Toonces Gallery

Toonces' Brain Damage



Miracle, Bela, JuJu, and Luna
Italian Street Kittens
Miracle, Bela, JuJu, and Luna: Italian Street Kittens
In the spring of 2000, when Toonces was 11-years old, my company sent me on a business trip to Italy.  Sounds exotic and exciting right? But I was to do computer training at a facility in a small, and NOT very bucolic, town called "Agnagno," a suburb of Naples.  Every day I would walk from the hotel to the building where we were doing the training, and often I saw sick streetcats on the way.  It seems that the Italians -- at least those in Agnagno  -- didn't believe in "indoor" cats, nor did they believe in sterilizing them.  I don't think I saw a single street cat there that didn't look ill.  One of my students told me that she witnessed a cat injure himself mortally, and die, while foraging in a junk heap for food. 

There was a small shack next to the computer training building, and an elderly man who often stood outside it, smiling, although he had few teeth and appeared to be quite poor.  A feral colony had taken up residence around the shack, and the man was feeding them pasta.  Pasta is of course, not a health diet for cats.  As we passed the shack, we could see adult members of the colony with open sores so large that in one case, the entire lower jaw of the cat was nearly eaten away.   Others had large sores on their noses, and all were clearly in ill health.

Some of my students and I began bringing cans of food with us and putting it down as we passed.  One day a small kitten -- brown tabby with lots of white in her coat -- came to the edge of the sidewalk.  She looked to be about 4 or 5 weeks old.  Her eyes were crusted nearly shut.  She was skinny, her coat was dull, her belly wormy.  Her ears were full of brown gunk and her nose was crusted over with mucus.  She breathed noisily.  My colleague -- a rather insensitive man -- stopped and regarding her, said: "It doesn't look good." I bent over to pet her.

She purred.

All that night in the hotel I tossed and turned, the vision of the cat (who I called the "white cat") haunting me.  If I do nothing, I thought, she will die.  If I do something, perhaps she will live. 

The next day, when I saw that she was still alive, I resolved to do something.  But I had several days more of work to go.  One of my students offered to capture the litter and their mother and take them to a local vet for care, until I was available to care for them.  (I had planned a week of vacation after my assignment). 

She caught 5 kittens, but was unable to get the mother.  Over the next couple of days, one of the five died at the vets.  The other four were released to my care.  I had one week to get them "healthy" so that I could bring them on a flight to the U.S. 

This picture was taken in the bathtub of the hotel, in the first few days I had them.  They were horribly ill.  I had to rent a separate cabana just for the kittens, because the main building did not allow pets.  My significant other, who also was there on assignment and had planned to do a little sight seeing with me on his free time, was none too happy about me getting up several times a night to go to the cabana and tend the kittens.  He was even less happy about the fact that caring for them really restricted my sight seeing activities!  From Italy, I notified my friends on the Feline CRF list about the kittens and their plight, and a group of them established an account with IMOM to help raise money for their in-country vet care and their flight home.  As soon as I got off the plane, Miracle had to be rushed to the ER, severely dehydrated and with her upper respiratory infection having gotten worse since we had left Italy.  In the coming 6 months, they were treated for URI due to herpes virus, fleas, worms, earmites, conjunctivitis, corneal ulcers and herpes ulcers on their noses and mouths.  The routine included interferon, oral antibiotics, two kinds of eye ointment (antibiotic and antiviral), baths for the fleas and mites, ear mite treatments, deworming.  Luna became seriously ill just as she was turning a corner, with chronic diarrhea that required hospitalization and more intensive home care -- including a fabulous slippery elm/rice water concoction that I am convinced saved her life. .  Once they were health enough,  Bela and Luna went to live with a wonderful Italian couple I met on the Feline CRF list.  Miracle and JuJu  (also known as "It Doesn't Look Good" -- the "white" cat who purred and whose pathetic vision spurred me to rescue them) were the sickest, and I had to work very hard to bring them around.  In the course of doing so, I became very attached to them, and they live with me today.

Toonces was not very happy about the new additions to the family.  The kitten energy and hijinx were more than an 11 year old cat wanted to put up with.  He gave me many dirty looks over this expansion of our household.  He eventually tolerated them.