The little kitten looks down at me from the catwalk above, mewing softly. It sounds a bit accusatory. After all, I did grab her by the scruff yesterday, throw her in a cage, rock us both side to side, bouncing, as we drove down the bumpy road down the side of the volcano.

From there we whisked the cage out, set it down behind one hundred other such traps, and left her with the paperwork for neutering at the advo-CATS spay and neuter clinic.

It was time to have her fixed.

Petunia came from a local colony. Her mother was feral, and as yet unfixed. This meant her mother cowered with a scruffy lot of other cats, right behind the grimy gas station, still resolutely refusing to take the bait that would keep her from a life of churning out kittens like some kind of troubling Tribble making machine.

It was the job of volunteers, many of whom who gave up the best-selling author life, (Right?), to continue to trap, collect, repair — aka neuter — these many kittens, and then hopefully, find good homes for each and every one of these lost children of the plush, but pestering, paw.

The Hawaiian Islands, like many other south pacific places, have too many homeless cats. They control invasive vermin. They kill native birds.

It is not their fault. They do not ask to be born. They do not ask to starve. They do not ask for the any number of horrific plagues, pests, parasites, and often, cruel patterns that await them.

They are born in soft, squishy piles, held close to the ground under shrubs and lava rock. They are silent in these heaps, well-gifted by evolution to bring no unwanted attention to the kitten nest. Predators abound: neighborhood dogs, hungry mongoose, territorial Tom Cats, clueless kids.

Their moms do the best they can. They eat insects, mice, geckos and birds. They feast on all the other invasive species for which these islands are haven, but also hell.

People drive by the gas station in their hundreds. Some are tourists heading for the beach. Some are underemployed locals racing to work at the resort, restaurant, or retail stores. Some are aware of the cat colonies. Most are not.

Petunia has been hard to place. No one wants yet another cat. They are everywhere, and the friendly ones have already adopted a farm, a neighborhood, a house, or a barn somewhere.

Petunia is unique. She loves her big brother, also operated upon yesterday. But she is more shy than he, and therefore, to find a home for her is that much more challenging.

I love the little cats. It is love found in the annoyed, but persistent, patience of cleaning up their poop. Kittens cannot overnight learn the sense of not pooping on the ‘ground’ in loose leaves or lava cinders. They take awhile to learn what the litter in the box if for. They take awhile to explore the nooks and unfamiliar crannies of a house. A house feels nothing like a sun-warmed rock, or craggy branch beneath the bushes.

They mew piteously, sometimes. They miss their mommy. They huddle side by side and glare at you as if you are the cruelest monster on earth.

Perhaps I am. But I will persist. I will feed them, and bathe them, and de-flea them. I will house them, and nurse them back to health. I will hold them, string toys before them, cuddle them, sing to them, and stroke them. I will socialize them to tolerate humans. I will persist until they purr.

When they are too weak, too sick, I will plant them among my flowers when they give up their burden and lay down dead. It happens.

But, this is usually not the case and these two siblings are now thriving, even if a bit miffed at me today. I will persist again, until they purr.

When they purr, someone will make room for them in an aching heart. This will save a human purr-son, out there. Because although most people do not know it, love of another who needs you, will heal you, too.

Christyl Rivers is a farmer, writer, cat wrangler and Ecopsychologist in Hawaii.
Christyl Rivers is a farmer, writer, cat wrangler and Ecopsychologist in Hawaii.
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