TNR- My heart’s true calling

Living in Korea was an amazing experience and it exposed me to so many different things and introduced different ideas and ways of life to me. Back in the UK when you see a street cat outside you presume that the cat has a home and they usually look in a good condition.

The cats in Korea aren’t so lucky, when you see them outside you know that they have either been abandoned or they are wild. They need to survive on the streets and make it on their own. They don’t have it easy and they continually go between the stage of pregnancy and then of rearing their kittens or constantly mating. They look battered and haggard and they rarely live past 3-4 years.

There are caretakers , random people who take on the cats and provide them with food and if they are lucky provide water during the scorching summer months. It is not uncommon to find dead animals everywhere, especially on the roads where they have been hit by cars or they have dropped down. These cats have practically the worst existence imaginable.

They face cruelty on a daily basis- it is normal for people to put down poison for them and to throw rocks and kick stones at them. The cats are street smart for the most part and avoid all human contact, they come out when the streets are empty and forage for food. There was also a situation in my city where a man trapped over a hundred cats and cruelly made them into traditional medicine. Another cat feeder was killed when feeding her colony as someone threw a rock out of a window and hit her on the head and killed her.

Of all the things I miss in Korea my street cats are probably way up high there. They became part of my family and I had names for each of them. I knew their personalities and their quirks and I loved them for it.

I never wanted to adopt stray cats. It was not my scene- I didn’t like cats and I didn’t like scary street cats who didn’t like me…These cats hissed at me, wouldn’t come close to me and were extremely ungrateful.

It all started with Goyangy (Pepper Potts) and then Belle and then suddenly I ended up with a ton of street cats that I was responsible for. There is very little that you can do to help these cats, they aren’t friendly, they don’t need homes all they need is shelter and food and water. Life is extremely hard on them and it is hard to find a way to help.

Belle led me to TNR, I couldn’t bear to watch her suffer each summer. While I was trapping her I came across a few others who climbed into my trap. It was at that moment I got the bug. I could make a difference to those cats’ lives and I could change their lives for them.

Then it became an addiction- I couldn’t go somewhere new without scoping it for stray cats. I noticed more and more cats near where I taught. I saw more cats suffering the more I opened my eyes. The more I saw the more I realized that I needed to help as many as I could. I set my sights at fifty.

I kept feeding the other cats in the meantime, I had to make sure that they were all taken care of even the ones who were proving hard to trap. While I was rehabbing some other cats I heard of someone else who had a huge colony of cats that he was taking care of. I went the first time he trapped two cats and helped him take them to my vet. When he left I took over his colony and kept going back to fix them all. It wasn’t easy as it was over 20minutes away. Chris however was amazing, he would drive me there and either pick me up or wait in the car reading his book.

We took the cats in and they were then released back outside. They thrived once neutered and I slowly built up the numbers.

I knew the risks of TNR and I knew that not every cat I trapped would have a positive result. There was the chance that not all of them would make it on the operating table. My concern was that a lot of the cats who showed up were in bad condition, we were then about to do surgery on them straight away without any fixing up

But, I kept going. We lost one and with another it was touch and go but he survived, but the one we lost hit me hard. His name was Riley- all my street cats had a name. He had shown up with Belle one day. She had found him with his eye hanging out. He showed up on my door step and I had tried to catch him but failed. I kept trying to catch him but I wasn’t  successful. He then became best friends with Nora and they buddied up. He took care of her and would become her carer and provider and then later her kittens’ dad. When he died I wanted to give up, I couldn’t face risking another cat but then I thought of the kittens’ I had found dead and the others I saw starving to death.

I knew what I had to do and I kept going. I decided to trap in an area which I had seen which was extremely over populated. I started taking three traps and trying to fill them all. I set three traps in a row on a certain street and would walk between each street checking on them. As soon as I caught one I would throw a sheet over it and put it in the car and wait for the others to fill up. Most nights I only caught one or two and I would then have to lift up the cage to see if the cat was lactating. If she was lactating then I would have to release her with a heavy heart.

Halfway through trapping I ended up changing vets and the new vet I found was incredible. He had done Belle’s surgery and he was very diligent. If the cat came in sick he would administer meds and treatment. For feral street cats he would make sure that they were as healthy as possible before allowing me to release them.

I carried on trapping. I would go out in my pjs or in tracksuit bottoms and try to catch cats. I would eat my dinner sat on steps. When it was super hot in August I would walk in between the shops buying iced drinks at each place. I would literally have sweat pouring off my face and the extra exertion of carrying a trap with a cat in didn’t make it pleasant.

Whenever I caught a cat it felt like a victory, I was always so pleased. I knew that the following morning I would take the cat and they would have a life changing surgery and a chance at living a few more years safely. I cleaned up each area, I was determined to neuter the main population from each area and it got harder. There were days when I wouldn’t trap anything and others when I would leave with three full traps.

I found a group of students who were caring for some former street cats. They had two adult cats and a kitten. I asked them if we were able to neuter them and prevent any other pregnancies from them. I did them, I was pleased to stop the mum from having those issues again.

