The Story of My Thai Street Cats

Written by on June 19, 2015 in Asia, Blog, Expat Life, Spain, Thailand - 13 Comments

Thai street cats




If you would have seen me the day I dropped of my two cats, Keeley and Jezebel, at their new home, you would have thought someone I loved had passed away.

Seriously.

I hadn’t cried like that in a long time.

There’s something exciting about starting a new life as an expat. A thrill. That ‘world is my oyster’ feeling. But, being an expat comes with sacrifices. Namely, having to part ways with people and animals you love.

Initially, I had considered bringing the cats with me to Thailand. But, everyone talked me out of it. And, thank goodness they did. Being a new expat, in a country in SE Asia with no home, no idea of what kind of resources were available, would have caused a lot of undue stress. Not to mention the stress for the animals I loved with all of my heart.

So, I left them in good hands and embarked on my journey.

Of course, three days into my new life in Chiang Mai, I rescued Mr. Lucky, a tiny ragamuffin of orange and white dying on a sidewalk across the street from Starbucks at ThaePae Gate.

As I cradled his tiny body in against my neck walking back to my office, I promised him I would do anything in my power to give him his best chance at life. And, so I did.

Lucky, the day I rescued him, being treated at the vet for parvo.

Lucky, the day I rescued him, being treated at the vet for parvo.

Then, I met Penelope. She came from the street, too. A gnarly case of mange covering her little black and white body. She was outgoing and clumsy. Her tiny body with a larger-than-should-be belly would clumsily jump onto my lap every morning in the office, meowing for food and then plunging her little pink nose into my face, paws kneeding my legs as she joined me checking emails.

Street cat living at Elephant Nature Park

Lucky and our first bench session.

Once Lucky was well enough to be around other animals, he was taken from Dr. Nook’s vet office in Chiang Mai to Elephant Nature Park to hang with the cats, dogs, cows, buffalos and elephants. Penelope, however stayed at the office, where my tiny group of co-workers adored her, but most others looked at her a pain since she was always trying to nip our noses and didn’t like the other cats.

I promised her, too, that once I had a place where cats were allowed, I would take her home with me.

Whenever I would go to ENP, I’d go and spend time with Lucky. Whenever I called, he’d come running to me. He and I had a little routine.

“Lucky, manee manee,” I would call.

Within a minute or two, he’d come bounding from where he was sunning himself on the river, to come and see me. I’d scoop him in my arms, cradling him like a baby, and go to “our” bench in front of one of the huts. We’d sit there, sometimes for as long as an hour. I’d hold him, leaning against the wooden rail, singing to him like Lek sings to the elephants.

He’d lay there, looking at me, his eyes growing heavier and heavier, purring intently, and then he would sigh, and be fast asleep.

This was our routine. No matter if I was there for a day, or a night when I would request a room near where he lived, so he could come and sleep with me.

Adopting a Thai street cat

Penelope, her first day in her new home.

When I moved into my house, I immediately picked up Penelope, but wanted Lucky as well. The park thought he’d do better there, so I just took Penny home instead.

She and I made a lovely home together. For almost three months, it was just her and I. She’d cuddle with me at night, sit next to me during the day.

Then, I got a call one night from the park. Lucky had been in a cat fight and his eye had been punctured.

“You’re going to need to take him to your house and give him medicine so his eye can heal,” I was told.

I spent the week working from home, giving him eye drops every two hours. We’d sit together, sleep side-by-side. He became my partner-in-crime, and even Penelope, who loathed other cats, began to not loathe him.

Within a few weeks, the two were best friends and the idea of separating the pair (and me) was just not an option.

Cats in Thailand

“When is Lucky going back to the park?” I was asked one day while at work.

“Never,” my co-worker said.

“Ah, you want Lucky with you?”

“Yes. He and Penny are best friends, and I love him with all of my heart.”

“OK, you can have him … but when you leave Thailand, he can go back to the park.”

I listend, but not really.

For seven months, it was the three of us. We shared my bed. Shared my couch. They even tried to share my food. Then, one day, Lucky got really sick. He was in the hospital for a few days, and one night when the vet let me sit with him, I cradled him and whispered in his ear: “If you live through this, I will always take care of you.”

Street cat

Yes. I made a promise to a cat. And yes, he lived through it.

Less than a year later, I found myself in the same position with them as I did with Jez and Keeley. I was leaving the country. Only, this time, I fully intended to take the two with me. I rushed to get their paperwork done. To get them over to London with me. But, Lucky didn’t pass his initial Titer test (a requirement for entry into the EU and UK from countries like Thailand).

“You can’t separate them,” my vet had told me.

So, they both stayed behind when I headed to London.

The day I took them to my office, my heart sank. Less than three years later, and once again, I was leaving animals I loved behind.

I sat on the floor with them as they explored. Penny wandered the room, owning it. Lucky sat on the wood floor, looking at me, dejected. There was a tight bond between the two of us, and I could sense he knew I was leaving. He just sat, staring at me, cowering under the desk.

“I promise you both,” I whispered, “I will see you again. You will come home with me.”

And now, six months plus a few later, they have finally arrived.

The past six months have likely been far harder for me than them. I found an amazing woman in an Facebook group who said she would foster my cats and help me from Chiang Mai to get them back to me.

Me, I would worry constantly. What if their paperwork isn’t right? What if they don’t live through the flight? What have I done to them? And, am is what I am going to do cause them more harm?

When I was back in America last month, I began to research options to bring them to me. Surprisingly, it was cheaper to buy two round trip tickets to Thailand, spend a week in Thailand and then fly them back — in-cabin — with me. I was ready to book my tickets on the phone with the Lufthansa customer service agent, but decided to wait until I had my visa.

