I was just enjoying a moment of peace and quiet after a busy Saturday morning, when I my fiancé called me. He sounded worried. I found him next to our wooden gate stooped over something very small. “Look”, he said, “This little kitten just walked from under the gate”. Soon a second and a third appeared. All red, all insanely tiny, all screaming. While we were still looking for their mother, the leaves started rustling and another two brothers came out of the bushes. Dirty and cute.
As no mother turned up we soon realized that we were at last initiated to the Italian way of handling your pets. It goes like this: you have a cat, maybe two to keep your premises free of mice, rats and snakes and you will not neuter them. This is against nature. Nature will have its way and within 8 months you’ll have your first litter of kittens. You do nothing and wait for them to grow up and disperse. At some point in time you’ll get bored with nature, you take the10th or so litter of kittens for a drive and leave them on the roadside to die. Problem solved.
We decided immediately that we couldn’t keep them having already two tomcats, one very ill. We asked our Italian friends for help. No one wanted a cat – duh – but they came up with some possible shelters. Monday came and at 9 am we were on the phone.
First in line was Associazione Persi e Ritrovati (Association of Lost and Found Pets) but no answer. Well, at least it was an existing number. No? Next Il Parco dei Gatti, The Cat Park. We had already been warned that this cat shelter was overwhelmed with kittens. My fiancé was the lucky one to get them on the phone. “What, FIVE kittens! Listen, I just got 30 in this weekend. I can’t do it. I’m sorry.” And that was that. He didn’t even get the time to tell them we were ready to donate to make up for their medical and food bills. We had no more options and called our vet. She mentioned a shelter in Todi and the EMPA or ENPA a shelter of the city of Perugia. We got on the phone with the Todi Shelter. After 2 hours they finally picked up. “Cats? Noooo. I’m sorry. We’re a dog only shelter. Listen, why don’t you call Lucia from A.T.T.A in Todi?
Okay. No problem, we’ll call Lucia from A.T.T.A. in Todi. But she couldn’t take them either. And then we tried the municipal shelter in Perugia before we sat down to have lunch. My fiancé had been calling them like a zillion times. “They must be very busy, so they can’t pick up the phone”, he mused over his pasta. “And now they are closed for the rest of the day.”
We were just facing a long life together with seven cats when the phone rang. It was Manuela from the Lost & Found Pets Association, returning our calls. No, she couldn’t take in more kittens, her shelter was drowning in abandoned kittens. But, we could take the cats to the hospital of Pantalla. What? The Hospital for people? Yes indeed, we needed to call them and ask for Gloria and it would be taken care of.
My fiancé got them on the phone right away. He was transferred once, twice and then finally to a friendly person who was going to help after he answered some simple questions: “Did he have a car? Yes ma’m. “Can you drive the car?” “Yes ma’am.” “Do you have a box for the kittens. Yes woman, I do have a box for the kittens. Good Lord, who do you think I am?” “Can you make it at 6:15 pm today?” “I can make it ANYTIME today. I’ll be there.”
At six pm we parked our car at the parking lot for parents who were about to go into labour. We figured we had a right. We walked into the hospital with our box full of stinking, meowing kittens. “Marc!” a lady who turned out to be Gloria, called. She invited us into her office with wide gestures. “Ohhh, they are sooo cute! Look at them! Five girls!” She exclaimed. “That’s probably why they got dumped. No one wants girls, they get pregnant.” I held my tongue about how sexism is not a privilege to women of the human race, and nodded silently. “Where will you take them ?” I asked. “To the ENP shelter in Perugia.” “But we called them like 20 times today!” my fiancé almost shouted in disbelief. “Of course”, she smiled knowingly. “They are busy. And also, they need to know you. I mean. Nobody takes in kittens this time of year. Unless they know you.”