I had four different areas I was working and then I found a dog in the street. The dog had an owner and belonged to the garden center. When I walked into the garden center I found another dog who was in a horrific condition and when I walked through a different way I noticed a sea of kittens.

There were two mother cats nursing their kittens. Each of them had around three or four kittens. There were also older kittens clearly from another litter. They were cute, super cute but I didn’t want to take them away. They appeared to be owned as there was food and even a cat litter box. But, they seemed to be living as feral cats despite being friendly.

I eventually got around to speaking to the owner of the garden center and tried to persuade him that it would be a good idea to let us tnr them all. I took a friend of mine who translated  for me, she helped me persuade him and finally he gave us permission to neuter whoever we could catch. I ended up catching all but three males, they were older and kept wandering. There was no hope with regards to catching them, not with the limited time I had. It was too hard and it was more important that I caught the females and got them sorted before they filled up the garden center even more.

I spent the summer there in the mornings before I would go to work. I would get there early, before the owner was even up. I caught as many as I could and then when dripping in sweat I would take them into the vet. The garden center was practically a greenhouse and the temperature was in its thirties with high humidity. I would then rush home and grab a shower and rush off to work. It was horrific but I didn’t want to quit, if I had taken a break he wouldn’t have let me come back.

While I was there I spent time rehabbing his chained dog outside. It was a beautiful husky that was approximately 14kg if that. I have never seen such a skinny dog in all my life nor one that was so scared. He said he had found him in a field- a story which I doubted but I didn’t want to argue over it. I instead took high protein food and different high calorie treats. The owner fed him the food I provided and I took him snacks as well, he gained a tiny amount but it didn’t help. The dog was still skin and bones. Then every time I heard a trap close I would cover it and place it in the shade to prepare to take them to the vet.

Trapping was my personal challenge. While in Korea I managed to trap 46 cats. I didn’t hit my fifty despite in my last weeks desperately trying to ensure that I did. I kept trying but it didn’t work. I ended up on 46 cats and 7 kittens which were too young to be snipped.

During that time I rehomed at least ten of them. It was a rollercoaster I would have to stay in areas late at night on my own and wait for cats to climb in the traps. I would often be either cold or too hot. I had a limited time so the weather wasn’t able to be a concern for me. I spent hours and hours pacing up and down streets often lingering in the shadows. I loved every minute of it. It was the most instantly gratifying experience I had. Each time I helped one of them I considered the impact that it would have. I saw a graph of the numbers that cats could produce and it stuck in my mind.

Out of all the things I did in Korea TNR was the best part of it I believe. I moaned and I hated it a lot of the time as the cats on the street didn’t deserve it. We had former cat mill cats, pedigrees from pet shops thrown away, kittens struggling to survive and goodness knows how many females with pyometra. They all didn’t deserve the cruel fate they had been dealt. By doing something as little as neutering them we were able to change it a little. A lot of them probably didn’t survive what we would class as long fulfilling lives but for the ones who have I would like to think that their sterilization helped them with that.

Nothing will ever compare to seeing an adult female cat safe and happy and not pregnant or desperately hunting for scraps. Or watching two neutered males play together in the park instead of having to fight for territory. My personal favourite though is looking out at a park and noting that each cat in it has an ear tip and knowing that you have stabilized that area, if only for a short time.

Those little ear tips that so many people don’t like symbolize everything- hope, freedom and most of all that someone cared for them enough to help them.

 

Belle- A beauty with a pure heart

In my area I had been feeding Pepper Potts and along with her came a striking calico. She was aloof and scared of humans but she was also curious.

She gave birth outside my house which is how I got Tinker – our first kitten. After I took her baby I felt bad and started to keep an eye on her. I became her feeder and she would let me get close. I knew I had to get her neutered but had no idea how at the time.

She started showing up on my walk home , walking behind cars next to me. I nicknamed her Belle because she was so beautiful. I fell in love with her, I didn’t need to stroke her I would just admire her and talk gently whenever I was near. She started to trust me but I never pushed it. Her aloofness and fear of people kept her safe, the streets are a dangerous place to live in any country South Korea especially.

As I spent more and more time with her there was something about this girl that touched my heart. I needed to help her and the only thing I could do was neuter her.

I decided to research and upon my research found out about TNR. I finally managed to get a trap after a year. I baited the trap sure I would catch her…Long story short I didn’t… Failure didn’t mean I gave up, it just made me try harder but she was smart. Then I watched her belly start to swell…I knew I had missed my chance for a while. She showed back up skinny and I waited to see if any had survived.

Then a month and a few weeks later she brought some kittens down to meet me. She paraded them through the park crying anxiously. I sat and watched there was a ginger kitten or two and a stunning mini Belle. One kitten lagged behind (my Archie).

She was an incredible mum and took care of them all but kept trying to give Archie to me. I kept an eye on her but one day the kittens were gone. She came back sore and skinny. I kept trying to trap her but to no avail.

Cue another litter of kittens. One she led me to crying and let me trap him- Simber. She also brought home the injured strays- a few cats showed up weak and unwell. I did for them what I could but she never objected to sharing with others in need.

