If you’ve ever been on a vacation or lived abroad and dreamed about bringing your pet or taking home a stray animal you find there, this post is for you. I had no intention of adopting a Spanish cat when I moved to Spain, but a sweet little boy found me and waited at my door step for three days before he walked into my house and my heart.
Stray Cats and Dogs in Spain
All the stray cats and dogs wandering around my little Spanish village of Olvera shocked me. Everywhere I went, it seemed like a puppy followed me. Cats are shyer and more hesitant by nature, but I found them lurking around every corner too. It took me about two months to realize many of the dogs weren’t strays. Spanish people aren’t as strict with their pets as my American neighbors at home are, and they let their dogs run free knowing they’ll come back when it’s time for dinner or bed. After my first week in Spain, I tried to convince a puppy to follow me home. It ran off, so I decided it must not be a stray.
Then, about two weeks later, I saw a cute orange kitten eating a bowl of dog food outside a sewing shop around the corner from my house. I stopped to pet it and the owner of the shop rambled off something in Spanish to non-bilingual me, so I smiled, mumbled, “Lo siento, no hablo espanol,” and walked off. Later that day, I told my British neighbor about the adorable kitten the sewing shop lady had. Luckily, my British neighbor was bilingual and knew about the cat. She also knew the cat was a stray and the sewing shop owner just shared her dog’s food with him.
Had my British neighbor not been a cat lover, I may not have ended up adopting sweet, starving, flea-ridden little Fred. But Fred started following me home and we all made such a fuss over him he decided he’d start hanging out on our front stoop instead. We fed him turkey, water, and milk. Much better than dog food for a little kitty. After three days, I took him to the local vet, who I had many fun Spanglish conversations with trying to decipher medical cat terms, and Fred was mine.
Adopting a Spanish Cat
Poor Fred had been living on the street but was seriously domesticated and immediately felt at home. He tried to sleep in our bed, jumped up on my stomach when I laid on the couch to read, and begged for food at the refrigerator. He knew where his litter box was before we even had one for him, and made the corner of our broom closet his first litter spot.
Now, James grew up with dogs. There’s a difference between dog people and cat people. I’ve found that most dog people aren’t cat people and don’t understand or trust cats. It took James a long time to open up to Fred. At first, we had to block off the stairs so Fred couldn’t come up and jump in bed with us. Side note: he managed to jump our blockades every night and found his way onto our pillows. His stomach problems from living on the street meant that if we didn’t clean up his litter right away, we would have preferred an atomic bomb to go off instead. And if we tried to pick his food bowl up before he finished, we were likely to lose that hand.
However, Fred soon realized we weren’t trying to hurt him or steal his food. His trips to the vet were to help him. And we eventually accepted him sleeping in the bed with us. We looked forward to coming home to him after school. He helped us celebrate Thanksgiving. He made our house a home.
Fred Moves to England
One thing we didn’t think about was a babysitter for Fred while we traveled. Cats are independent, but still need someone to feed them and give them water and clean up their litter. It really cut into our travel time on weekends. Our British neighbor had moved to India for 6 months (she follows the sun). We were in a foreign country and had no other friends or family to watch him while we were gone. It felt wrong to keep him cooped up in the house alone for three to four days at a time. We had a dilemma on our hands.
We made the difficult decision to move Fred to our British neighbor’s sister’s house in England. She already had an adopted female cat from Australia, so Fred would have a friend. She loves all cats, and especially orange cats. This wonderful woman happily adopted Fred and gave him a good home. She even offered to let us come stay with her and visit him! We still keep in touch with her to this day and she gives us updates on Fred’s progress. I hope to make use of that invitation one day.
Fred has adapted well to life in England. He loves watching birds, laying on the stove heater, and keeping his new mom company. He’s now a well-traveled, multicultural, bilingual cat! And he has gained a lot of weight and gotten much healthier. I miss Fred every day but I know he has a wonderful home and with a wonderful mother. I wish we had more time with our friendly, loving boy, but I’m happy to see him doing so well and living a great life!
Have you traveled with a pet? Have you ever adopted a foreign pet or lived abroad with a pet? Tell me about your experience in the comments below!
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P.S. You might also enjoy 6 Unexpected and Surprising Things I Learned While Living in Spain or Discovering the White Villages of Andalucia