The luggage that meowed

I’ll have some more Flores posts soon, but wanted to say we have all survived the trip from Jakarta to Phoenix more or less intact. Susu traveled in her new soft cat carrier, which she hates as much as she’s hated her other cat carriers.

Under the seat

The most worriesome parts of the trip were at certain security checks where we had to take her out and hold her while the carrier went through the scanner. We had put a kitty halter and leash on her, which she hated even more than the carrier.

Still, it was scary standing there holding a squirming cat in an enormous and chaotic airport. The security people seemed remarkably clueless about this and would fire questions at us and demand documents while the cat freaked out and the cat carrier sat there on the scanner belt, already approved for flight but just beyond arm’s reach.

Susu was s0 anxious at the beginning of the journey, she was panting with her mouth open, which is a strange and disturbing thing in a cat. I can’t say she really got adjusted to traveling but she basically wore herself out after several hours and fell asleep. When we got to the airport hotel in LA she pulled the Invisible Kitty act, vanishing for at least an hour before we figured out that she had climbed up inside the box spring. But by morning she had recovered enough to investigate the room.

After that it was just one more short flight to Phoenix and a well-earned rest for all concerned.

Flying Cat Tips:

1. I found putting a puppy training pad in the bottom of the carrier completely pointless. It just got wadded up in a big lump in the corner. Susu was so stressed out I don’t think she could have emitted any waste products anyway. In fact, she had a hard time using the litter box even after we settled into the hotel; I think she got pretty dehydrated.

2. Bring something warm to put in or around the carrier (being careful not to block the cat’s air supply). Planes are really cold.

3. Get a carrier with a reach-in zipper so you can pet your cat when s/he is anxious. That really seemed to reassure her.

Warning: Cute kitten photos!

This time it wasn’t us. It was our housemates who fell victim to the adorable, scraggly kitten who kept meowing at the door one rainy weekend.

Rugrat wouldn’t take no for an answer, and before long he was settled right in on the rug. He was a pretty scruffy little guy!

Two baths, one trip to the vet, and what seemed like several pounds of kitten food later, however, he’s looking much more presentable.

He and Susu have become great friends, which means they spend all day chasing each other and wrestling.

He even pitched in when we shredded newspapers for the compost the other day.

Drew and Melanie don’t want to keep him permanently, so a friend came over today for a pre-adoption meeting. Novia has a house with a garden outside town and two young adult cats who love to wrestle, so it sounds like the perfect situation for a little rugrat. But it must have been obvious how hard it is for all of us to give him up, because she paused at the gate on her way out and said, “You can still change your mind, you know!”

Ronaldo: The rest of the story

Our rehab cat with the broken leg acquired the name Ronaldo. (I was planning to have him neutered, so I figured he should have an extra-manly name to boost his self-image, and who is more manly than Cristiano Ronaldo?)

Ron, as he came to be called, faced a tough recovery. His leg needed surgery and the time lapse between the injury and the operation made the repair more difficult. He went crazy whenever I tried to change his bandage, so I had to take him on the long, hated car ride to the vet’s place in Pondok Labu every 2 or 3 days. Finally I wised up and arranged to board him there for a while, which I think was easier on both of us.

Still, Ron is an intensely cheerful type, and he never lost his sunny personality. Even when he was groggy from anesthesia and obviously in pain, he would limp over and rub up against anyone who came to visit him.

Finally his incision healed and he came home.

It didn’t take Ron long to get comfortable. Soon he was mooching around the kitchen trying to steal food, and snoozing just as flamboyantly as Susu. (I promise we didn’t give him beer, though.)

I can’t say Ron and Susu became fast friends, but from a growling and hissing start they came to a point of mutual tolerance. I think they would have been pals if we’d kept him. Their fights, which were never very convincing in the first place, were clearly turning into games by the end. And they trusted each other enough to doze in the same room.

But it’s pretty silly for us to have one cat, nevermind two, so I put the word out on Facebook and e-mail. I was thrilled when my good friend Pinta said she wanted him.

Pinta took him to her mom’s place on the southern end of town. Ron has a real house now on a quiet street. He eats a lot, sleeps on Pinta’s old bed and generally seems to live like a king.

I think Susu missed him for a while. She used to sleep in his old cage. Besides the Ron factor, I think she liked having all those walls to lean up against.

Now we’ve moved, and the cage has gone into storage. It’s already hard to remember what being a two-cat household was like.

Ooops, we did it again

Getting sleepy at the vet’s office as the anesthesia kicks in.

We were on our way to the movies on a lazy, go-to-the-mall kind of weekend, when we stopped to look at a litter of kittens across the street. Just as we were leaving, an adult cat limped past with an open wound on an obviously broken leg.

“Poor cat,” said the woman on the corner who runs a bottled-water store. “He got hit by a car. I feel so bad for him.”

We did too, but I confess we didn’t stop and do anything right then. The cat slunk away to a hiding place and we walked off with heavy hearts. We got dinner and saw a movie. But we couldn’t get the image out of our heads. By bedtime, we knew we had to do something.

