One of the first cats I saw in Nepal was a dead one. It was a beautiful mature white cat and it was lying by the side of a busy road in Thapathali. I walked over and asked a nearby guard what had happened.
“Someone killed it with a stone”, he said.
“But why?”I asked, shocked.
“It ran across the street and this guy was the first to pass,” the guard said.
That was how I learned that many Nepalese believe that someone will die when a cat (or rat, or mouse) crosses the road in front of their vehicle. The best solution is to simply wait by the side till someone else has passed the cursed ‘line’ (and send Death to someone else…). This happens all the time. I often travelled in busses that would suddenly halt by the side of the highway. “A rat just crossed,” the driver will explain, and the passengers patiently sit back in their seats until another vehicle has passed. However, impatient drivers simply kill the innocent animal to ‘undo’ the curse.
Since then I have a soft spot for Nepalese cats. There are not many though. Not only those crossing roads tend to be killed, but also black ones in general as they are associated with black magic. Unfortunately most Nepalese cats happen to be black….. Unwanted kittens, like puppies, are often thrown in the river, alive.
When a tiny kitten walked into our compound, Ganga, our didi, immediately warned me. She loves all animals and is always happy when I add a desperate case to my growing stray population.
We took the kitten in, dewormed it, fed it lactogen (surrogate milk) with a syringe, made it sleep in a tiny sleeping bag next to a hot water bottle, and soon it seemed to be doing well. The cat was adopted by Putali, my female dog, who recently got spayed. She is the one to lick the kitten, in order to make it pee and clean it up after dinner time. She also carries the kitten by its neck in her mouth, like moter cats do.
I called it Schmiegel, after the somewhat greedy creature in Lord of the Rings. Schmiegel wanted milk every 3, 4 hours! And when I didn’t wake up in time, Putali, her surrogate mum, made sure I did.
When I recently left for a 3-month break, Martin and Miriam, my animal loving Dutch friends, offered to take care of both Putali and Schmiegel. Only then we did some research on Schmiegel’s age. Looking at her development she was now 4 weeks, This meant that when she arrived at our house Schmiegel was only……around 10 days old! Such a tough little survivor!
Schmiegel is now at Miriam’s, who makes sure she is spoiled to bits. She now drinks from a baby bottle… that sure is progress!
We hope she will survive. Nepalese cats deserve lots of extra attention. And just for the record: a cat crossing a road means good luck. I’m talking from experience here.