staggered around for a minute. She stayed woozy for the day. So both momma and kitten slept all day. The next morning, both were right as rain, and chasing each other around the condo. Thank God.
Finally We Break Away from the Marina

So we finally set out from the marina on May 11, with two cats aboard. The cats have adapted well. When we are underway, they voluntarily stay below. As soon as we turn the engine on, they curl up in their underway spots. But at anchor they have the run of the deck.
One of their "On Passage" Hangouts

Hanging Out on the Hard Top During Happy Hour

Their favorite Happy Hour pasttime is chasing each other up and down the boom.
Playing On the Boom

We've only lost one overboard so far--one very still night in a crowded mooring field in Port Carmen, Charlie fell or jumped in, and ended up swimming to a neighboring boat and climbing up on their cat rope, as we did not have one hanging over the side yet. Our neighbors noticed a strange cat in their cockpit at 3am, and brought her back to us. We've got climbers on the stern now, and are planning a cat swimming lesson soon.

Sometimes they like to play the "See if you can find me Game!"
See If You Can Find Me!

One of the hard things about having pets on a cruising boat is finding good veterinary care in new countries. The vet on Samal Island was great. However, we had a vet in Danao, Cebu spay Charlie, and it was a disaster. After 2 hours on her table, the vet announced she could not find Charlie's uterus. Then she did a terrible job of sewing her back up. A week later we had to rush to a vet 60 miles away on another island because Charlie was having trouble urinating. 1 month and 2 surgeries later, she is finally spayed and nearly 100% healed. We found a great vet in Catbalogan, Samar, experienced and caring. Because it was a long trike ride to town, they made several house calls.
The Husband and Wife Team at Cinco Family Clinic
(Pets Unlimited)
Treating Charlie on the Beach

Our Cute Little Charlie is Finally Recovered

We're not sure what we're going to do next time we want to leave the boat for a couple of months--but we'll figure something out!