Feral Cats of Maui -- Look 'Em In The Eye
Feral Cats and Kittens of Maui -- and barbaric men.
Late yesterday afternoon, I drove the seven miles out to the Hawaiian commercial property where I regularly feed a colony of cats and kittens. I did the usual little tasks of cleaning out the water bowl in the shed for the adult cats and placing some cat food on the wooden floor. Then I walked across the dirt parking lot to the other side of the property where there is a Matson container. The kittens live under there. Just as I got to the junk pile near the Matson container, a man on a forklift drove up. He opened the conversation by saying that I'm an angel for feeding the cats -- which is a pleasant change from some stuff I've heard. We talked story awhile out there in the hot sun. Then he told me about his father, "Rest his soul," he said, “He used to help with the Maui cat problem in his own way.” This man said his father and a friend used to capture the male cats in a brown cloth sack. The friend would hold the cat down, sprawled on its back, while his father cut off the body parts located at the lower underbelly of the male cat. "Rest his soul. That was thirty years ago," the man said in conclusion.
Yes, rest his father's soul from all his barbaric acts of torture to the feral cats of Maui! I felt like screaming. I looked at this man in unbelief.
Have you ever had one of those days when you truly wish you had not gotten out of bed to meet the day? That was how I felt as I listened to this man. There was no point in saying anything to him -- about anything he had said. I walked away. I could hardly breathe.
I was sure today would be a better day.
I was sure today would be a better day. I went shopping in the little village of Paia. I timed it just right so I could get to the commercial property to check on the cats and kittens’ food and water on my way home and bump into the least number of workers there due to their shift change. It was almost 6:00 pm when I stopped at the commercial property on my route home. I knew the cats and kittens would be hungry. I pulled into the parking lot. I usually arrived two hours earlier. With the sun about to set, no hens and roosters came to greet me. Mr. and Mrs. Mynah did come scampering up to me hoping I would throw some chicken scratch with or without the jungle fowls’ presence. The jungle fowl had already gone to hide somewhere safe for the night, I guess.
Two of the men who work out of that shed were just preparing to leave. We said hi and bye to each other. They left in their hot cars with Maui's red dirt flying furiously.
I placed mounds of cat food in the shed in four or five places and then cleaned out the water dish. I had to go out of the shed to the back area to clean and refill the water bowl. As I re-entered the shed, I could see three little kittens. They had been running full-tilt toward the shed from across the parking lot under the Matson container where they live. When they saw me enter the shed from the open back door, they tried to stop in place like little statues. It was quite funny to see. It was like the children's game, Red Light, Green Light.
I walked to the left side of the shed and out to my car. Soon I saw two more kittens running across the parking lot to the shed. I tiptoed back into the shed -- but not too far into it -- so I could watch all five kittens eating the food. My heart verily skipped a beat when I saw two moe kittens come out from behind the Coke vending machine.
Lelele, Sweet Lelele
Jude -- in the forest.
Ode to Jude.
It’s heartbreaking, really. It reminds me of three years ago when I was feeding many cats along the edge of Jasmine’s forest. It’s a forest in Kihei where I had discovered 30 to 40 hungry cats. I didn’t find out for months that another lady was also feeding them. She couldn’t feed them as much as she would have liked, but she did her best and she welcomed any help she could get. She introduced me to many of the cats. She had named her favorite cat Sir Purrs-A-Lot. I had already met a favorite cat myself there. I called him Jude. He died unnecessarily one day and I won't be writing about him. I loved him very much -- and I've digressed.
When my husband learned I was helping to feed at least 20 of the many cats in the forest, he was appalled. He doesn’t particularly like cats – or dogs. (Difficult to understand that concept, isn’t it? He does like birds, though.) I explained to him that when I saw one hungry cat and then another -- meowing at me for help -- I couldn’t just walk away and let them starve or leave them to be thirsty. I said, “I can’t just walk away once I’ve looked them in the eye.” He retorted, “Well, don’t look any more of them in the eye!”
I don't have photos of the kittens.
Seven pairs of eyes looking me squarely in the soul.
Due to limitations I have – which I’ve explained in my writings elsewhere – I really can’t trap a cat by myself and keep it overnight outside my door so that it is properly fasted for the vet's spay or neuter appointment the next day. And because I can’t do this by myself, I feel like a failure. So when I saw a total of five kittens running across the parking lot, I really felt anxiety. They looked so hungry and so intent on finding food. And when I found two more kittens, I had to take a deep breath.
Seven pairs of eyes. As my two-year-old granddaughter would say: “Oh, man!”
Life is hard for the colonies of feral cats on this island.
If I lived far away and didn’t know these cats personally and if I could just generalize and say, “Yeah, those poor cats,” then I would be off the hook. No guilt. No worries. Because – what can you do? Right? We can’t save the world. Heaven knows, if we could, there are even worse problems that need our attention. (If I can’t handle cats, I sure know I can’t handle those things. I won't name the names of some of those awful troubles and crimes in families that are far more heartbreaking than the starving cats. I admire and am thankful for those people who can be social workers and who try to help with the really hard things in life.)
I have looked the seven new little kittens in the eyes and they know I have. And I know I have. I have to try to help them. I bet you think in a few weeks I will write a happy ending to this. I will have found a way to get all these cats spayed and neutered as each one gets old enough. I wish I could think that and believe that. I am temporarily not of that opinion. My hope seems to have gone down with tonight's setting sun.
The sun will come up tomorrow. My level of hope and courage needs to rise with it.
One day at a time.