I would sit and stare at her watching her , her watching me. I prayed and prayed that I would end up trapping her. Then one day she showed up hungry (it had been heavy rain so she hadn’t been out for two days). I ran upstairs and grabbed the trap and set it. I went back upstairs- my flat was over the car park and waited with my windows open. I could be downstairs in less than 40 seconds.

I knew it was unlikely that I would ever trap her but I couldn’t give up. Then I heard the door close and when I got downstairs I sobbed as I realised it had finally happened. I threw a towel over the cage and sat before my legs gave way. I couldn’t stop crying and I couldn’t breathe , after two years and umpteen kittens I had caught her.

The next morning we rushed early to the vets to get her snipped and found that he was closed. I couldn’t keep her in the cage for 3 days without surgery. I had to either release her or pay for the surgery myself. It was 450$ but as far as I was concerned worth every penny. I went to a different vet and he took one look at her and said TNR. He took her in, spayed and treated her.

When I went to pay he said no charge and he had also taken care of some minor injuries she had picked up outside. While she was under, before he spayed her I took the chance to stroke her and hold her. It was my only shot and I was going to make it count.

Then came the release date- i knew she wasn’t friendly and that I couldn’t bring her inside. She was smart outside and when living on the streets that was half the battle. I opened her cage and watched her flee, ear tip in place and with an increased chance of of survival and with hope.

I had done all I could to help her. She eventually forgave me and came back. She was a different cat. She got chubby and was more active and more content. She stopped roaming so far and was content with the park. She started to walk me to the shops and I would give her a treat on the way home. I wondered if I could touch her and promised myself that if I could she would come back to the UK with us. I never touched her again after her surgery. She was truly feral and now a content feral.

She was what I was dreading about leaving Korea. Kaleer’s mum promised to feed her but I knew I would miss her terribly. When it came time to say goodbye she was nowhere to be seen. She spared us that so instead I left food for her. I left crying knowing that I wouldn’t see her again.

Then her feeder didn’t see her for months, I messaged all the time from the UK asking if she had been sighted but nothing. I got a message on Christmas day saying happy Christmas look who just showed up. It was Belle. It was my Christmas miracle and had made my day.

She may have been feral but it’s hard to find an animal who has touched me to the extent that Belle had. Without her and Tinker I wouldn’t have rescued kittens, I would never have gotten involved in TNR without her as my inspiration. She was the one street cat that made it all happen.

Parker and Ester- Two bundles of perfection!

Sarabe had two of the most beautiful kittens- Ester and Parker. Both of the kittens were stunning and by the time they were four weeks old we started to advertise them. They had stayed with their original foster who had helped to raise them, bottle feeding while their mum wasn’t able to. She cared for them and toileted them and kept an eye on them for their mum, even when they fell through the bars of the crate they were staying in.

When their mum was hospitalized they went with her and they stayed in the vet surgery feeding from her. They were super cute and everyone was extremely fond of them. But, they had to be moved as they were taking up valuable space in the vet surgery.

The same day I dropped their mum off they moved back  into my house and they swiftly settled in.

In the beginning they mirrored their mother’s behavior but they started to improve swiftly. They moved into my house with my kittens and pets and they immediately adapted and became very sweet.  The bonus of having a madhouse is that new animals can mirror their behavior. I am very fortunate in that I have an older dog  (Baker)who shows everyone how to behave and a cat (Archie) who makes everyone welcome and shows them how to fit in amongst the chaos.

Ester looked pure Norwegian and was absolutely stunning, her brother Parker was a little shyer and looked more like his dad. He had the fluffy side of his mum with normal orange and white markings. Ester was a silver and a bit of a character, she had the fearless resilience of a kitten and within a couple of days started to copy my cats who were the perfect role models in so many ways.

She began to learn how to play and would play all day. Her and her brother would play hide and seek around the kitchen jumping out from under cushions and behind them on the sofa. Everyone who met them fell in love and they were very loving.

It was strange that Ester came out so Norwegian and Parker didn’t, it worried me as I wanted them desperately to stick together. They weren’t the kind of cats who would be content on their own and instead they needed to have company. I hoped that they could stay together but I didn’t hold out much hope as it was even harder to find a home for two kittens in an already saturated market. Ester I knew would get adopted but poor Parker I wasn’t so sure.

We advertised them and had a few families interested, I declined some because I knew that they weren’t the right ones. I had to hold out hope that I could find the best possible home for them.  It was on the final stretch of going home and I was swimming in kittens and it all seemed impossible.

It was extremely stressful and it was hard to hold out especially while we were packing and getting ready to leave Korea forever. Then a couple applied for both Parker and Ester. It was amazing- they sounded perfect. They had had Norwegians before and were desperate to have more. It was love at first sight and it was clear that they would both be very cherished. Their new mum came along to collect them, their brothers and new dad were eagerly awaiting their arrival.

Over the following months they got bigger and bigger and they now live perfectly content with their new owners. They have each attached themselves to a parent, they adore their new siblings and have settled in and become much adored parts of the family.

