Keiji was my first foster pet, and since he came to me in the holiday season, Christmas Day seems like a good time to post his story.
Keiji entered my life in a blue plastic box with his three siblings. At the time, I worked as a cashier for a local Petco store (see here for my opinion on the chain). I had been at the store for a few months, and we’d had a few animals dropped off for adoption or abandoned at the store before, but I admit I was still stunned when a pretty young lady and her boyfriend entered the store with a mewing blue shipping container and announced that they didn’t want their cat’s kittens.
I peered inside the container, and was greeted by four small, angular faces and a high-pitched chorus of meows. There were three black kittens inside, and one tiny gray tabby, who immediately wormed his way out of the box and onto my back. You may remember from Monster and General Mao’s adoption story that I have a weakness for gray tabbies. The little tabby immediately settled in and began purring, content to perch like a parrot on my shoulder.
The owners explained that the mother of the litter was their Siamese cat, who had gotten out of their apartment and returned heavily pregnant, then delivered the four kittens. I had little sympathy for the kittens’ owners. Had they had their cat spayed, they wouldn’t have had this problem, and they were shirking their responsibility by abandoning the litter at a pet store. They couldn’t even be bothered to find a rescue to take the kittens in.
As the tabby kitten purred in my ear, I found myself speaking with a manager about housing the kittens in her office temporarily while we called a rescue. She agreed, and soon the babies, which the owners claimed were six weeks old (they looked not a day over four weeks), had settled into a large dog crate with some canned food and a dish of water.
We did call the rescue, and when a representative arrived to take the kittens, I offered to foster the tabby. It was all I could do not to adopt him on the spot. However, I know I wasn’t in a position to adopt a cat, and it wouldn’t be fair to give him any less than the wonderful life he deserved, particularly after being weaned early and abandoned.
Home Sweet Foster Home
I knew when the tabby first attached himself to my shoulder that he was a special little kitten, but when I got him home, I discovered exactly how special he was. His Siamese blood wasn’t apparent visually, but his loud vocalizations left no doubt as to his mother’s heritage. As if the noisy scoldings I received for leaving the kitten alone even for a few minutes weren’t enough, he also insisted on walking straight up my pants leg when I re-entered my apartment, then right up my shirt to settle on my shoulder. If I tried to simply pick him up and put him on his perch, he would protest, jump down, and climb back up on his own.
I named the tabby “Keiji,” a Japanese name, because his long legs and huge ears made him look like a caricature of a kitten, such as one might find in a Japanese anime or manga. Keiji promptly took over the household, insisting upon an enormous litterbox, even though he weighed less than a pound. He would not use a small box. He also slapped my dog’s nose with his sharp claws several times and stole the dog’s food instead of eating his own meals. He claimed the lap or shoulder of any person who stood still long enough, and it was nearly impossible to keep him out of my own food at mealtimes.
Keiji ran a tight ship, but despite his pushy behavior, it was impossible not to love him. Even the dog gave in and began to wash Keiji gently while the kitten ate from the dog’s bowl. Shortly thereafter, Keiji convinced my dog to roll over on his back and allow Keiji to “nurse” on Augustin’s belly fur. Obviously, this wouldn’t produce any milk, since Augustin is 1) a dog and 2) male, but it seemed to comfort Keiji, and he stopped yowling inconsolably at night. Augustin became a replacement for Keiji’s mother, which suited them both just fine.
Unfortunately, after a few short weeks, and just before Christmas, Keiji became ill.
To the Vet Clinic We Go
Keiji had severe diarrhea and missed the litterbox several times in a single day. Kittens are fragile creatures, and become dehydrated rapidly. I didn’t want to take a chance with Keiji’s health. I bundled him into a carrier and rushed him to a veterinarian’s office nearby.
The vet examined Keiji and found nothing obviously wrong, but noted that he ran with an abnormal gait, as if he had some sort of neurological damage. His hind legs always seemed to be a couple steps out of line with his front legs. She chose to keep Keiji overnight for observation.
The next day, I called to ask if Keiji could come home.
“I’d like to keep him another day, just to see,” was the vet’s answer.
It didn’t change the next day, or the next. Keiji stayed at the vet clinic for a full week. I was growing very nervous, and feared that the rescue that owned Keiji would have an enormous bill to pay. I called each day, and each day I was told that Keiji needed to stay just one more night.
The Truth Comes Out
Finally, after a week of Keiji living at the clinic, I learned the truth. I got a phone call from the veterinarian while I was dressing for work.
“I have a confession,” she said, with a most unprofessional giggle.
“What’s that?” I was afraid she’d let Keiji outside and he’d been eaten by a coyote, or that he had some awful disease, and the giggling betrayed the vet’s frayed nerves at having to deliver the bad news.
“I want to keep him,” said the vet.
“For another night?”
“No, permanently. I want to adopt him.”
Now I was giggling, too. Keiji hadn’t been seriously ill at all! The vet explained that he hadn’t had diarrhea since the second day, but she just couldn’t send him away. She confessed that he didn’t stay in a kennel, and had the freedom to roam the clinic demanding snacks and cuddles from anyone he saw, and hissing at the dogs in their runs.
I went to see Keiji a last time, and he bounded up on the vet’s desk to greet me, purring like a motorboat. He was absolutely in his element supervising the hustle and bustle of the clinic. I’m sure he thought he’d been hired on as office manager. As I watched, he inspected the computers where the receptionists were making appointments and sending billing statements, then made a circuit of the area where animals were boarded, before returning to the front desk to drape himself around my neck one last time.
Keiji had a home for the holidays, and he couldn’t possibly have asked for a better one.