July 24, 2008

Hear Him Roar (Ok, Squeak)

We decided some time ago that we were absolutely, positively not in the market for a pet while living in Macedonia. In addition to the responsibility of caring for that pet, there was the whole question about what to do when it was time to come home--could the pet come home? And if so, exactly how many bureaucratic hoops would we have to jump through to make it happen? And there was the whole question of veterinarians and pet health. Simply put, it all sounded like a bit of a headache that we didn't want.

How quickly some convictions die.

But before I introduce little Arye, some background: Bob Barker would be terribly appalled at the lack of pet management in Macedonia. There's little-to-no sterilization performed on cats and dogs around these parts and as a result strays are ubiquitous. Combined with a very different attitude about what constitutes a pet (for instance, it's extremely rare to find households where the cat or dog is allowed inside), and you have a recipe for some rather heartbreaking situations.

The most common situation is that in any given litter of cats or dogs, those that can't be given away are cast out on to the street. Some survive, most don't. It's not an act of cruelty, per se, but simple economics--families here can't support feeding and caring for many animals and since strays are an accepted part of community life, it doesn't seem particularly inhumane to turn puppies and kittens out on their own. For we Americans this can be a bit rough seeing small, malnourished cats and dogs scavenging for food or, even worse, stumbling upon a corpse.

Anyway, we wear our concern for animals on our sleeves, which must be why someone got the idea that we would be an ideal home for a kitten. Whoever it was, I can't be too mad at them--however uncool it may be to drop a kitten on someone's doorstep, the alternative was, well, you know.

It wasn't even our doorstep the kitten landed on, but rather our balcony, accessible only by climbing up on the roof of a carport. Someone undoubtedly enlisted the aid of one of the local kids, who routinely climb up to fetch their soccer balls off our balcony if we're not home. So there we were, having a study session with a couple of students, when we heard some uncommonly loud crying outside. We first assumed those same local kids were torturing a cat (unfortunately, known to happen). Then we peered out. And found a tiny kitten on the balcony.

Based on everything we've read, we're guessing he's around four weeks old. Ok, for starters, we don't even know if it's a "he" because the sex of a kitten doesn't become readily apparent until the sixth week or so. Since kittens should ideally remain with their mothers for 8-10 weeks, this little guy missed out on some quality mom time. He obviously just learned to walk and he's a rather uncoordinated player. He can't yet jump, so every ascension of the family couch or easy chair is an epic climbing expedition.

He's tiny and cute and cuddly. There's basically two things he wants: his food dish full and our laps empty. To say that he mews would be a bit grandiose; it's more like a little squeak, something exhaled from a dog's toy. So far he's confined his exploration of the house to two rooms--well, given that he can't navigate stairs, that's all he can really do.

His spotting pattern led Jillian to say that he appears to be wearing a yarmulke. In honor of that astute observation, we named him Arye (R-yay), which is Hebrew for "lion."

As for our promise to avoid pets while living in Macedonia...that evaporated into the summer air in about two minutes. Besides, what could we do? There's no one to give him over to and we sure as heck weren't about to turn him away. And so far he's been nothing but adorable and fun.
Next week we're off to Paris for the wedding of Jillian's sister and then on to Spain for some sightseeing. Arye will be well cared for by some friends in Skopje. See you in a few weeks!


Alexandra said...


No. Way.

Hahahahahahahaha. You're *totally* your Dad's daughter. :)

Anonymous said...

I think you should rename that little white bundle of fur "LUCKY" because it problbly is the luckiest kitten in all of Macedonia
Grandpa K.