And then there were three
Nearly 11 years ago, Mr. Crab married Mrs. Crab, and with her came two cats. Mr. Crab was not especially fond of cats, but he was very fond of Mrs. Crab! So he accepted the cats, and that's the way they became the Brady Bunch. The girl cat hated me, the boy cat became daddy's boy. Sadly, just before we moved to London in 2005, both cats passed away and went off to the big pet farm in the sky. Devestated, the Two Crabs vowed they would never have a pet again.
But time heals all wounds. In 2010 we moved to Bahrain, which, like many developing countries, has its fair share of stray animals. Here, it's cats. They are everywhere, like the uniquitous grey squirrel in Virginia. Most of the cats here are just nasty, mean, scrawny vermin, fighting or mating loudly at all hours of the day & night, tearing through the rubbish bins and stealing food stright off your picnic table. But, in July, we noticed one special little kitten, a white ball of fur with unusual black markings. For several months, he would come by our house with his nasty mother, begging for scraps. Mrs. Crab took to feeding mom and baby, and she even named the neighborhood strays. There was Hipster (cat with three working legs), Ginger Mutant (giant red cat), Daphnie (mom cat, from the Russell Brand song "Riding Daphnie). And then there was Habibi, Arabic masculine for "beloved" or "sweetheart."
Habibi, the little white and black kitten, was bold. He would come up to our front stoop, getting closer and closer until he was feeding from Mrs. Crab's hands. In October, he was comfortable enough that he would walk into our front door and explore the living room before darting out into the night. Then, on Christmas Day, Habibi walked into the house and fell asleep, and made it his home. Habibi adopted us!
Adopting a stray cat in Bahrain was a learning process. Owning a pet is not as common in Bahrain as it is in the United States, so the options are limited when it comes to vets, pet supplies, kennels, etc. We first tried taking Habibi to the vet at the U.S. Navy base. Unfortunately Habibi had a panic attack and pretty much destroyed the vet office and scratched the heck out of everyone (you can take the cat out of the street but can't take the street out of the cat). A few weeks later we discovered Dr. Nonie Coutts Veterinary. We took Habibi and they immediately put him at ease. Habibi had his flea issues, worms and shots taken care of. When we took a week ski trip in Europe, we left Habibi with Nonie Coutts, who boarded him and, yes, neutered him. (Note of TMI: Unlike in the U.S. where the entire nuts are removed, here they just remove the inside bits and keep his sack. So instead of grape-sized nads, now he has raisin nuts!)
Some other great resources for pets in Bahrain include the Navy base commissary, which carries many U.S. brands of pet food and toys; and Pet Arabia, a new shop that carries a wide range of pet supplies including Habib's new kitty condo, laser pointers and other things to keep your cat busy. Mrs. Crab is single-handedly keeping them in business!
We also learned that Habibi is a rare breed of cat that is only found in Bahrain: the Dilmun Cat. The Dilmun (ancient name of Bahrain) has even been the topic of a scientific study. Apparently, cat afficianados in some parts of the world pay good money for a Dilmun cat! According to one cat breed website,
"The Bahraini Dilmun cat is a rare breed, originating from the island of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. Most Dilmun cats live feral on the island and over the years have adapted to the extreme summer temperatures with short fur, large ears and a tendency to sleep during the day and become active in the evening. They are oriental looking, sleek, spotted cats and come in a variety of colours. Much like the Bengal the Dilmun is fond of water."
Unlike most cats, Habibi loves water and often sticks his head under running faucets...or in the toilet. Habibi's favorite pastimes are watching birds, chasing bugs and laser pointers, hiding inside shopping bags, boxes and dry cleaner bags, and snuggling in Mrs. Crab's leg nook.
In the coming months, we will begin the process of making Habibi a "U.S. citizen", filling out the appropriate paperwork so we can bring him with us when we move back to the States next year. For now, Habibi is looking forward to his first birthday: July 4! We're actually not sure of his exact birthday, but that's pretty close and memorable date!