Leda's struggle orbiting Jupiter's solo system

At first, Jupiter was furious with the newcomer while two months have now passed and you cannot separate the pair.

Hand and Paw

This is a series about pet rescue and adoption in Shanghai, read inspiring stories on how adopters have changed the lives of the once lost and abandoned animals. 

Li Anlan

Jupiter was rescued in April 2017. The ginger kitten was found trapped in a staircase. 

Cats dominate the social network scene. It is impossible to get on the Internet without seeing a cute photo or video of a cat, kitten, puppy or dog in a feed or on a platform.

I’ve always adored cats, but the idea of raising one frightened me for several years, because I’m one of those people who cannot keep a potted spider plant alive, let alone a living animal.

Last spring, I thought about the idea and a week later I got my first cat, Jupiter.

He was found by my colleague Jo Xie in the staircase of her apartment building in April last year, meowing loudly for help because he seemed to be trapped and didn’t know how to get down from the ninth floor. 

Xie took a photo of the cat in the dark and texted me, “I just found a ginger. Do you want it?”

I wasn’t prepared at all. By the time I got there, Jupiter was already in a pet travel bag. We played in the lobby with him for a few minutes and he seemed very friendly. Then we took him to the nearest pet shop and bought kibble, litter box, flea treatment and a carrier.

Jupiter was very thirsty and drank a lot of water after I took him home. He also ate some kibble and started playing with me. To my surprise, the homeless kitten learned to use the litter box immediately.

On the second day, I took him to the vet for a checkup. By looking at his teeth, the vet estimated that he was between 3 and 4 months old. For a homeless kitten, he was in good shape. The only health problem he had was an ear mite infection which required a month of treatment.

And he purred almost non-stop for the first several days, which was his way of coping with the new environment.

Every cat has a different personality and Jupiter was calm and quiet. At 3 months of age, he slept at least 18 hours a day and required two hours of solid playtime. He was not a naughty kitten and he didn’t break things or chew cables on purpose, which made life much easier for me.

Although he was very friendly to people and enjoyed having his stomach stroked, Jupiter refused to be cuddled or held. He never climbed on my lap and was always vigilante of his surroundings. I stopped forcing him to do things he hates because that never works on cats.

Raising a cat is a totally different experience than “sniffing” cute cats online. It comes with more responsibilities and pressure for keeping them healthy and happy. The medical bills in the first year were quite big. He had vaccinations, an eye problem, neutering surgery and acute gastroenteritis.

He was also a picky eater. Because he wasn’t drinking enough water voluntarily, I spent three months transitioning him from dry kibble to wet food. But he brought me so much joy. Every morning, he woke me up and purred happily, and in the afternoon, he waited for me to get home. If I returned home late, he would meow anxiously.

Jupiter now has a better understanding of my lifestyle. He particularly enjoys watching the BBC documentary “Big Cats” and can sit in front of the monitor for 30 minutes quietly watching. Usually when he saw a moving object on the screen he would try to catch it with his paws, although he doesn’t do it when watching the leopards, lions and tigers. Maybe there’s a big cat living inside of him.

Cats are independent animals who prefer to live in solitary, but for indoor cats, staying home alone in the day is boring and depressing. After Jupiter turned 1 year old, he became quieter and less active and I started to think he needed a companion.

My mother was against the idea. She said one cat in my small apartment is enough and what if Jupiter hates the new cat? But on April 17, I came across a newborn kitten struggling alone on the road while interviewing local street cat photographer Wu Hongli (Weibo account Staymiao). It was only 1 or 2 days old. The umbilical cord was still attached and both the eyes and ears were closed. I waited and there was no sight of the mother cat nearby. We couldn’t leave it there to die so I rescued it. 

It has the same tabby pattern as Jupiter, only in a different color. I found a small paper box and put it in there then took it to the vet who said it was way too small and the chance of survival was slim.

I took the kitten home anyway and kept it warm with a hot water bag. My mother, who was visiting me in Shanghai, was in shock and said a kitten that small couldn’t survive.

We posted pictures of the kitten on Weibo to look for a nursing mother cat that could take the kitten in. 

About two hours later, a girl messaged and said her cat just had three babies, we could try the next day.

My mother and I spent the night feeding the kitten a goat milk formula with a syringe and helped it to excrete, because newborn kittens cannot pee or poop on their own without stimulation. Luckily, we kept the kitten alive through the night.

Next morning, we took the kitten to meet the new mother, a beautiful Bengal cat. We rolled the kitten in the cat mother’s blanket so it had her smell and we hoped the mother wouldn’t reject it. Thankfully the mom accepted it and immediately carried it to her cat box and started feeding the kitten. It was a touching scene.

The Bengal mother is named Xifu’er (which means wifey in Chinese). She originally had four kittens but lost one, and we think she considered my kitten to be her fourth child because she kept it very close. A few days later, Xifu’er wasn’t feeling well and had to go to the vet. She insisted on carrying the kitten with her, put it inside the carrier and was feeding it all afternoon in the doctor’s office.

The kitten stayed with her Bengal family with mother, father and three siblings for one and a half months, growing up healthily. It turned out to be a girl and I named her Leda, after one of the satellites around the planet Jupiter.

Li Anlan

Leda with her nursing Bengal mother, who took in the 2-day-old homeless kitten as her own. She grew up healthily with the help of the Bengal family. 

Later I learned that the Bengal couple were also rescued from a shutdown cattery. When the rescuer took the female to the vet for spaying, she was already pregnant, so they let her have the kittens. Now the kittens have all settled down in new homes and the Bengal couple are looking for adoption together.

By the time Leda could eat solid cat food, I brought her back home to meet Jupiter. Unsurprisingly, Jupiter was furious with the newcomer. On the first day, I separated the two cats by keeping Leda in the kitchen. When Jupiter came face-to-face with the kitten he hissed in her face, a behavior he had never displayed before.

Leda adapted to her new environment really well. She didn’t hide and maintained a regular life routine. She was aware of the other cat, but ignored it. 

The two cats were basically living separate lives in the bedroom and living room respectively.

Four days in, Jupiter continued hissing at Leda and her toys whenever he saw her. I almost gave up and was planning to find another home for Leda.

Initially I followed the guidelines of introducing two cats and paid extra attention to Jupiter so he wouldn’t feel threatened or jealous. But because I ignored the kitten a little bit Jupiter started to think I didn’t accept Leda, so he did the same thing.

I started to play with Leda in front of Jupiter the following morning and made sure he saw the kitten as a friendly animal, and changes happened. 

Jupiter stopped hissing at the kitten, ate his food while the kitten was next to him and even slept on the same bed with Leda.

When the week ended, Jupiter was totally cool with Leda being around and started to play with her the way I played with him, like hiding underneath the wardrobe and reaching out a paw to tease the kitten. Then they started sharing food, water and even the litter box. I was so relieved.

Li Anlan

Jupiter and Leda now live a peaceful life together. 

Two months have now passed and you cannot separate the pair.

Jupiter grooms the kitten every day and often lets her eat first. They also cuddle each other to sleep, even in the hot summer nights. And for me, having two cats is doubling the fun, they now chase each other around and play hide and seek, and I no longer have to worry about leftover food.

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