Our Growing Zoo

We have five pets now. We started with our three hamsters that we bought the children for Christmas our first month here. Then we befriended the bunny at our favorite restaurant and I started hoping for a rabbit, so two weeks ago, we went to the pet mall and picked out a soft, fluffy, quiet bunny who might be named Uncle Walter. He is so gentle when he’s being held, and completely insane when he’s hopping around the room. I never knew what a perfect pet a rabbit would be for young children. It’s the first animal Piper’s really bonded with. She can pick him up whenever she likes and sit with him on her lap while she does puzzles or watches movies, and we all love to watch him hop around and get into trouble.

Watching Dora with Uncle Walter

I like the progression to this picture. He does have impossibly soft ears.

Five days after we got Uncle Walter, I heard something in the hall that sounded like a bird, so I opened the door and found a tiny, 4-week-old kitten mewing pitifully. I picked him up right as Zhao, who is afraid of cats, walked in. However ridiculous she might have thought I was, she walked down the hall with me, knocking on 40 doors asking people if it was their xiao mao (little cat – weird that there is no separate word for kitten, but they have separate words for big and little sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles on mother’s or father’s sides of the family, etc.–it’s probably less important to distinguish a cat’s age than it is to indicate how much meat might be on its bones). No one claimed it and I didn’t know what to do but keep it for the time. We (including our neighbors from down the hall who have a boy younger than my boys) were sitting near our door, which was open, looking at the cat when a girl who had been standing watching us for a while walked in and handed us a bag of litter. She was the first person I had asked, and she had just shaken her head and shut her door. She now confessed that she had bought the cat the day before and didn’t want it anymore. I still have no idea what she was thinking. What a terrible thing to do to any animal, let alone a baby too small to be away from his mother.

I can't get a good picture of them together because they only have a passing interest in each other, but it's funny that they have the exact same coloring.

I took care of him for the next day, feeding him goat milk powder for kittens that I got at the pet store downstairs, but he had horrible diarrhea and seemed so weak, and everything I read online told me he was probably going to die soon. He made it through the night on Sunday night, so Monday morning, I took him to the vet on my way to work. I got there and waited for a while, then asked a nearby shop vendor (who had two rabbits and two chickens who were free to hop around on the sidewalk by her stand) when they opened. She told me I had to call them and they’d come down. It turns out the sign I saw on the wall explained the fees for calling them at various times during the day/night. What a great idea. No sense in getting an early start if no one’s there yet, and nice that there is 24-hour vet service available if it’s necessary. It was pretty bare bones and dirty, but not surprising, since all the vets I’ve ever been to in America are cleaner than the Chinese hospital I went to.

Looking much healthier after his visit to the doctor.

I called my friend to translate for me, since none of my Chinese is sufficient for talking about kitten diarrhea and antibiotics, and they let me leave the kitten there while I went to work, if I paid in advance for the tests. When I got back, I couldn’t reach my first friend, so I called another friend who spent a very long time on the phone with the vet, who explained that he thought the kitten would be fine (in a nutshell). I really didn’t think he would live much longer if he continued having diarrhea and throwing up everything he ate (forgot to mention that earlier), so my friend asked him to give him something for the diarrhea and an antibiotic, and the vet agreed and gave him three shots, and gave me powder to build his digestive systems (just probiotics). The whole experience cost me about $25 US (thanks in part to my friend who used her bargaining skills on the vet over the phone).

I brought him home (after almost running back to the vet when I got halfway home because the kitten started convulsing and I thought he was going to die – turned out, at least I think, that his mouth was just suddenly very dry and he was trying to claw his tongue out of his mouth – they shot some water into his mouth and he was fine), and for the next few days, he ate a bottle quite happily (if not a little violently) a few times a day, and I finally got the courage to put him in the bathroom downstairs so he wouldn’t wake me at 6:00 in the morning to eat. As of Saturday, he started eating kitten food softened with chicken broth (I was already getting fed up with feeding him his bottle, which he’d eat for 3 seconds, then turn his head looking for another bottle, then claw my hand to shreds when he found the bottle again), and since then he hasn’t taken the bottle. I don’t know how to get him to drink, since he seems to have no interest in anything that doesn’t taste like chicken broth (I hope I haven’t set a terrible precedent), and he nearly drowns himself when he accidentally shoves his face into a bowl of water. The whole thing has added even more excitement to our already not-dull days, though, and I’m happy to report, as I’m sure you’re all very concerned, that he is pooping normally and it looks like he might end up having a long and healthy life. He is also a paw-sucker, something I didn’t know a cat could be. Poor thing misses his Mommy.

Fast asleep and sucking the pad on the bottom of his paw like he's about to die of thirst.

The children will all of the pets except for one hamster, who must remain separate unless we want to increase our pet numbers by 10.

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