By Annie Yang
On the night of Dec. 4, two major events occurred. One, Cultural Heritage Night happened. Two, seniors Lance Kim, Abraham Rosloff, and I discovered a kitten in front of the school!
At approximately 5:30 p.m., Abe and I made our way to social studies teacher Mr. Joseph Ko’s room to wait out the two hours before Cultural Heritage Night. En route, freshman Michael Lu, whom I have never spoken to before in my life (much less made eye contact with), accosted me suddenly and asked for help with a geometry question. I hadn’t taken geometry in four years, so I was in a predicament, staring at an iPad, surrounded by approximately ten underclassmen waiting for me to deliver them from their mathematical misery. I stood in the middle of the hall, Abe having vanished once math was introduced, for a solid ten minutes with Michael trying to offer suggestions and breathing quietly next to me.
Fortunately, Abe returned and said urgently, “Annie, there’s a cat.” By this time I had actually figured out the problem and was trying to extricate myself from the situation by explaining to Michael the shared angles in the triangles and how they prove congruity. Once he uttered an enlightened “Ohhh,” I was emancipated, and I went to find Abe and this cat.
If you don’t know me, you will probably one day hear about me on the news as the old lady with upwards of 50 cats in one house. I love cats. I have my own cat whom I love very much, but I also needed to see this cat.
“Okay, Abe, where’s the cat?” I asked him. I loathe doing math on a Friday night, but I understood that being able to see this cat and my own cat meant seeing two cats in one 24 hour period. And two cats is always better than one.
Abe directed me to the bushes right next to the front door where I found Lance Kim standing in the cold, clothed with little more than a sweater. I whispered to Lance, “Where’s the cat?”
“It’s in the bushes,” he said. I crouched down low and looked in between the branches and foliage, but I didn’t see any perked ears or bright eyes looking back at me. Before I could ask “Where?” again, the cat started meowing loudly, its cry crisp and piercing through the cold air. The mews helped me triangulate the cat’s location, but I still couldn’t see it, so we couldn’t help it. We’d reached an impasse.
So I called up my mom and got her to bring a can of my cat’s wet food over. While waiting for her to drive to school, I actually got a peek at the cat! It was a kitten! Small, young, all alone, and cold…
My mom delivered the goods, and I popped open the can, pushing it into the bushes to lure out the kitten. Very timidly, the kitten inched forward and started devouring the food. I thought of my own plump, comfortable cat in her warm home who doesn’t eat with even half the enthusiasm. What a spoiled freeloader. The kitten must have been all by itself for a long time, I thought. Obviously it was weaned off its mother’s milk, but where was the mother anyway?
Lance gingerly pulled the can toward us, trying to encourage the cat to come out into the open, so that we might be able to scoop it up. By this time, the 6:30 bus was about to roll in, and the spectacle of the little feline attracted a bit of a crowd of a few students waiting to go home. Lance and I too snapped some obligatory pictures and videos.
Lance reached for the kitten a few times while it was eating away, but before even touching it, the cat recoiled from his hands and retreated into the bushes. But the promise of food called it back. So Abe, who also came outside, Lance, and I simply kept our distance and watched.
Lance observed that the bushes had apparently been trimmed recently. There were still shreds of green scattered all around the ground, so it might have been even that day. “Maybe the mother was scared away when they were cutting the bushes, and the kitten got separated,” he said.
We pondered this in silence, the quiet only interrupted by the munching of the kitten.
But the tiny cat only had so big of a stomach, and its short, downy fur wasn’t good protection against the elements. Once it finished eating, it quickly turned back in the shadows, out of reach again. We’d reached another impasse.
Abe, Lance, and I held an emergency conference in front of the school and decided to try to flush the kitten out of the bushes and capture it before it got too late and too cold. We attempted a pincer movement with Abe closing in from the left and Lance from the right and me standing in front of the bushes to snatch up the cat when it ran out of the bushes. Unfortunately, the cat didn’t get the memo about the battle strategy and evaded us for 30 minutes, even dropping off the radar for 5-10 minutes.
At one point, Lance actually managed to grab the kitten, but it wiggled out of his grasp and bolted away. I missed the kitten every time it rushed past me, so I was doing a great job.
Finally, in a last ditch effort, the kitten took off down the road toward the lower parking lot. By some great stroke of luck, Abe was actually on the track team, and he took off after the cat with Lance and me in hot pursuit. That was the most exercise I had that week. Cats can be very fast.
The kitten spotted a storm drain and stopped, trying to stick its head through the bars and escape us. Obviously, it hadn’t taken classes at South during its stay here. I momentarily distracted the cat by making clicking noises. In the few seconds when the cat lifted its head to look at me, Abe quickly picked it up and held onto it tightly, so it couldn’t escape again. Success!
Lance insisted he hold the cat because he spotted it first, so it was “his” cat. This was a fair point, so Abe relinquished the kitten. We walked back to the school’s entrance in triumph, cooing to the cat, petting it, and making sure it felt safe.