For me I felt a sense of joy, they were the last remnants of their father- a sweet older injured tabby cat who fell in love with a pedigree. They have a lot of his nature in the sense that they take care of each other and are not solo cats. They are also the symbol of the end of their mum’s career as a breeding cat. She would never again be having more kittens and no more earning her living being subjected to a life of only breeding and no medical care.

They were destined to have a fantastic life as loved and cherished cats which was the only thing that anyone could ask.

 

Scooby- Sometimes when a cat is ready they are ready!

While Sparky was living the high life in foster care his brother was still outside. He was still unfriendly and didn’t seem to care about me.
Then one day he changed, the same as with Sparky but even quicker. I knew that he had the potential to be a house cat but we just had to get him there.
I decided to TNR him and keep him in my house for a week or so. I eventually caught him and he came home to my house to recover. I have never been so wrong about a cat- he was scary.
He howled 24/7, he was hissing and lunging whenever I got close and I couldn’t even touch him anymore. We were at a loss at what to do and decided that the kindest thing was to release him. He had a constant food source between myself and our neighbour and we took care of him.
He was so aggressive that we had to carry his cage down the stairs to release him (by cage I mean a giant metal dog crate). When we did he shot out with a yowl climbed all the trees and skipped in the grass. He was an outdoor cat through and through.
Months passed and I still spent time with him, he forgave me for his incarceration and started coming for cuddles. I started reading outside with him on my lap him crying when I didn’t do what he wanted (pet him).
Then he started showing up at my door, sitting on my apartment stairs waiting for me, walking me to the shops. There was a child opposite who had been bought a BB gun as a present, he played in Scooby’s park. As time went on and trees got boring he started shooting closer and closer to the cats. I was ready to go to war, but, instead I spent all my free time outside.
At this point I had 7 kittens- five of whom were being bottle fed and the other two were being socialized. I was sleeping about 4 hours a night and packing up our life to go home. This was all on top of my jobs.
Scooby was getting more and more demanding- he would walk around howling if i wasn’t outside or come up to the second floor of my apartment and cry for me to let him in.
Once again my quarantine spaces were gone but I knew that he could be friendly. I decided to try to work out a plan. I needed a foster who would be committed- not anyone who would give up.
I contacted a cat shelter- the one who took in Sarabi and asked if they could help. They hesitated as they were full but I begged. I needed their help and I had no other options. I had to travel up the country that weekend and if they could take him we would drive him there. They said yes! The plan was underway and I knew he would be safe when I left.
The morning we were leaving I went outside immediately, it was the first morning that scooby wasn’t there. I ran around the neighbourhood in my pjs and slippers shouting his name. I felt as though it was hopeless and then I heard an answer to my cries.
I followed the noise and found him curled up with one of the kittens from the previous season. They were curled up in a box of rubbish. The second he saw me he jumped up and ran to me chirping- i promptly burst into tears which made him run faster. He followed me home and jumped into the carrier we had waiting for him. He knew!
I locked the door and sat him in the front of the car, my boys in the back. He sang the whole way to the shelter- it was a 2.5 hour drive. I took him in and settled him quickly, I gave him a kiss and told him I would find him a home. I promised that I would get it sorted for him and then I cried on the way up to drop my boys off.
I was saying goodbye to everything. When I got home that night it was silent, there was no Scooby to read to, no punk waiting outside my house excited to see me. It really was the end.
Scooby stayed at the shelter for months. During that time I had started helping a man with his street kitten. When I first got the message asking how to make her more friendly I wondered how dedicated he would be.
She was very young but also very independent, most people give up. My answers were short and concise but not fantastically giving, I had been burnt before. When you help someone you invest in them and that animal. You start their animal to one of your animals and then ultimately you are disappointed if it doesn’t work out.
Well, I have never been more wrong. This guy was 100% invested in his kitten and determined to get everything right. The second I suggested something he made it happen. I’ve never seen such commitment.
Then months later when his kitten was lonely he talked about getting her a friend. We suggested Scooby, it was a long shot but we knew that Scooby was paternal at the shelter with the kittens. He loved them. If this worked out it was his shot at freedom. Not many people had wanted him, an older black and white cat didn’t have the same allure as a pedigree cat or a kitten.
His new dad didn’t care about aesthetics , he cared about making his girl happy and giving another animal a shot at a home.
He picked him up from the shelter after carrying out all the adoption protocol and he went home. Over time he introduced them slowly and they eventually became best friends. Scooby had a home and a sister.
To say they are both adored would be an understatement, they are spoilt rotten with lots of love. Scooby loves having a family and sticks to them. His favourite place  is either  glued to his dad receiving love or laying on one of his new scratcher sofas . When I had taken him in he wasn’t ready but afterwards he proved how ready he was. He had found the perfect family and a forever home.

Sparky- Because nothing has character like a Korean street cat

Sparky was one of two new cats who showed up in our local park. I found him collapsed in the road one day and had to try to give him food. I was scared of him as he was super aggressive but when I saw him collapsed I slipped him some wet food and he recovered over time when I gave him more and more water. He was beautiful but also very difficult.