We got up the next morning ready for battle, figuring this was a streetwise cat who wouldn’t take kindly to being shoved in a basket. But when we went down to the Posko (security post) on the corner, where the cat hangs out, we found him asleep and utterly pliable. The bottled-water seller picked him up and put him right in Susu’s cat carrier, where he settled down and started munching treats.

After a traumatic, howling taxi ride (sorry, mr. Express taxi driver!), I got him to the vet’s. She put him on the table and gave him a shot of anesthesia, and it quickly became clear that this was a former housecat. For one thing, he was sweet as pie. He kept rubbing against my hand and purring even after the evil vet jabbed him with needles and poked around in his wounds. For another, he’s fat — 4 kilograms, or about 9 pounds, which is enormous for a Jakarta cat!

As the shot took effect, the cat got wobbly and his eyelids started to droop. Then he threw up all his kitty treats, poor guy, as well as some fried rice he’d stolen that morning and a long, wiggly, very-much-alive worm. Our agenda promptly expanded to include de-worming. The vet also checked out a wound on his side, which I figured was associated with the car accident. Not so, she said — it was a burn, probably caused by somebody tossing boiling water on him.

As the vet bandaged him up, my treat-and-release plan dissolved in front of my eyes. The cat needs to stay clean and out of danger for another couple of weeks. He really can’t be limping around in traffic and dumpster-diving for his meals. So, inevitably, I brought him home.

And that’s where he is now, gradually coming out of the anesthesia. I got him a cage to protect him from Susu and keep him out of trouble when we’re not around. He’s going to live in our home office while he’s recuperating.

We’re taking care of him till he’s better but we’re NOT keeping him forever. I know you don’t believe me — I can see you shaking your head with a knowing smirk — but we’re not. We are going to find him a home.

So … one sweet, cuddly, box-trained, down-on-his-luck Jakarta kitty is looking for an angel. Could it be you?

Don’t make me come down there and kick your ass

Susu perching high atop the upended mattress in the spare room, aka The Climbing Wall.

Seriously. Back away from the mattress slowly. Put your hands where I can see them and stop making that scritching noise. You don’t want to know what these claws can do. I am a hunter. A fighter. A cat.

Seriously. Don’t make me.

Caught wet!

What do you mean, wallet and cell phone? I don’t know anything about a wallet and cell phone!

In Indonesia, you’re not caught red-handed, you’re ditangkap basah: caught wet. Thus it is with me and the blog: as you may have noticed, I haven’t posted in a while, heh.

I really like my new job with an English-language newspaper that’s set to launch in Indonesia soon. But it seems to suck all the brains out of my head, so I have nothing left to blog with when I get home. As I get settled in, though, I hope to get back into the blogging routine. There is much to write about, including the witchcraft market, a ladyboy show in Thailand, spicy coconut duck-egg pancakes, and of course, THE CAT.

More soon!


In case you’ve been losing sleep over the cat, let me assure you she came through her spay operation just fine. But she had to wear a cone for a week to keep her from messing with the surgical site, and you can imagine how much she liked that.

The cone made her walk like a cow, with her head down and swinging slightly from side to side. She also bumped into things a lot, so she had to put a lot of time and effort into pretending she bumped into them on purpose. It was all pretty tiring for her. Fortunately she could still do fun things like hide around corners and launch sneak attacks on us, knock the sofa cushions over, and chase flies.

We took the cone off Sunday night and I don’t think she slept for about 36 hours; she was biting everything in sight to make up for lost time. We’ve had to triple our arsenal of squirt bottles just to keep some semblance of order in the house.


“Are you just going to blog about the kitten all the time now?” Chad asked after we got her.

“No,” I said defensively, “I’m going to blog about the kitten HALF the time.”

So, here’s the kitten. I worked till midnight the last two nights finishing the magazine, so I’m too tired to blog much. And I think she looks elegant with all those feathers.

Feather dusters are made out of the real thing here, and they only cost 85 cents, so I snatched one up as a cat toy. The only downside is the little bits of feather that get all over the house.

And here’s an earlier pic that I hadn’t gotten around to posting yet.

Box of kitty

Susu is losing her kittenish roundness and becoming a lean Jakarta cat.

She is nearly two soda-cans long now and bursting with energy — if you want to sit on the couch reading or working on the computer, it’s wise to have at least a dozen crumpled balls of paper to throw, as well as some golf tees, little plastic balls, and badminton shuttlecocks. She chases them but she doesn’t bring them back, so after tossing them all you have to get up, collect them, and toss them again.

Chad and I had the day off, so we went out and got a new teakettle to replace our cheap, crummy one from Carrefour, which smelled like rotting fish every time we boiled water. Susu spent the afternoon playing with the box. It reminded me of one of my favorite radio moments ever, whenTerry Gross was interviewing the genius musician Tom Waits.

“What did you first learn to play music on?” she asked him.

“Ohhhh, I don’t know,” he growled. “Uhhh …. a box.”

Who knows — maybe Susu will become an amazing songwriter too.

It takes a while, but if you wear her out, she gets pretty snuggly.