It was just minutes before showtime now, so the halls, though warm, were bustling, noisy, and frightening. We made our way instead to the elevator at the corner of the math and science hall, and closed the door, so the kitten would not slip out and run loose through the school.
I went off to get water for the kitten, which probably hadn’t drunk anything in awhile and was thirsty from eating all that food and running around so much. I made the mistake of buying water for two dollars when I could have just asked for a styrofoam bowl and filled it with fountain water. Obviously, I hadn’t taken economics classes at South during my time here.
Lance held onto the shivering kitten for a long time, allowing himself to get urinated on twice. It seemed to greatly appreciate his body heat and cuddled up next to him voluntarily. Soon, it began to purr softly.
Abe, Lance, and I looked at each other. “What do we do now? Who is going to take care of it? Where will it sleep tonight?”
I called up my mom again and asked her to bring my cat’s old carrier, so the kitten could be easily transported to wherever it would end up. I sent her a few pictures of the cat just to convince her. She thankfully delivered the goods again. We put the kitten in the carrier, so it could take a well-deserved nap, and Lance could take off his coat to dry.
A few visitors from Cultural Heritage Night dropped by and cooed over the kitten. Everyone was charmed by its cuteness but apparently not enough to offer it a home. Lance insisted that he would keep it since it was “his” and a call to his family seemed to indicate that they would be on board too, but it was still uncertain if he was actually able to take it. Abe could house the kitten for only a limited amount of time. I was reluctant to adopt a high-maintenance kitten so soon before I left for college.
But then Abe suggested asking Mr. Ko, who has temporarily fostered kittens before. As the Asian Culture Club advisor, Mr. Ko, was busy supervising the show, but Abe went to find him and relayed the message that he would visit later and test whether or not his selective allergic reaction to cats applied to this kitten. If he didn’t break out in hives, he said he would be willing to look after the kitten for a while.
Lance, Abe, and I bid our time, losing the five entire dollars that Cultural Heritage Night tickets cost and occasionally peeking through the bars of the carrier to look at the kitten snoozing. I snapped some more pictures to savor the moment.
Finally, the show concluded at around 9:30 PM, and Mr. Ko (and science teacher Dr. James Truglio!) visited us at the elevator. We rudely roused the kitten from its nap and placed it on Mr. Ko’s lap. No hives broke out, which was a good sign. The kitten also started purring after some coaxing and petting, which was an excellent sign.
Eventually, Mr. Ko agreed to foster the kitten for the time being and take it to the veterinarian for its initial round of shots and vaccinations. However, despite its friendly behavior, the kitten was probably a stray, even feral, cat, since it was found on school grounds, quite far from residential areas. Feral cats have a difficult if not impossible time adjusting to life with humans, but fortunately the kitten was young and impressionable enough that it might become an excellent housecat with enough socialization. The only problem was that given how busy Mr. Ko is, the kitten probably would not receive an optimal amount attention and socialization from him, so its housing situation was only temporary. The hunt was now on for a forever home.
Over the weekend, Mr. Ko kept Abe and me updated on the kitten’s condition with copious adorable photos. Mr. Ko took it to the veterinarian for a health evaluation and preliminary shots and discovered our young intrepid feline was a boy! He thankfully received a clean bill of health. The kitten was about eight to nine weeks old (a baby!), just old enough to be weaned from his mother. The kitten settled down in Mr. Ko’s bathroom, which he furnished with newly-bought litter box and toys; however, now well-fed and warm, the kitten was more hostile and hissed at Mr. Ko a few times. It took a bit of coaxing to get the kitten to purr. The cat’s enmity was something of a bad sign—he was almost certainly feral, and it would require extra time commitment to socialize him.
Abe, Lance, and I debated on the kitten’s name for a while. The two boys liked the name of Ike, but I thought Otto von Bismarck was a great name for a cat. No one with that kind of name ends up as a nobody in life. So we compromised and christened him Otto Ike Bismarck. Ike for short.
On Sunday, Dec. 6, I made a post in the student body Facebook group, recounting briefly the heroic story of Otto Ike Bismarck and stressing immensely the amount of time, dedication, and love needed to socialize him and welcome him into a forever home. I included in the post some photos that Mr. Ko sent us, just in case people needed an extra incentive. Within minutes of making the post, people messaged me, interested in adopting the kitten. Junior Yujia Su approached me first, and I already knew that she owns a cat, so I enthusiastically referred her to Mr. Ko. By the end of the day on Monday, Mr. Ko had delivered Ike to his new family, and Ike was beginning a new chapter in his life.
Nearly three months later, Ike has grown considerably. He’s still a long way from becoming an adult, but he’s no longer out, fending for himself in cold on the streets, and he’s eating much better. “Obviously, his favorite food is whatever is on our dinner table,” Yujia said. Ike also has an older brother now, an 8 year old cat that Yujia and her family call Bill or Bilibili. “[Ike’s] favorite toy is our old cat’s tail and [a] cat teaser [Yujia received] from [Science Olympiad’s Secret Santa].” Ike is settling well into his new life. He loves lounging on his family’s beds and playing with Bill. Hopefully one cold, lonely December night will translate into years of happiness for Ike and his new family.