Part IV: Downfall & Death
This series of posts is mostly a way for me to process the trauma of going through this tragedy. If you’re expecting happy travel content, this ain’t it. This story is number 4 in a series of 5. To read it chronologically, start at Part I, Part II, or Part III. Here you can find the subsequent stories about rescuing a kitten in Porto, Portugal: Part V.
Back to Normal (July 16, Continued)
We say goodbye to Jan, who is leaving for Germany or something like that.
It’s still morning, and Jonas and I are about to have breakfast and do some work. Sometimes I walk onto the balcony to look at the rooftop cats and the two kittens. I’m happy, even though the cat situation hasn’t really improved. I’m thinking of communicating with our Airbnb host about the situation; maybe he can let the good people of animal shelter Midas come in and evacuate all the cats from the rooftop.
Our day continues like normal. After work, Jonas and I unwind on the couch with some Netflix series. It’s a sunny day, and it’s hotter inside than normal. We eat lunch together. Jonas walks to the window to check the rooftop.
Dehydrated Kitten Tragedy: We Did Rescue Wrong
Jonas starts shouting some things I don’t understand. I know he’s upset at something outside, and he’s trying to stop something terrible from happening. My eyes go wide. I hear a thud sound coming from outside. Jonas turns around, face pale from what he just witnessed.
“What happened?” I implore. Jonas is looking for words.
“The kitten… just fell down the rooftop.”
“What do you mean ‘fell down?’”
“It just… walked off the rooftop, into the gap. It was dizzy.”
I walk to the window, and Jonas tells me I don’t want to see what’s down there. “Let me see” I say “I think its dead” Jonas says. I walk past him and lean out the window. In the deepest level of the gap, I see the tiny body of a kitten. The big cats are looking over the edge, resigned. I tear up. Then I see a little movement in the tail.
“It’s alive! It’s still breathing!”
Jonas holds me and tells me we can’t do anything about it. We simply can’t reach it.
Within the hour, I watch as the kitten still tries to get up once. Sometimes, a big cat goes down the gap to check on it, meow, and jump back onto the roof. The kitten then moves one last time before it stops breathing.
Jonas tries to console me. Saying that maybe the kitten had too much trauma from the initial fall, and the days spent in the gap, that it wasn’t able to keep alive for much longer. I’m sad that we put in so much effort to save the kitten and that it was all for naught. The idea that the kitten intentionally committed suicide comes to mind, so I spend some time googling this topic. It’s incredibly depressing and doesn’t give me the answers I was looking for.
Then in the late afternoon, we hear a window open, and the pigeons flocking towards our building. We know what’s going on, so I head onto the balcony and start shouting at the old lady who is throwing leftovers down her window into the shaft. I shout at her in Spanish that she should stop what she’s doing, immediately!
The cats start moving towards the edge of the rooftop with the shaft, and I see the last living kitten joining them. Most of the food lands in the hole and the big cats jump after it. I shout at the kitten as it curiously looks down the hole… and then jumps in. I scream for a full minute at both the kitten and the old lady fucking culprit waste of oxygen.
I see the kitten in the bottom of the shaft, alive and meowing for help to get out. My mood changes as I’m ready to get back into action mode. Jonas asks me what I’m doing as I’m putting back on my filthy rooftop clothes. “We’re saving that kitten from the abyss, and this time for good.”
A Swift Rescue
Knowing what to do, I grab the ladder from downstairs and put it on the rooftop. I remake the bucket on a rope on a mop construction again and grab some chorizo for a lure. I tell Jonas of my plan that he hands me the kitten, I put it in a bucket and walk up the ladder. We keep the kitten on a balcony until we can drive it to Midas, tonight.
The kitten crawled up on its own strength to the middle level. All of this looks very familiar. Jonas really knows now what he’s doing. He gains the kitten’s trust quickly. Jonas grabs it, puts it on the roof, and I put the kitten in the bucket. The kitten does not agree with this treatment and meows a lot. The adult cats are also curious and wonder what’s going on, trying to reach the kitten.
I walk up the ladder to our balcony and let the kitten out of the bucket. The idea was that the – stinky – kitten would not have to enter the Airbnb, but the kitten is meowing and actually tries to crawl off the balcony. I struggle with the kitten whose nails are hooked into the balcony fence. Jonas comes up the ladder, and I tell him we have to take the kitten inside.