And, good thing I did.

I was told I could not leave Spain until I had secured my NIE, which is an identification card for Spain. And that could take months.

So, I researched other options. Looked at other airline cargo programs to fly them to me. Lufthansa is the one I went with, and they have a very good be pet cargo program.

adopting a cat into the EU

Lucky fast asleep after his four-day ordeal.

Today, after four days of traveling (two nights in Bangkok to ensure paperwork was correct and an overnight in Frankfurt to get checked out by vets), they are here. Sitting in bed next to me. They’ve explored the flat. They’ve taken a nap, curdled into each other and in bed with me.

It’s the first time I’ve felt at peace in a long time. Just having them to cuddle and pet releases a wave of endorphins. It’s the first time I haven’t felt stressed. Not just for their arrival, but for life.

Today, we start our new family in Madrid and I couldn’t be happier.

About the Author

Diana Edelman is an avid traveler who recently spent four years living as an expat. Most notably, Diana spent nearly three years in Chiang Mai, Thailand where she worked with Save Elephant Foundation to raise awareness about the realities of elephant tourism. Currently based in Las Vegas, Diana works in many industries as a publicist, social media expert, content creator and journalist. The founder of Vegans, Baby, you can normally find her hanging out at vegan restaurants around town, exploring the beauty of the desert southwest or camped out at a coffee shop banging on a keyboard. The co-founder of the Responsible Travel & Tourism Collective, Diana has spoken at conferences about travel blogging and responsible tourism.

13 Comments on " The Story of My Thai Street Cats "

  1. Amber June 19, 2015 at 5:39 pm · Reply

    I’m so glad you were able to get them home with you! Every time I travel, I have to leave my dog behind and it breaks my heart every time. So happy to hear that the three of you have a happy ending 🙂

    • Diana June 20, 2015 at 10:06 am · Reply

      Trust me, it was absolutely heart-breaking to leave them behind in Thailand. I wasn’t sure if they would be able to make it, nor was I sure where exactly they were going to end up when I left. I literally had a few days to get them a home because plans fell through with getting them to London with me. It was really stressful leading up to the days they were coming, too. Because I wasn’t there, there was a lot of communications with the shipping company, the foster mom and making sure everything was ready to go. Plus, I was a nervous wreck that they were flying cargo. I have heard horror stories and I didn’t breathe a sigh of relief until I showed up at Swissport Cargo yesterday and they said they were there and OK. Then, I cried a little, just sheer relief and happiness. I’m so happy they are here. They really haven’t left my side for 24 hours. It’s nice. 🙂

  2. Amanda Kendle June 21, 2015 at 7:57 am · Reply

    Oh, I’m so glad they’re there with you! We’re about to go away from a month and even leaving my cats (with a lovely housesitter) for that long breaks my heart a bit.

    • Diana June 22, 2015 at 1:20 pm · Reply

      I’m so happy, too. It was a long process and expensive, but having them here is worth every cent.

  3. Rease June 24, 2015 at 10:51 am · Reply

    Awww I am so glad you brought them! Moving my dog Padfoot from Missouri to Argentina then back again then to Puerto Rico has been insane. I get stressed and scared every time and I just constantly worry. The thought of being without him literally brings tears to my eyes. As I type this, he is laying faithfully at my feet. BFFs!

    • Diana June 25, 2015 at 9:34 am · Reply

      I understand that!! I was a mess when I knew they were on the airplane!! I don’t want to have to do that to them again for a long time!

  4. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) June 26, 2015 at 5:21 pm · Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, Diana, and I’m so glad to hear that you were able to bring your Thai babies to Spain with you! I completely related to your story because when Tony & I left to travel RTW back in 2012, the only way we were able to do so was by leaving our two dogs with my parents… after nearly 2 years of traveling, the reason we ultimately returned home was because it was time to see our pups again. We knew we didn’t want to stop traveling, but we also knew that there was no way we could abandon our dogs or send them to a new family… so as much as we wish we could be in Asia still, we’re now traveling, a happy family of four, through Mexico and beyond. Happily the dogs love road trips and have settled into life here in Mexico pretty well (and it helps that vet care is much cheaper here than back in the States or Canada!). It’s definitely more challenging being nomads with two dogs in tow, but they are worth the hassle! 😉

    • Diana June 28, 2015 at 1:28 pm · Reply

      If I could travel with my cats, I would in a minute!!! Glad you were reunited with your pups 🙂

  5. GiselleandCody June 30, 2015 at 3:55 am · Reply

    Oh Mr.lUCKY <3 <3

    What a sweetheart, He is so lucky to have you in his life Diana. You have done so much for that cat and it's so beautiful. We love you!!

    • Diana July 1, 2015 at 9:22 am · Reply

      Thank you! I love them both SO much!! I promised Lucky the next place we would live would be a house. Oops.

  6. Sadie July 30, 2015 at 10:57 pm · Reply

    Awwwww! I love this post! How awesome that you have your babies with you. I looked into trying to bring my dog along, but like you said, not knowing where I would be living and moving around a lot wouldn’t be good for her. She is now happier than ever running around on my parents farm in Kansas.
    Have fun with your babies in Madrid!

    • Diana August 1, 2015 at 9:39 am · Reply

      Thank you, Sadie! It is hard to bring animals if you don’t know what your plans are. I think doing that only adds so much stress. Better to find them a loving home that is permanent or wait until you CAN bring them once you are settled. I am sure your pup is super happy running around on a farm! I like to think my cats are enjoying being gatitos in Spain! 🙂

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