I caught him in a trap and took him to the vet to be checked and to also be neutered. He was a friend’s birthday present – I said I would catch him and I did on her birthday.  Then I released him and as with most cats when released he disappeared for a few days. He finally reappeared though and the change was colossal. If I hadn’t known it was Sparky I wouldn’t have believed it.

It took a few days but suddenly he was friendly. He looked terrible but then later he started to improve over time. Over time he gained weight and he got friendlier and friendlier. Before long he would walk me to the shops and sit outside our apartment singing to us. He then started coming inside the entrance of the building and sitting on the stairs trying hard to come in. He wanted a home and a family.

Every day when I got back from work Sparky was waiting for me, he wanted cuddles and kisses. He didn’t care about anything else, he had food regularly but he wanted attention. I started to spend more and more time with him, it got to the point where I would sit with him and read a book while fussing him on the step. I kept having to change my trousers and bleach wash my hands to keep the risk of infection away from my boys.

I was desperate to take him in but it was impossible, we were once again at capacity with nowhere safe to quarantine him. I felt sorry for him but there was very little we were able to do. My only rule stood unfortunately, we would not ever take in more animals without the adequate quarantine space. The situation was just escalating with Sparky outside. He was very bonded to the other cat who he had been found with. He was very attached to the cat we had christened ‘Scooby’. They played together every night after eating dinner. But Scooby was reluctant to become friendly with me and was hesitant whenever I approached. Sparky was the opposite and just wanted our human companionship.

Sparky started to become a menace whenever I was trapping. He refused to leave me alone and would stick close to me and steal the food from the traps. He was hilarious but also an absolute pain when I was desperate to catch other animals.

I started to spend more and more time outside with him. I was loathe to leave him and every spare minute (there weren’t many) I would try to fuss him. I was sat with Sparky once in the summer replying to emails when I suddenly heard a bunch of older teenagers coming. I didn’t bother moving, there was no point they were just walking home from school. I was sat back on the stairs behind a bush not visible to anyone apart from the cat.

Then suddenly I heard a shout, Sparky was sunbathing in front of me. He was chilling, when the boy shouted he looked up but didn’t bother moving. Then the boy came running at him aiming  a kick like Sparky was a rugby ball. He aimed his foot at him and I screamed loudly at him and jumped up from behind the stairs.

I lost my temper like I have never lost it before. I shouted words that I shouldn’t have shouted and chased them down the street. The boys fled. After checking Sparky was okay I called Chris to drive and pick me up from the park. He came and we drove around the streets to find them. I wanted a picture to take to their principle the following day, I was planning to go to war over their treatment of Sparky. He had done nothing wrong and to the children it was a sport.

That kind of behavior is what brings down the progression of animal welfare in Korea. There are so many people fighting together to make a better future and already you can see the improvements that have been made in society. The younger generation will evolve and eventually change animal welfare I hope but it will be the throwbacks, the children like those boys who hold it back.

I searched for the children for just under an hour, we drove all the neighbouring areas, I even checked the parks and then when we kept drawing blanks. I went to McDonalds and ended up walking up to each group of school boys and staring them down hoping that I would see the boys who tried to hurt my Sparky. I failed and then I went to spend more time with Sparky.

I knew straight away that he couldn’t stay there any longer. I moved him urgently into a foster home and he didn’t do very well there. He was good with the woman but not with the man. It became hard for him to stay there so we moved him to another friend who took him in. While he was there we advertised him like crazy everywhere but we couldn’t find the right home. He just wasn’t finding his home, he was fat and older and he urgently needed a home.

I didn’t want to leave for England and leave two cats behind (the second cat was Scooby- that is the next story) but I had no choice. I had rehomed all the kittens and my house was empty, I had to try to get the two adults rehomed but there was only so much I could do. While I was back in England my friend helped me network her. We ended up finding an adopter who sounded perfect, the same friend who was taking care of my boys helped liaise the adoption and Sparky finally went to his new home. He was amazing and immediately settled with his new mum despite there being an unscheduled move very quickly after. He immediately went onto a diet and he then continued to thrive. He had found his forever home filled with love and care. It took me forever to find him a home and he went through two foster homes during that time but he definitely taught me that it was worth having patience because the best is yet to come.

Gus and Sawyer- two very special boys- my mini tigers <3

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When I rescued the Persian mixes the ginger boys stood out. They were fierce protectors of their little sisters and they were near blind from their eye infections. They were also super greedy, they loved their bottle and later would always be found at the food bowl.

When they first came home they were starving hungry and desperate for food but also sure that humans were not a good thing. They stayed in quarantine in large dog crate with a heating blanket to help them regulate their body temperature. They would also position their little sisters in the middle and they would stay on the outside of the kitten bundle, they would keep watch at night and take care of the others.

They were such frequent visitors to the food bowl that they would often be found asleep face down in it. The previous two little spitfires transformed into the most loving kittens you could ever imagine.

While I was away Chris had really stepped up, I don’t often praise him publicly but he was incredible with them all. He transformed them into some of the loveliest kittens we had ever fostered. They grew beautifully and were amazingly gentle kittens who loved nothing more than chasing a cat wand or carrying their toys around with them. They were loving and our house became a bit of a hotspot for people who wanted to visit them.

