THE STORY OF OTIS
Updated: Feb 17, 2022
Exactly a week ago we arrived at a park up in Estarreja. We were watching some Netflix (‘Sex Life’ > I do not recommend it, I stopped mid second episode, it wasn’t doable) and I kept hearing a cat outside. You hear cats and dogs all the time, so at first I didn’t really gave it much thought. After a while I paused the series as it was so persistent, this is when I heard that it was a very young cat!
I got outside to see what was happening, but as soon as I got out of the van and I walked towards the place where the sound was coming from, it stopped. I called, made this little sound that attracts cats, but nothing. I went back to watching the series (really not sure why, I didn’t like it from the start) and after about 20 minutes, Diogo, who was sitting closest to the door, told me he heard it again. So I pressed pause and yes there is was again. I looked through the open door and I saw a small cat walking on the other side of the park up. I went back outside, without making a noise, but the cat was gone. But then I heard him again! It turned out it was coming from the car parked in the corner. There was no cat to be seen, but I could clearly hear that it was a young kitten.
I looked under the car, but there was no cat. I started to speak to him and after a little silence he meowed again. It came from inside the car. He got into the car from underneath. I kept speaking to him and calling him. I got onto my tummy in an attempt to see him, but it was around 00:00 and too dark. I stayed there for about half an hour I think, asking him to come out. He didn’t. I went back to the van to get my phone, so I could use the torch function. I still couldn’t see him, but he was answering back most of the time. I wasn’t sure what to do though. I assumed he knew how to get out, but I wasn’t sure. I recorded a little video for my IGS to ask for help and when I posted it, he heard his own meow and reacted to this. This gave me the idea to look for a YouTube video of a mother cat calling for her kittens. And OMG! I pressed play and within seconds he got out, meowing loudly!! But then there was the huge disappointment of seeing me and not his mother. He ran off!
He ran to a few cars parked on the other side. I followed him, playing the video and he reacted big time, so he was running back and forth to me, all confused. This was the first time I could see how small he was! So small! I guessed he was around 6 weeks old. Luckily I took Nola’s old crate with me, for the day I’m able to rescue some chickens. I went to the van to get it, together with a piece of vegan chorizo (I thought the smell is strong and that would be helpful). I put a soft blanket on the bottom and the chorizo on top. I also put some chorizo in front of the crate, to lure him in. I put my phone in the back of the create, playing the video. Annoyingly the video was only 1 minute and 12 seconds, so I had to play it over and over again. The plan was for him to eat the chorizo and as soon as he was in, I’d close the door. He got near the crate a few times, but then always ran around it, to another car. I needed a better plan.
I got a blanket from the van and put this over the crate and the tyre and stuck in the grill of the car. This way there was a direct passage from under the car into the crate, without him seeing me. I tried a video that was longer, but even though he reacted to it, he didn’t react on that one as much as the first (short) one I found. When I had this plan/trap set up, it was almost 1:00. There were some people walking around as there was a party down the road and a lady filmed/photographed me from her balcony (it must have made a good IGS). They probably thought I was a little nuts, but I didn’t care. I just couldn’t leave him there. His meowing was heartbreaking and he was clearly in distress.
At this point my patience was really tested. Several times he got quite close to the crate, ate some of the chorizo, but every time he turned away. About 7513484 times he went back under/in the car, running to the next car again, but every time I did get him back with the sound of the video. It was so helpful, but it was also incredibly heartbreaking to see him like this. He was running around in panic, meowing loudly and sometimes he would just sit under the car, meowing like he was in physical pain. It was so confusing for him, hearing a mother cat, the thing he really wanted most, but it wasn’t really there. I didn’t have a choice but to continue though. I didn’t have another plan and even though he was very sad now, I knew that catching him would make him feel better long term. I shouldn’t lie, there were a few times that I wanted to give up though. It was so frustrating!! Fortunetely, deep down I felt that it was going to work in the end.
I kept an eye on him through the holes in the hubcaps, hiding behind the tyre and the blanket. I needed more food and I went back to the van to get some Vio Life Greek Style cheese (vegan cheese). I made a trail again and this time I took the soft blanket out and turned the crate on its side, so the bricks were visible. I thought this would make less of a barrier for him. It would be like walking on the street and not having to actually step onto something unfamiliar. In the meantime it was almost 3:00, he was getting tired and my knees and shins were hurting from sitting on the brick ground for hours. Finally, he started to eat the cheese under the car. He followed the trail and stepped into the crate. I held my breath, trying to focus on if he was all inside (there wasn’t much light), because I didn’t want to be too fast, miss and forever ruin it (he would not trust the crate and the cheese for a long time if it would go wrong).
I quietly, but quickly pushed the door of the crate and I got him!! The adrenaline rushed through my body and very clearly through him as well, because he was going through the crate like a monkey. I looked at him as he was going wild and crazy and I wondered if I did the right thing. He seemed so wild! I put the blanket over the crate, to calm him down. I was shaking all over, but I took a few deep breaths and carried the crate back to the van. I pulled the blanket back and there he was. A tiny, dirty, super skinny and very scared little kitten in an unfamiliar surrounding, feeling more confused than ever. He was hissing and pushing himself back into a corner. I just let him sit there for a bit and after a while he was so tired, that he closed his eyes and fell asleep. I thought this was good, because he really needed to calm down.
