Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cat Saga

I have been meaning to post about this for some time, but have put it off for good reason. Anyway, here goes.

Last month, Miguel and I were walking from the Foire du Midi to De Bruckere to see a movie. We were nearly to Bourse, when across the street we saw a black and white cat in front of a convenience store. We decided to go over and check it out, since we rarely (if ever) see cats on the street here. This cat was hanging out on a busy sidewalk, not flinching at people or dogs, just standing her ground. I thought this was strange, especially since our cats are scared of everything. She came up to us, so I started petting her and convinced Miguel to go to the store we were standing outside of to get some food. As soon as he was near the door she started meowing (she had a deep, loud meow) and going crazy! We tried to get her some water too (by buying a styrofoam carton of figs, taking out the figs and pouring water in there). The moment we openend the tin of food she was at it. She had bits of it all over her face, and we could tell she had been starving.

At this point I had seen enough and refused to leave her there, though Miguel was worried about making her our problem. (At this point I had guessed she was a girl because many people here do not fix/sterilize their animals.) We asked for a box in the convenience store, which he gave us reluctantly, but when I tried to put her in it she jumped right out. One of the neighbors in the same building as the convenience store had been watching all this played out, and threw us down a roll of packing tape. (We also found out from another neighbor that the cat had been around there for a few days.) I put the cat back in the box and held it shut while Miguel taped it up. She struggled a bit, and meowed as we walked her home (a schlepp from Bourse). As we walked I began to get nervous. I had already called my vet at home (on a Saturday night) as well as everyone I knew that might be able to take her in. I was reluctant to bring her home because I didn't know if she was healthy and I did not want to expose our cats to anything.

By the end of it, no one was able to help, and I didn't feel right about leaving her in a park, so we took her home and locked her in our (very large) bathroom. After spending some more time with her, petting her (which she loved) and feeding her a bit more, we noticed that she was skin and bone... everywhere but her belly.

I immediately left the bathroom, grabbed my computer and googled "how to tell if a cat is pregnant." According to what I read, we indeed had a pregnant kitty on our hands. So what was left to do but give her a name? We settled on Fabiola (also thename of the queen of Belgium). We were resolved to at least get her to a shelter, though they were all closed on Sunday, so it had to wait until Monday.

During this time I made sure she was well fed, had plenty of water, a warm bed and a toy to play with. She got plenty of attention, and we began to grow attached. She purred when petted, she purred when she ate, she meowed when we came in the bathroom, she played with us, used the litter box like a pro, but mostly she slept. I became resolved to do everything I could for her, though I knew that adopting her, especially in her condition and with 2 cats of our own, would be next to impossible.

So Monday rolled around and I found a list of all the shelters in the Brussels area and called all of them, asking if they had room for our little, up-the-spout Fabiola. All but one, Blue Cross, were full. When I called Blue Cross all they said to me was bring 10 euros. I can't say that this gave me the best feeling about the place, but there was no other option. Laura, a friend of mine, and I decided to go that very morning. I packed Fabiola up in a carrier (one we no longer use for our cats), and carried her to the taxi hub nearby. 14 euros later, we were at the shelter and talking to the woman at the front desk.
She spoke no English, took my 10 euros, asked a couple of questions and summoned a guy from the back room. He lifted the carrier and took her though a door, down a corridor. Not having had a chance to say goodbye, I asked the woman at the front desk if he could bring her back, she told me in cold French no, and mentioned something about microbes. I tried to argue with her, but my already mediocre French failed me, more so because I was growing more upset by the second. There was nothing to be done. I couldn't get her to listen to me and I could no longer keep the tears behind my eyes. We had to go.

The taxi driver was waiting for us, as he said he would, and as soon as we got in the floodgates opened. Thank god Laura was there, if only to give me a much needed hug. We got back and I called Miguel in tears, begging him to come home for lunch, which he did. I explained what had happened, and he decided to call to see if we could get her back. The gist of that phone call was that no, we could not get her back. We had signed the cat over to them. Not only that, but they didn't have to release any information about the cat and it would have been illegal for us to keep her.

Now, I understand that she may have belonged to someone else, but any vet here can check for a chip or a tattoo (which most pets have here). Also, it's entirely possible that once her owners found out that she was pregnant they got rid of her on purpose. It then occurred to me that what if all the shelters had been full? Would it still be illegal? What were you supposed to do then. It turns out, if that is the case, you just have to leave the cat where you found it. To me that is just unbelievable.

So we got no more information from the shelter. I would think that when it's a person's job to care for strays and take in animals they would be more compassionate. More understanding. Nicer. I just couldn't believe my experience. One thing is sure though, in case Fabiola's time is running out at the shelter they have my number and will call me.

So that is the end of the story. I know it's not the best of endings, but I do take comfort in the fact that she will at the very least be fed and well looked after.

If you read this and are looking to adopt a cat or kittens, the website for the Blue Cross in Belgium is here. Fabiola is not listed yet, but I imagine that is because she is still nursing.


  1. Oh Brody, that's a sad history... I can imagine how you feel, I have a cat too and tomorrow I will bring another one to home, I will adopt at Infor-animaux, they are very gentle with the cats. But I am sure the kittens will find a home, it's easier for them than for Fabiola, that's why I will choose an adult cat to make company to mine, they have less chances to be adopted.

    I'm sending you best vibes, you did the right thing although is always difficult, but you have a good heart... Please give news about Fabiola when you can.


  2. That is so sad! You did what you could though, (which was absolutely the right thing,) and even by posting here you've given Fabiola a little 'leg-up' hopefully.

  3. Thanks for sharing this. I went to Blue Cross because of this story, but it was closed. I ended up going to Veeweyde to adopt a cat. Here's our new guy

  4. Which Blue Cross Shelter did you take her to, Brody. Could this be her?

    Joy Xx