Our Family’s Attempt to Save Two Kittens

By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

HAVANA TIMES – We all love cats in my house, it’s the only pet we have. Our cat is called Michi and I have to admit, I’m a little jealous sometimes because she gets more love and attention than I do. It’s that the love my three children and wife have for cats overshadows the love they have for me. But recently, on December 19th, two more kittens joined the feline squad we have at home: Pixy and Dixy, that’s what we called them.

Dixy and Pixy

There is a two-hectare farm next to my house, and there is a cassava plot at the end of one of them. Two little kittens could be heard meowing since early in the morning, and my two daughters finally discovered that it was coming from the cassava plants. My wife went with them, and they rescued two kittens, so tiny that they had been left there to die. They were very weak, and they were so close to dying that very night because it had been really cold since the evening before.

The care Idalia, my wife, had with them was completely maternal. She reminded me of when she looked after our youngest baby, who is already 7 years old. She set the alarm to feed them in the night and to warm them up with the hairdryer. She went to her mother’s house once a day, a kilometer away, so a cat who had recently given birth could breastfeed her, although she had to put up with an insistent Idalia because she rejected the kittens.

Idalia feeding the kitten with a syringe

We knew that it was almost impossible for these newly born kittens to survive after being separated from the mother at such a young age, but even so, we all wanted them to live a couple more days, with the hope they would make it by some rewarding miracle. Michi, the biggest cat in the house, became jealous, and while the little kittens were around, she didn’t jump on Idalia anymore or caress her legs with her tail like she used to.

Dixy was the weakest, and we could only keep him alive for two more days. We buried him in the backyard and the girls put flowers on his grave. Pixy clung onto life and began walking on the floor after five days, looking strong. He carried on strong and with a decent appetite but on the sixth day we noticed that he began to lose weight. Idalia decided that she’d start giving him bread with skimmed milk instead of just milk.  But we woke up on the seventh day to find him dead.

We were very sad because we had already become very attached to him, to the point that we’d decided to keep him instead of giving him away if he made it, like we had originally agreed. We buried him next to his brother, under a bush in the backyard, and the girls put flowers on his grave too.

They left a vacuum in the house, and even though the days passed by, we still missed them. Incredibly enough, Michi became loving towards Idalia again that very same morning and jumped onto her lap. She rolled up into a ball and hasn’t stopped doing this ever since. She knew that there weren’t any more intruders in her space.

I’ve always had compassion for animals, by instinct. Despite living in rural Cuba, where having a slingshot and killing birds or reptiles is very common, the reality is I never wanted to, and I never did. I only caught caguayos (lizards) with traps but then I’d let them go, that was the greatest abuse I remember committing against an animal. I even studied Biology at Universidad de Oriente.

But it wasn’t at university where I really became sensitive towards animals, to the point of not looking at a mangy or hungry dog with indifference anymore, or a newly-born kitten abandoned on the side of the highway or when a cart driver hits the horse to make it run at the pace he wants. It was during my civic activism for a Better Cuba that I met some animal rights activists, and I understood the sensitivity and importance of this other battle, or other part of the same battle.

Especially with my friend Veronica Vega, who does so much for animals and people, of course. Veronica always comes to mind every time we talk about this subject. My wife really loves her and she’s an example to us. We weren’t able to save the kittens unfortunately, but we got them to live a little longer and eased their suffering.

Nevertheless, we were the ones that really came out winning: it was a family exercise of humanity, sensitivity, solidarity, and love. We dedicated a lot of time to them which we never have because of so many chores, and that made us happy. Not to mention the educational lesson it taught the children, which is very important for them to become better human beings. Also, the kittens didn’t leave this world without first leaving their mark, like if they had died in that field of cassava plants, they now form part of our family history.

Read more from Osmel Ramirez here.

Osmel Ramirez

I'm from Mayari, a little village in Holguín. I was born on the same day that the Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975. A good omen, since I identify myself as a pacifist. I am a biologist but I am passionate about politics, history and political philosophy. Writing about these topics, I got to journalism, precisely here on Havana Times. I consider myself a democratic socialist and my main motivation is to try to be useful to the positive change that Cuba needs.