Cats & Rats
A short time ago, I got a cat. Or a kitten, rather. Anyone who knows me knows I hate cats, so this may come as a shock to them. In Fiji, animals aren’t kept because they are cute, cuddly, or loved. They are pets only because they serve a purpose (link). They are useful.
At the beginning of my stay I was loving a rat free stay, after the abundance of rats during my homestay (link). It was beautiful to wake up in the morning and not have new rat poops scattered across the mat on the floor. I was told by some of the Fijians in my village rats don’t like the type of home I live in (link). I was very excited.
Then I got my first rat. It was after Thanksgiving, when I had left for a week to celebrate with some friends in town. When I came back I saw all the signs, and that night I heard them rummaging around. It wasn’t one, it was two.
The next night I set up a trap to catch them. There are two options for catching rats in Fiji—poison or sticky traps. Sticky traps are the best option, because you don’t find a dead, decaying rat in a corner when you are cleaning a few days later.
The sticky traps are just that: sticky. Like, get-it-on-your-skin-and-you-will-stick-to-everything-and-have-a-hell-of-a-time-getting-it-off sticky. I open the can and typically use a piece of green coconut husk to spread it onto the black, plastic plate that comes with it. Once that is done I put a glob of peanut butter in the center and put it in the corner of the house.
The first night I set one, a rat got stuck on it nearly the same moment I got into bed. I heard him crying and then I heard his friend trying to get to him through my divider wall. I fell asleep. When I awoke I found the two of them stuck to the trap.
The down side to the sticky trap is the death. It doesn’t kill them like the poison does, or like a snap trap in America would. It just gets them stuck and they struggle and suffer. Even though these disgusting rats have been terrorizing my home while I sleep at night, I still feel kind of bad for them. The only way I know to humanely kill them is to take the trap outside and chop off their heads with my machete, so that’s what I do.
While I was setting my third trap, a neighborhood boy (link) was in my house watching me and asked if I wanted a cat, because his had kittens. Of course I graciously accepted, and now here I am today with a kitten of my own, named Musashi.
There are multiple challenges I’ve run into with my kitten. The first is his desire to go back “home” each morning. I go get him from the home he has spent his whole life in every night, and carry him back to my house. He has no problem letting me do this, and in fact, when I go to the house to get him, he comes out when he hears my voice and walks right up to me.
I feed him each night, and every morning. He usually follows me out to the beach to watch the sunrise in the morning, which is the first thing I do every day. He stays there with me until I walk back to the house, and then he will usually eat a little breakfast and sit on my lap for a bit. But then he runs home to his family and I don’t see him the rest of the day, until I go get him again at night.
Everyone here thinks this is strange because I have done all the weird tricks they say, including cut his whiskers (I know, this is bad), feed him, cover his eyes when I take him to the house, etc. I don’t mind that he runs off during the day, I just want him to return on his own at night. I don’t know if this is something he will begin doing over time, or if I just have to wait until he is older.
Another issue is his leg. Yesterday he hurt his hind leg somehow and has been limping—only walking on three of his legs. I didn’t see a thorn in his paw and I can tell by rubbing my hand down his leg that the issue is in the lower joint, because when I touch it he flinches.
In the United States I would have simply Googled these problems and probably would find the answers fairly quickly. There aren’t many instances of a kitten running home in America because there aren’t many people who live in villages where the kitten could do that, or in houses where they must keep the doors open during the day to let the light in.
When I look up the leg issue, every answer tells me to bring him to a vet. Obviously, that isn’t possible for me, and even if it were I can’t afford it. So I am just letting him do whatever it is he does, feeding him regularly, letting him lie in my lap when he is here, and hoping that it gets better with time.
The issue of Googling has been something I have run into multiple times while being here. In the states, one can be certain that if there is an issue, someone else has been through it before. Here, such is not the case. Not many people on the internet have lived or live in a remote village on the ocean without electricity.
This is just one more thing contributing to the growth of my knowledge through experience rather than internet forums. It is extremely difficult at times, but I just have to remind myself that I will probably be better for having experienced it in the future.