They were even patient when my friends came to do their photo shoots, they posed and even wore the ridiculous props that I had made for them. We adored them, Chris could often be found asleep in bed with one boy asleep on his chest and the other curled around Baker. They were hard to tell apart but Gus was always a bruiser compared to his brother Sawyer.

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We both knew that they would be extremely hard to adopt out, we also didn’t want them to be separated from one another. They deserved to find a home with their siblings as they were all so bonded.

Eventually we got lucky, I rejected about three homes for them. I had a lot of people email but I wasn’t sure if they were the right ones and then I got an email from Genevieve’s mum. She had a friend who she thought would be a fantastic mum for some of the kittens.

We invited her around and to say that she adored them would be an understatement. When she left she was already planning all the toys they would have in their new home.

For both of us this was a bittersweet adoption, we adored them. Gus had bonded with Baker and was always found curled up in her fat belly snuggling down for the night. Sawyer wanted to be sat on Chris’ shoulder and Gus would lay down in your arms and when you rocked him he would fall asleep purring. We had bonded extremely hard with them. We were 100% full to capacity though, we didn’t have the space for anymore animals. If they hadn’t been adopted then we would have had to potentially stay in Korea for another year or bring them home and deal with the consequences , but it was far from ideal.

We knew that they would be the perfect pets. They would make any owner extremely happy and they would happily fit into any family. We were very lucky in the sense that they were some of the most well adjusted kittens we’ve ever had.

Their new mum was extremely lucky and they would be the most fantastic additions to a home in Korea.

When they left though I felt as though my heart was breaking. They were really the last, we had said it for years but now it was real. We had already sent most of our stuff back to the UK. We had even booked flights, we were really going along with our bunch of rejects. I knew that the boys would have a fantastic home and that they would be loved. But, a small part of me felt sad that it wasn’t with us.

It always feels unfair with bottle babies, you build a bond and you do the sleepless nights, the toileting at 2am/3am etc and then suddenly they are older and boom gone. I’m so lucky that I am kept up to date on their progress- not just these but most of my animals’ mums/dads know how much I loved them and send pictures and updates.

They set off on their journey to their new home and settled in beautifully. Then much later Gus got sick. We have no idea what triggered it and he and his new mum fought it as hard as they could. He saw specialists and got lots of help but ultimately wasn’t strong enough to fight anymore. She did all she could but she put his needs before his own. She listened to him when he wasn’t strong enough to carry on and his quality of life decreased. Everything was tried but he wasn’t strong enough to fight anymore. He had the most beautiful life though and while it was much too short I will always be indebted to his new mum who loved him with all her heart and showered him with everything she had. She adored him (and his brother) and tried all she could.

Sawyer however has gone from strength to strength and become a little bruiser.  We always thought as he was the runty one in the litter that he would remain little…We were wrong. He is now a massive chubby happy cat. He’s spoilt, adored and showered with all the love he could possibly want.

These boys touched our hearts and I cannot express how glad I was that I took them in, even though everything in me was saying no. They were the perfect finale to our in house rescue and they will always be in my heart.

Quarantine, Quarantine and then quarantine some more.

It is the time of year when more and more people rescue animals and bring them home. To bring an animal home is an amazing thing to do, when you pick up that starving kitten or the puppy/dog you have found and brought home that is kindness in itself. In no way is this blog entry meant to knock any of that , it is a pure act of kindness but that has to be done responsibly.

Whenever you take in a new animal there is a risk. It is not easy to diagnose an animal with an illness and *gasp* even vets get it wrong. The immediate risk I have found with kittens and puppies is that of ringworm. Ringworm is a fungal infection which is an absolute swine to get rid of.

When people bring home an animal with ringworm it isn’t always obvious and it can sometimes be a case of it not being noticed. I have personally taken a kitten to a vet three times to be checked for ringworm to be told that I am paranoid. I went to another vet and they told me it wasn’t ringworm to then do a test to find out it was- Cue mass shampooing of all my animals and then mass bleaching. (By the way that was after the kitten had been in quarantine for two weeks). Vets get things wrong, so do we- it is a massive downfall of being human.

If you know any friends who are dealing with ringworm, steer clear. Just leave a love parcel on their door step- in that parcel include chocolate, bleach and lots of wine (or their drink of choice). Or if you are a close friend put on some rubber gloves and help them bleach the whole house.

Ringworm is highly contagious and requires diligence. It is hard work but fairly simple to treat although I will admit it is extremely time consuming.

I would always recommend quarantining a new animal for at least two weeks. You just can’t know the history of that dog or cat. I have heard horror stories in Korea- people who have rescued puppies with parvo or distemper. These people wanted to do good, that’s why we adopt surely?! But, their new pup has spread the disease to their own personal dogs or to friend’s animals. The same with cats- I’ve heard of people’s cats dropping after bringing in new kittens which haven’t been quarantined properly.

