When Instinct Takes Hold

By Elizabeth Henzell
For The Bali Times

CALOUNDRA, Australia ~ Ubud is definitely my favorite place, but I miss my children so I have headed home for a few weeks. Apart from my wonderful Balinese friends on Jl. Bisma, I will miss dear old Broni – who else would love his lopsided, droopy lip and his skinny old frame. I will also miss Mr Doggi and his playmates Miss Moggi and Simba, and cranky old Oski and lovable Felix; but most of all I will miss my kittens.

Staff at The Second Honeymoon Guesthouse, where I live, have endured my constant explanations regarding the care of Mango, Tango and Mr Yoko Ono (please note the Mr – he gets quite indignant when people say he’s pregnant! Then insist he’s a girl because he doesn’t sport those rather large appendages that cause the other male cats in and around the area not to be able to lower their tails – show-offs).

The staff and one lovely guest, Alicia, will take good care of my three, but I really worry about the strays – those Bali street cats that slink up on my veranda each evening in the hope of getting my kittens’ leftovers.

There are a few, but the one I worry about the most is a dainty little tabby with white socks – Mrs Socks she has become, as it became apparent she was pregnant. I was unable, or at least too scared, to catch her because of a past incident.

About six months ago, another stray cat used to wander up to my veranda. I would sit quietly reading and watch her eat the food. Little by little she started to trust me. I could see she had a problem with one eye. At first I thought it was infected, but as I got closer I realized it was missing. It appeared to have been infected but now the lid was closed.

Satu Mata – One Eye – I named her. She would hiss at me as I tried to get closer, so I decided to put the food out when she arrived and perhaps once she knew it came from me, she might show a little more gratitude and less hissing.

It worked. I was now able to stroke her as she ate. She wasn’t beautiful like Mrs Socks is, but she was kind of cute with her one eye. She had the loudest meow – perhaps a few cat expletives were in amongst the “Hurry up! Where’s my food?” yowl.

One afternoon one of the Second Honeymoon guests said, “I’ve been playing with your kittens all afternoon but that fat one on your veranda is definitely just waiting for you.”

Satu Mata wasn’t getting fatter due to the food; she was pregnant. I now needed to catch her and take her to the clinic. I have a cat carry cage and I had won her trust; so it was just a matter of picking her up – without loosing any flesh – and putting her in it. That’s exactly what I did and without even a hiss.

Dr Yogi, the after-hours vet at the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA), examined her and, indeed, Satu Mata was pregnant. The good news was that her eye-socket had healed, and no infection remained. Dr Yogi agreed to keep her at the clinic until her kittens were born and I promised to return her to Second Honeymoon and let her out in her own surroundings once she had raised them to an adoptable age.

All of us who have ever taken our dogs and cats to the vet, in Australia anyway, know that your dog must be on a lead and your cats must be in the carry cage. I will never know what prompted me to carry Satu Mata from the examination room to the boarding area in my arms. Why didn’t I put her in the cat carry?

Within a split second, as the door opened, Satu Mata, who had been calm, jumped from my arms and ran. She stopped to look back at me and I swear for one second our eyes connected and it was as if she pleaded with me to stop her but her instinct told her to run.

We tried to catch her, but the BAWA clinic backs on to a ricefield and it was now dark. I stood and stared into the night. There are no words to explain the utter wretchedness I felt at that moment.

I will never understand why Satu Mata was punished for my stupidity. I have no answer. For months I have hoped I would see her again, that she would just arrive at my veranda with her little family. It is 7 kilometers from the BAWA clinic in Lodtunduh to Jl. Bisma – exactly the distance that dear old Broni travelled when he came home after checking himself out of the clinic back in April 2008.

I have sobbed silently when I think of the pain I caused her, alone with new babies in a hostile environment and only one eye. There is nothing or anyone that will console me. It was my lesson at her expense.

Mrs Socks’ kittens are now born; I don’t know where they are. I have left enough food for her while I am away and the staff and Alicia have promised to look out for her. Life goes on.

Please join me in celebrating Bali’s own beautiful cats. They will bring joy to your life. Have a look a BAWA’s website, www.bawabali.com, and adopt a Bali cat today.

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