We were doing so well; three years is pretty good going for self-restraint, if you ask me! But in the end, our daughter’s determination broke our resolve. In really quite spectacular fashion. We’ve gone from no cats to three in one fell swoop!
Don’t get me wrong, we take the ‘a pet is NOT just for Christmas’ ethos very seriously. Both my husband and I grew up with beloved family pets, and we had our own two rescue cat-babies before we moved out to South East Asia. But our girls, Lily and Casey, were both so highly strung and sensitive that we were concerned that the long flight and transition to an entirely different country and climate would be too much for them. Not to mention that because of the housing situation and the wildlife (deadly snakes, crocodiles, cat eating monkeys and monitor lizards for a start), once they got here they’d be house cats.
Our girls were two seriously lazy, timid, pampered felines, but the element of choice is an important lifestyle factor for cats, as any cat owner well knows. After years of being able to choose when they wanted to go outside we decided it would be kinder to find them new families in England to love them, without the stress and upheaval for them of moving half way around the world. We found it incredibly, devastatingly sad to leave them behind, but felt it was the right thing for them. Even so, we still think about them and wonder what they are up to with their new families.
So we were determined not to go through the same kind of heartache again. We were absolutely, categorically going to be a no-pet household until we’d done with the travel bug. Definitely. Hearts of steel…
Except our little girl seems to have developed the cat lover gene. It’s an innate thing it would seem. After ‘yum yum yum’ and ‘mummy’ (yes, in that order…it’s good to know my place!) her next word was ‘cat’ (and then ‘daddy’….it’s good for him to know his!). After months of her desperately trying to wriggle out of our arms to go and stroke the mangy, flea-bitten, emaciated looking strays that you see all over Brunei, we decided that perhaps we should think about getting a pet. At the very least it would be one animal off the streets and in a loving home.
There is very little animal welfare culture here, so local people don’t usually get their cats vaccinated or neutered. Even pet cats are usually left outside to fend for themselves. There are a lot of cats and kittens out here in desperate need of some love and attention. Not to mention some medical care. It is utterly heart-breaking, and although we had worked really hard to hold back – for fear of ending up looking like some kind of crazy animal sanctuary – in the end we just had to do it!
If I’m honest, I think we must have looked pretty crazy to the locals anyway. Taking our daughter on daily walks so that she could get her ‘stray cat fix’, whilst my husband stood by saying ‘don’t touch, don’t touch, don’t touch!’ uncontrollably, poised to swoop and grab her at any minute before she actually did the inevitable and tried to touch them. The things you do for your kids!
We heard that the local radio station had a litter of stray kittens that they were trying to re-home, and thought it might be worth a visit to check them out. From our experience in the UK, adult cats usually run a mile at the first glimpse of a toddler. So we thought kittens would be the best call, to give them the chance to get used to growing up around her.
But as it turns out, starving, desperate strays with limited options are a lot more accommodating! Despite her reputation as a pretty protective, territorial mum, the mother cat made a beeline for us, lay at our feet and rolled over for her belly to be rubbed. In fairness, she seemed barely more than a kitten herself. And she didn’t even flinch when our daughter squealed with delight! That was it, we knew right then that we were in trouble!
So now we have Tilly and her two little seven week old bundles of mischief, Rosie and Razzy. Food, water, shelter and endless love and affection. All theirs for the taking. They are the perfect new additions to our family, and even the kittens are becoming rapidly immune to the evident excitement they face every time our daughter sees them afresh. Wherever our travels take us next, I can see these little things being part of our life-baggage.