To people who already have pets in their house it is the most important thing you will ever do. You have a commitment to the animal in your house, that animal is your responsibility. I brought a lot of animals into my house but when I started fostering I made a decision and a promise to my girls (Piper and Baker) I would always try to protect them from any diseases coming into the house and that I would always choose them and their wellbeing. It got close at times and I think I skated a little too close to the wind in certain instances but I always kept our animals separated until they had been in my care for at least two weeks. If they had ringworm it was two weeks from when the spots were all clear. I also kept my animals completely up to date on all vaccines and making sure that they were in the best health possible. I had a commitment to them and it was my job to make sure that I took the best care of them possible.

I’ve heard stories about people who have brought stray animals back who have looked in a good condition and let them onto their beds, furniture etc. I love Korea I truly do but the streets are often filthy. I’ve seen grown men and women pee onto them. I’ve seen rubbish everywhere, and stray animals fishing around in that rubbish for a stray chicken bone.

To maintain a little distance isn’t unkind, you have already carried out the greatest act of kindness and rescued them. Maintaining a little distance to make sure that they are clean is not going to cause permanent damage. For the first month I had one of my cats I handled him in a giant plastic apron and rubber gloves- he doesn’t care. I don’t know a 100% but I would go as far as to guess that he doesn’t even remember. Another one of my boys was a week old max…He lived in a carrier way up high away from all other animals. I couldn’t take the risk of him passing something onto my girls.

Rescuing is an amazing and rewarding thing to do, but it is something to be entered into with eyes wide open. Any contact with animals other than my own would always see me diluting bleach and washing my hands with it. My clothes would be washed with a lot of non-staining bleach. I don’t see that any risk is worth taking.

Even if you don’t already have pets it is still worth considering – most foreigners in Korea will have a job facing members of the public. Skin conditions are not forgiving- they can have an outbreak anywhere on your body- face , hands etc. Try explaining that to a room of kindergarteners.

I can promise however that if you rescue and you do quarantine correctly it will be the most rewarding thing you ever do. You may end up with a house of misfits (like I did). But, it will be a house full of love and you will have that glow knowing that you saved a life.

Demeter- Leaving on a jet plane

While I had been back in England for my sister’s wedding Chris had been charged with caring for all the kittens. It was a lot of work especially as the kittens were kept away from the other animals in the kitchen.

 

There was also the small issue that the cats were not extremely friendly, they were fine when being bottle fed but were a little scared of people and weren’t that keen on being picked up or held. We needed to get them ready for adoption and poor Chris had the job of making them friendly, keeping a household of 10+ animals on his own while working full time.

 

He really rose to the challenge and when I came back they were not only alive but he had rehabbed them. They were super friendly and cuddly, a part of me was pleased and the other jealous that he had managed them all so well.

 

They were also developing personalities. The kitten with the most personality had to be Demeter- Demi for short. To say she was determined is putting it lightly. She was absolutely determined to do whatever she wanted to do. She would run through the house, climb all over Chris and then pass out asleep in his arms when she felt like it.

 

For some reason, she developed far less of a bond with me than Chris. This hadn’t happened since Simber with kittens. She absolutely adored chris and knew that he would let her do whatever she wanted. She would wait until he was sleeping and then go and curl up next to his head. Or she would play with his toes if they were out of the end of the bed.

 

I knew that she had to be adopted quickly as I could already see Chris forming strong bonds, we didn’t have the ability to adopt another pet. We were already running at maximum capacity and I had never kept any animal that could have found another home. I was determined not to break that on the final bunch.

 

Autumn’s mum then messaged me and told me that her mum had fallen in love with Demi online and would like to adopt her. She was in Canada, it would be a transatlantic adoption but they would offer her the best home with brothers and sisters and lots of attention.

 

I knew that if Demi’s adopter was anything like Autumn’s adopter then it would be a perfect home. They were a pet friendly family, they all adored their animals and they were very cherished members of the family. It was important to me that we got it 100% right as they all deserved so much more than just a home which liked them because they were pretty.

We kept Demi until it was time for her to go. Then she set off to Seoul to get ready for her flight to her new family. She has a fantastic life in Canada, she plays all day with her new brother and even loves the family rabbit. She has adjusted and plays all day not caring or remembering anything about her life before. 

 

We get updates on Demi which makes Chris happy, he feels a sense of pride at how they all turned out but Demi especially.

Skyler & Summer- The first 2 out of 5

 

Sky and Summer were beautiful kittens. They were extremely playful but only within their litter. Sky was a little bit scared and she was the easiest distinguished from the others, she had one eye each colour. They were both stunning and enjoyed being around people.

 

I was finding bottle feeding five a bit of a challenge, so I decided to make a bed on the sofa next to their crate. They slept on the heating pad next to me and my alarm would go off every two hours to give them a feed. I had a massive set up with the kettle within reach and bowls and gloves to toilet them. I tried to put them back in their crate but it would sometimes end up with me passed out snoring on my back and five kittens sleeping on my chest. They started to become very friendly, everyone loved coming to see them and they were all very attached to them.