The bathroom seems to be the best place. I put the kitten on the ground there, and give it a plate full of water to drink from. Dehydration is our leading theory for the death of the other kitten who walked off the rooftop. Before we’re cleaning up the rooftop, I cut open a plastic bottle and fashion a water bowl out of it, for the big cats. I place it on the rooftop for the big cats, who come flocking to slurp it.
The First Nap on a Lap
The whole rescue took less than half an hour. We now have a kitten in the bathroom that meows for its parents continuously. The cries are heartbreaking. We keep the kitten company, feed it generous amounts of water, and try to feed it some chorizo.
The more time we spend with the kitten, the more Jonas and I question its identity. We thought it was the same kitten we rescued before that now lies dead at the bottom of the abyss, but this one is the same size as the one we rescued before. We realize slowly that we saved the same kitten twice.
Jonas helps me wrap the little creature into a towel and rub its head to calm it down. Eventually, the kitten falls asleep on my lap. It’s endearing. For a moment, Jonas realizes we’re temporary pet parents. This is the first time in this kitten’s life that it can sleep in peace and safety. It’s the first time it feels human love.
With complete disregard to the possible gender of the kitten, we name it Chorizo, after its first food.
Porto Expats Facebook group
We can’t fully enjoy being new parents, because we’re flying from Porto to Warsaw in Poland tomorrow morning. Jonas googles how old the kitten could be (3-5 weeks), and I join as many Porto-themed, English-speaking Facebook groups that I can while trying to reach out to Midas. A group called Porto Expats accepts me first, and I make a very dramatic post in it with pictures I’d taken of Chorizo before it fell asleep. In it, I ask who can take care of the kitten and hand it over to Midas the next day.
People start engaging with the post, angry as heck, and within the hour we have someone who can take care of the kitten. Her name is Marie, and she lives 20 minutes west of us by Uber. She says she has a dog and a child, but can keep the kitten away from them for the night. We start packing for the ride, improvising the bucket into a comfortable kitten carrier. I put in the towel, then tie some old hitchhiking signs on top with my backpack straps, making sure there’s still ventilation holes.
Chorizo does NOT like to be woken up for this and tries to crawl out of the bucket while meowing wretchedly. I keep apologizing to Chorizo. Jonas arranged the Uber, and we head out onto the street. It’s getting dark outside.
I’m so, so sorry, Uber driver
We get into the Uber – Jonas in the passenger seat, Chorizo and I in the back – and put our seatbelts on. I make eye contact with the driver via the rearview mirror when Chorizo lets out the first meow. His eyes smile while mine apologize as we drive off.
Chorizo is meowing constantly until she suddenly stops. I’m worried the kitten died, so I try speaking to it and checking by lifting the cardboard up. That was a mistake, as this intense stench of kitten fart fills the car’s cabin. I roll down my window immediately in a hope to save the other passengers from this smell. The Uber driver casually rolls down his and Jonas’ window even further, without judgment.
Finally, Chorizo meows again. I’m gagging internally, but happy to hear the kitten is still alive. Chorizo must also have a hard time breathing in there. Upon arrival, we thank and tip the Uber driver. We gave him five stars and he reciprocated.
Marie the Caretaker
We arrive at Marie’s place, enter her flat and go up the stairs. She opens the door and she and her dog welcome us in. She’s very friendly, has a warm smile, and commands her dog to stay calm around the kitten smell in French.
Marie has already prepared a safe place for the kitten in her bathroom, behind two doors. I’m focused on reducing the amount of stress for Chorizo, so we directly get her to her home for the night. As I remove the lid from the mop bucket, I see that Chorizo didn’t just experience gassiness in the car, but a fairly liquid bowel movement… onto the foot towel from our Airbnb’s bathroom.
We place Chorizo in her new, comfy cardboard box, with some skinny slices of turkey and more water. Marie tells us she’ll buy cat food first thing in the morning. Chorizo munches it calmly, but afterwards, it’s not interested in remaining confined, so Chorizo climbs out of the box and explores the bathroom. Physically, Chorizo seems to be doing fine. Yes, the kitten has a wobbly left eye with some sort of infection, but I’m much more worried about Chorizo’s mental state. It’s such a young creature, already experiencing such a rough start at life.
Marie’s maturity and love gives me confidence that for this kitten, it will all be alright. So I pack up my bucket, backpack straps, and shit-stained towel, and I say goodbye.
Only when Jonas and I get home, I notice how fucking exhausted I am. Exhausted and emotionally drained.
I’ve altered names in this post for privacy and anonymity.