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Expat Life: Does Our Cat Speak Cantonese?

expat life
By Chelsea & Theresa Adams

Theresa and I have always been animal people. We love animals and they seem to like us back. As a result, we have wanted to adopt pretty much every animal we encounter.

In the early days of our relationship when we were on the lower economic scale, we used to have afternoon outings to a pet store to play with all the animals. I know, I can hear all the people screaming about pet stores as I am writing the words.

The reason we specifically chose pet stores and NOT the animal shelter is because we couldn’t afford a pet store animal.

It came super close a few times that if we had the funds we would have definitely left with a puppy but thankfully we didn’t as we could barely feed ourselves, let alone a pet.

Fast forward to 2015 and we are living in Macau, China. We both have full-time jobs in the arts and a colleague is asking if we want to adopt a cat. Do we? DO WE? It’s a hard question.

On one hand – YES. On the other hand – BUT… expat life is unstable, what about our visas, where are we going next? We debated back and forth for a few weeks and the kicker was that the cat was in a bit of a rough shape. We took her on with the agreement that if we were doing this we would keep her, no matter what comes next.

In Macau there is a serious problem with animals being deserted.

Expats come over and adopt animals and don’t keep them; wild dogs breed on temporary construction sites; kittens are left in a box on the side of the road… The animal shelter here literally has the slogan “don’t abandon your pets”. This poor cat has had four owners in her four years of being alive in Macau and would not survive the outside world. We thought she might need us.

She arrived to our house in time for Christmas. She had a busted ear drum, a bleeding cyst on her face and an extreme fear of people.

The latter did not improve as the first thing we did was cart her off to the vet. A couple of surgeries later we were trying to help her adjust while administrating ear drops, pills, a completely different diet and a new house. It wasn’t easy or fun for anyone.

A year later I’m happy to say that Blue (her Chinese name translates to Mini Blue Cream, we kept the Blue) has settled into her life with us. She is healthy, happy and social. She follows us everywhere chatting with us. She loves visitors and chin scratches. She is incredibly empathetic and gets distressed when people are upset.

Blue is beautiful but there are some serious quirks.

Blue won’t comfortably walk across a rug we have; she only likes to drink flowing water; if you serve her food in a bowl that isn’t a specific plastic she will remove each piece and eat it off the floor; she sleeps with her head jammed up against something hard; and she finds it difficult to settle on soft surfaces like beds and couches, even though we are forever encouraging her to. Our theory is we are speaking the wrong language.

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