 

I woke up one morning to find Summer unresponsive. I screamed for Chris, threw a jumper over my pjs and we rushed to the 24 hour clinic. When we got there I ran into the emergency room and thrust her at the owner of the hospital sobbing for him to save her. It took him two days to get her stable and it was extremely touch and go. It turned out that their mum had given them a parasite when feeding them and the parasite had compromised her whole system. He assured me that there would be no long lasting effects and not to worry. I just had to monitor what she was eating.

 

That sounds simple enough to do but when there are five kittens, two of whom are identical it isn’t so easy. I decided to take matters into my own hands and got some pet dye and did a giant splodge of blue on her back. That way I could record when she was eating and how she was doing with it.

 

We had no relapses and she started to grow, she became more mischievious and as she got bigger she would chase the boys around the living room and play with the dogs. We would find her dangling off the cat tower or pouncing on her brother inviting them to play with her.

 

My friend’s husband kindly offered to do photo shoots of them so we could advertise them online. It only took a few weeks before we had a family for Summer. They came down and I introduced them to the kittens, I then gave them some time alone with her. It then became apparent that there had been a breakdown in communication.

The new dad had fallen in love with the image of Skyler online and the new mum had thought he had meant Summer. It was only after Summer spending 15minutes with them did they realize their mistake. They explained it to me and I said not to worry, I would give them both of them and they would be able to choose the cat most suited to them.

 

The girls knew how to work it, each one attached themselves to a different parent and they suddenly were calling round their friends to check if their cat sitter was willing to take care of two kittens instead of one. They couldn’t imagine splitting them up and they were taking two kittens home.

 

Over the following weeks/months the girls became more and more attached to their new parents and it was clear that they were both very adored and spoiled. They had the best toys and were treated to delicious food and lots of love. They have thrived in their new home and become very treasured family members.

 

 

Persians- Five bundles of joy

The Persians

 

About two years ago when I had started teaching in a new area I had found a small old Korean house and everytime I walked past it the smell of cat feces was rife. You could also hear lots of cats crying and kittens making little mews. There was an old Korean man and woman who lived there. I saw them but never managed to speak to them. I always tried to look through the windows but they were boarded up with only two small cracks in the glass and a giant chip.

 

I always made sure I walked past that house so I could see exactly what was going on, but I never got any answers. But, suddenly I didn’t see the old Korean woman in the garden anymore. She was no longer sorting her vegetables in the sun.

 

Then about a month after she disappeared I stumbled across two Persian cats outside. I was shocked, even though in Korea you often find designer cats white Persians were virtually unheard of. They were crying outside the window trying to get in. The house was silent though and I couldn’t smell anything anymore. It looked like that was where the Persians had lived but the old man living there denied knowing them and chased them away.

 

They were worth big money and some of the easiest cats to sell on, I couldn’t imagine someone dumping them. I knew that if I could trap them then I could find amazing homes for them. I went back for weeks to find them but I was never successful.

 

I eventually gave up on finding them, but, my many hours walking around that area had shown me that there was a huge stray cat problem in that area. I decided to focus my TNR efforts in that area. One night, about six to eight months after I had first seen the Persians I managed to trap one. It was a giant white tom who was hanging around with his mate. I caught his mate in a separate trap and took them to the vets the following morning.

 

When I got there I was surprised to find out that the female was lactating and the vet thought she must have extremely young kittens. We rushed back and scoured the area trying to find the kittens so that we could spay the female and keep the kittens with her. We couldn’t find them and decided instead to let her lead us to the kittens. We had to decide between spaying her or saving the kittens and we made the choice of the kittens.

 

We relased her and followed her around and she led me to the kittens, there were five tiny fluff balls. They were clearly Persian mixes as three were white fluffy little balls. The other two were ginger beauties. Ideally I would have liked to leave them with mum and to go back and tnr them later. I already had two kittens, the Norwegian kittens on the way,  I didn’t need anymore in my house especially not with our return to England looming.

 

When I got there intending to take some wet food to sustain mum I found the five kittens all had horrific eye infections and were extremely weak. I didn’t know what to do so went home and grabbed a carrier. I shoved them all in a carrier and left a note pinned on the door of the garden I took them from with a phone number.

 

I rushed them all back to the vet and planned to go back that night with a kitten to trap mum cat. I suddenly had five more kittens all under 3 weeks old to care for and a lot of medical care to give. I didn’t catch the mum cat and she ignored the kittens I had next to the trap when I was trying to catch her. She wasn’t interested and after a couple of weeks without her mate we didn’t see her again. The Persian male turned out to be extremely old and in awful condition, he retired to my friend’s house where he could live inside in peace.

 

I  suddenly had five beautiful kittens, and a trip to the UK only 3 weeks away for my little sister’s wedding, the timing couldn’t be worse. As I picked them up and put them into the carrier, the girls were first the little white ones as their eyes were sealed shut with infection and they were so weak they could barely stand up. The boys were a bigt better off, they couldn’t see but they were determined to protect their sisters and jumped to the front hissing and spitting. I scooped them all up and jumped in a taxi to grab some milk and meds for their eye conditions.

 

The kittens were all so different and had such distinct personalities, we fell in love with them and Chris ended up loving them as much as he had loved Simber.