Kib’anoj oxjib’ ri me’s

(The doings of three cats)

I wrote earlier of a kitten that turned up in my host family’s kitchen, and how I felt sorry for it because it was skinny and dirty and sat and meowed incessantly all day.  Manchas has, in the past couple of days, bulked up a little, likely because she became desperate enough to eat the old tortillas the family left for her.  She has also stopped meowing non-stop, now only meowing at mealtimes.

This kitten is called Manchas (Spots) by 4-year-old Maribel, who loves cats.  Manchas gets all of her cuddle-time with Maribel.

Manchas was purchased in order to solve the rat problem.  I can attest to existence of this rat problem: I hear them scurrying around in the attic above my bedroom every night, and it sounds like they’re gnawing their way in to my room. I’m sure this kitten will do her job splendidly.

There is a kitten that comes before little Manchas, however, and her name is Mix (pronounced “Mish”).  She is the kitten belonging to the owners of our school-building, and gets absolutely spoiled by the gringos.  Doc even purchased a bag of Kitten Advantage food for little Mix, and plans to stock the family with a giant bag of Kitten Chow before leaving Nahualá.

Mix is adorable. She is a teeny-tiny and has developed a healthy amount of spunk now that she’s receiving proper nutrition. In her tiny little head she has a pair of owl eyes that just make you (or at least, all of the cat-crazy gringos that seem to populate our K’iche’ class) melt. Her meow is pretty pathetic, barely a squeak, but this makes her even more endearing.  Mix is even allowed to sit in on class once in a while. Everyone loves Mix, including her owners.

There is a third cat, that I have yet to mention, because he turned up just on Sunday.  This little guy, about the same age as Manchas and Mix, looked just like my childhood cat Emily. He was orange tiger-striped with white spots on his belly and legs.  He was significantly chubbier than Manchas and Mix, and better- groomed.  I called him Moe.

Moe turned up in my host family’s courtyard around dinner time. We all ran out to see the newcomer. My host mother promptly declared that they did not need another cat, that we should leave this one to the German Sheppherd or put it out on the street. I chimed in and suggested that I take it to school the next day (to be with Mix).

The family thought that I had said I’d like to take it to the States with me… once we cleared that up, they said that I should keep him in my room for the night.  The neighbors might come by if they had lost a cat. 

The poor little thing had quite the meow, and used it liberally but not incessantly.  I made him a little nest out of my already flea-ridden sleeping bag, but he would have none of it.  He started out curled up at the foot of my bed, and gradually made his way up to my neck, where he was sleeping when I woke up in the morning. 

I woke up once to the sound of retching at 3 am– poor little guy tossed the contents of his tummy all over my floor.

He looked so happy all curled in a ball when I woke up. He stretched and kept sleeping.  I carried him to school in my bag, hoping that perhaps one of my classmates’ families would want a kitten.  I also harbored a secret fantasy that I’d be able to get him de-wormed and de-fleaed and then take him back to the States, where I’d force him on an unsuspecting friend…

Moe was not so welcome at school.  He threw up the bread and milk we gave him.  He wouldn’t eat bread or tortillas.  His meow became more incessant and more obnoxious as the day went on, and I had to leave him with the family next door for safe keeping at one point. It should also be noted that Moe did not get along with Mix.

I carried him home, meowing all the way.  I was determined to find his owners, even if it meant that I had to go door-to-door.  My host father, however, insisted that I should not bother the neighbors.  They’d stop by if they wanted their lost cat.  Meanwhile, I should lock him in the room where the family stores the cortes they sell in the market.

Hesitantly, I agreed.  I put little Moe on the floor amongst the piles and piles of cortes and gave him one last pat before my host dad locked the door.

At dinner, my host sister asked where Moe was.  I started to say that he was in the corte room, but my host father interrupted.  “He left. He escaped.” He bluntly replied.

Escaped? From a windowless, locked room?

I cried on the phone to my mom last night.  I don’t want to imagine what happened to little Moe, if he was simply released onto the street (in the pouring rain, with dogs running wild) or… worse.  I realize that the system works differently here.  There is a very complex set of sociocultural circumstances that leads to dogs and cats being treated “cruely” by US standards.  My family already had a cat to catch mice, and didn’t want to have to feed another.  But that doesn’t mean that I can’t feel a pang for poor Moe and his miserable little life.

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