I wanted to put a blanket in the crate and some water and food, but to be really honest, I was a little bit scared of him. I know cats and they can be vicious, even very small kittens. Anyway, I had to be brave and I opened the crate, putting some of Nola’s food in front of him. He ate it straight away; he was so hungry. I triedfeeding him from my hand and he did! When he was eating, I gently started to stroke the top of his head and he seemed ok with that. I then slowly also stroked his back and after a while he started purring very quietly. I took a deep breath and grabbed him in his neck. His reflex of curling himself up, hanging there in trance kicked in and I took him out of the crate. I put him on my other hand, holding him against my chest and I started to stroke him more. He started purring very loudly and it turned out he was a sweetheart!
I examined him a little bit, found out that he was a boy, very dehydrated, full of fleas and very dirty from being on the street and in cars. I gave him some water and he drank so much! He was even more thirsty than hungry. He was still very scared, but as soon as I grabbed the skin of his neck he calmed down. I was a bit hesitant to let him nearly Nola, but Diogo really wanted to see how he would react. I put him on the bed and when he saw Nola, he rushed over to her and he calmed down straight away. Even though she basically ignored him (typically Nola), she gave him comfort, being a small animal that looked like him. He clearly missed his mother and siblings. Many people asked if there was a mother around, but in the 3 hours that I tried to catch him, where he meowed very loudly (it must have annoyed everyone who lived there) there was no cat in sight. As a mother, hearing your baby in distress like that she would have come to have a look. There were also no other kittens, otherwise they would have come to his sound and the sound of the video. The fact that he was in such bad shape (especially being so dehydrated) also told me that he was alone for a while. This was probably also why he already sounded in distress that evening, before I even saw him. My guess is that he was very very lost or maybe dumped there.
The next morning I went to the supermarket to get him a few things like food and cat litter. It was Sunday, so I couldn’t get him flea treatment yet as everything was closed. That day I just kept him close, stroking him and letting him sleep on me. My fingers were black as he was so dirty, but it also helped getting most of the dirt off. By the time it was evening again he started to groom himself, which is a good sign. The next day, about 24 hours after I caught him, he looked like a different cat! He was cleaner, softer, looked so much calmer (even though he still hissed at me at times), had a round tummy, almost all signs of dehydration were gone and best of all.. he started playing! It looked like he was at least 7 weeks all of a sudden.
We got him (and Nola) flea treatment on Monday, but they didn’t have deworming tablets. We decided to go to the vet the next day, just before we’d leave this town. Before going to the vet, we got all our blankets and cushion cases and washed and dried them at the launderette, to kill any flea eggs and wash out the flea poo. It was so convenient, because the launderette, pet shop and the vet were all 1-2 min walk from where we were parked. It must have been meant to be! He was being such a good boy at the vet’s. The very nice vet said that he was probably about 8 weeks old (even better!) and very lovely. She gave him the deworming tablet and she cleaned his ears. The day before I combed out most of the flea poo, so he now looked cleaner than ever.
We then drove to our next destination, which means that it was his first vanlife experience. We practiced with the harness a little bit already, but he still thinks it feels weird. We put him next to Nola, in the car seat. For the first 5 minutes he wanted to get out and explore, but for the rest of the journey (40+ minutes) he slept next to Nola, like he was doing it every day. It was very quiet at the next park up and we decided to put him down outside. He was a little scared, but with Nola close by he felt better and he followed her, walking on the lead like he was already used to it.
At the moment he is doing amazing!! Today (3-10-21) he is with us for exactly a week and he is acting like a proper kitten now; playing, sleeping, eating, drinking, wanting attention and being very naughty! It makes me so happy to see him like this. It was so worth all the patience of catching him. He is a big pur-pot as he starts purring very loudly as soon as you point at him. He is not scared of us or being inside the van anymore and loves to be close to us. He used to meow a lot (he basically only stopped when he was sleeping) and tried to get away. Now he is only meowing for attention or to let us know that he woke up in the morning. He woke up very early in the first few days, but he even understand what is sleeping in now. The blanket is no longer on top of his crate and he seems to understand more and more that sometimes he just needs to be patiently waiting in his crate (when the doors are open or when we are at the supermarket etc). His tummy was upset for a while, being very bloated as his body had to adapt to the new food etc. but that is all sorted and gone now too. The worms and fleas seem to be all gone as well and his fur is white, soft and fuzzy. We are working on socialising him a bit more asill gets scared in new environments and being outside. It’s something to work on, but so far he is doing beyond expectation.
Now, the most frequently asked question: Are you going to keep him? As long as he likes vanlife, he can live with us. So, I guess the answer is yes! If at any time he seems unhappy living the vanlife, then of course I can’t make him. He has his own life and preferences. Even though I love him so much already, I do not believe that I own him. Diogo and I just have the pleasure to look after him. I really hope that, as he is so young, he will grow into it and will start enjoying vanlife, at least until we have our piece of land.
I really hope we will have our piece of land soon, to start a small (animal) sanctuary. Would you like to help us? Then please help us by making a donation and/or by sharing our crowdfunding page. Thank you so much! Lots of love to everyone who takes a moment for this!!
If you would like to follow Otis's story, I give many updates about him and his everyday life on my Instagram @freedomevermore. See you there! Oh and if you have questions, always feel free to ask.
There are so many animals who live on the street, without a safe home or a source of food and water. We humans decided to breed animals and keep them as pets and now many of them are living a very hard lives. In the meantime breeders are breeding the 'perfect' kitten or pup, but please don't support this. Let's look after the animals who exist in the world already. Don't shop; ADOPT! You will get so much love back from those beautiful animals. I mean.. look at Otis. He is so loving and perfect!
Lots of love and abundance to you! X