One thing I have learned living here, which I probably once knew, is that I talk to animals in Spanglish. If I see an animal, I might begin our conversation in English asking, “where did you come from?” “do you have a family?” but not wanting to be rude, or for fear that they may not understand my foreign tongue, I will immediately switch to a language more familiar to them, “de donde veniste?” “tenes una familia?,” (respectively.)
I went on a walk this afternoon to better acquaint myself with the downtown and as I was on my way back to the house, I heard a little cry from below, I looked down to see the sweetest little kitten standing on the landing of a store front looking up at me crying to be petted. What could I do? I sat down on the same storefront ledge, and began to pet the little guy. He replied with instant purring and reaching up for me with his paws. I called him a little higher up and he proceeded to rub his head again my armpit to be allowed access onto my lap. I complied. With this little furry ball of dust purring in my lap, I began to panic about really where his family was, and if he had a mom, or if he was alone to battle street life on his own. He was a tough little guy – when 3 dogs walked by us and paused he sat there and growled and hissed, showing them he meant business. He didn’t run, just merely told them to back off.
I started to think of the possibilities, should I wait around and follow him to wherever his home was, should I try to walk away and see where he went, (I tried, he followed me,) should I call Fatima and explain to her that I could not leave a little kitten to fight for his life on the streets of Asuncion and we would need to adopt him? Thankfully, as I was lowered on the ground, (so much for not appearing strange or drawing attention to myself,) petting the kitten about to fall into tears over what to do with him, a man standing in a nearby doorway called to me to ask if I was planning to take the kitten. I walked over and after a few minutes learned that the kitten did in fact live in the building, upstairs with a family and the mother cat. He asked if I wanted to take him, and I explained that I was just so happy he had a home because he was so little and so cute! He agreed that he was very cute and maybe they wouldn’t let the cat roam the street anymore.
This is very common behavior in Asuncion. People have cats, but they are allowed to roam the streets freely, and return home for their meals and to sleep. Collars are not used to identify animals, (though one imagines why.) Only domesticated dogs are [mostly] tagged with collars and generally kept inside the family home, though even they are free to walk the streets as they please and once can’t tell the difference between a dog who is owned and a dog who is a stray.
My host family has been going through a rough time since I arrived, as their beautiful black and white, 8-11 month old cat, named Sorpreso, (formerly Sorpresita,) has not come home for 9 days. The cat was free to roam the streets as he pleased and would return home every day for food, and to curl up on his chair in the kitchen, where his stuffed animal cat currently awaits his return. I feel their anguish and sadness over his absence; as one never knows if he got lost, was taken in by another family, or god forbid, something worse. I hope for his prompt return so this family can be at ease, and perhaps make him a house cat.