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by Beverly Berwald
My friend Yinon had found a used Honda for me on Craigslist. Only hitch: it was all the way down in Long Beach in an industrial part of town. So we drove there together one evening in late June 2008. We pulled off Pacific Coast Highway down a side street; as soon as we came to a stop, cats poured out from behind the machine shops on both sides of the street. There were easily 25 of them! I suddenly lost all interest in the Honda. Well, the Honda may have been a mistake, but look what I found! Those 25 felines could easily turn into 75 in a matter of a year. And who would feed them?

No Time to Waste—Mating Season’s Always in

I called my sister Diane who's always ready to lend a helping hand, and we set a time to go back down to Long Beach together to do some trapping. We didn’t have to wait very long before a gray tabby adult smelled the tuna and walked inside one of our cages. When the trap was sprung the sound echoed down the street and the other cats shrewdly ran back to hiding behind the machine shops. But my sister and I weren’t about to give up that easily. As we were moving the traps 25 feet away from their earlier positions, a man appeared from an RV parked behind a wrought iron fence, holding a black kitten. “Here,” he told us as he handed over this docile little creature. She was so emaciated, she devoured the tuna back in the car, between scratching herself from the fleas. On these special flea-bitten occasions, it’s always good to carry a concoction of eucalyptus and lemongrass oils – rub it on your arms and legs and neck. The fleas are not too crazy about either smell so at least we knew the fleas would have nothing to do with my sister and me.

Fleas or no fleas, going home with this kitten was like heading home from the hospital with a new baby. We cooed over the fur ball’s sweetness as “Charlotte!” rolled from my sister’s lips.

Stop the Blood-Suckers

The very next morning I drove Charlotte to the vet for a flea bath and some antibiotics. It’s critical to stop the fleas on a kitten as they’re blood suckers that can hasten anemia, a fast-track to death.

As soon as I walked into Pasternak’s clinic, Sarka the receptionist staked her claim to Charlotte - “My husband’s cat just died—she looked just like this kitten.” And before I could answer her, Sarka was on the phone to her husband Dan. But, there was one provision: they couldn’t take Charlotte until the 4th of July as both would be working long hours, too long for a kitten that had to be fed every two hours.

A Little Liver Goes a Long Way

The honors of short-term fostering were bestowed on me. My tenure at a health magazine had ended after 14 years so I was free to care for this little baby. Her bones were sticking through a thin covering of fur—just like my other foster Houdini. After three days on kitten formula she didn’t appear to be gaining any weight, so I gave her fresh chicken liver – she was ravenous. When I came over to her, she growled as though she were protecting her kill—it’s amazing how even a kitten the size of two fingers, responds like a wild cat when presented with fresh meat. However, moderation in all things including fresh liver, especially for a kitten as she started to sweat pink perspiration from excess liver. (By the way, liver is a rich source of B1 or thiamine that gives off an odor that repels insects including fleas.)
Boo-Boo getting tough with a toy

Canine Surrogate Mother

Charlotte was center stage in my household for the week that I took care of her. My roommate’s Malti-Poo named Lulu couldn’t get enough of the kitten’s sweetness and put her nose right up to the netted window of the cat condo. When Charlotte ran free across the living room rug, Lulu ran alongside her, a protective mother to her surrogate child. Though Lulu’s intentions were always good, I had to keep a close watch on her as her maternal instincts gave way to rambunctious play. Lulu had no idea that the kitten was only a fraction of her size and how, even in jest, this hyper-paced tiny dog could be a threat to a kitten.

A Dream Home

On the morning of the 4th of July, I had just finished giving Charlotte a feeding when Sarka and Dan arrived with a small fabric carrier. I’d never been in the presence of a man like Dan who was so alert to a kitten’s needs. Charlotte’s eyes beamed acceptance of this unusual and kindred spirit. I kissed her nose and told her how much I would always love her and she held onto my eyes with hers. And for the rest of my life I will never forget what happened next: Charlotte looked over at Dan and then back at me. And when she exhaled loudly, she told me with her eyes that she would no longer be seeing me because she would be leaving today with Dan to start her new life.

So much is spoken in so little communication. The heart knows in tandem with the brain, both are wired with the same neurons that transmit impulses of consciousness. Charlotte’s breath fully rejoiced with the information from her eyes and her heart that she was going to be secure and loved in her new home.

My sister and I have since gone to Sarka and Dan’s home to visit Charlotte who now answers to 'Boo-Boo'. One of my favorite mistakes turned into a furry black Boo-Boo! Her black satin coat and her green eyes reveal an exquisite and shining soul full of gratitude.