I’ve never been a fan of cats. I’ve seen some cute ones but every single one I’ve tried to play with has always tried to scratch or bite me, no joke. Even the ones that had owners! Maybe it’s because I’ve had bad experiences with those feisty felines but I never imagined myself being a cat owner or even warming up to them.
Dogs all the way!
Anyways, there are a lot of stray cats in Costa Rica. You see lots of dogs and cats wandering the neighborhoods that have no owners.And funnily enough, most of the strays animals I’ve interacted with behave much better than the ones who have owners in the States. They listen, know how to cross the street and can walk off leash pretty well.
Dogs are a bit luckier in Costa Rica though, Ticos are more affectionate and warm towards them than cats. Many cats get tossed out in the street or get taken in just to catch mice and are never fed or loved. It’s a bit sad seeing so many cats getting the end of the short stick honestly.
Learning a life lesson from a stray cat in Costa Rica
Meeting the third resident of our new apartment
When Yeison and I moved to our new apartment last September, the last thing we expected was to be visited by a cat but that’s what happened the first night we moved in. After a long day of moving and cleaning, we were enjoying dinner when we heard a small “meow” coming from the front door.
I pulled back the curtain and saw an adult tuxedo cat, staring at me. “Shoo go away!” I waved at him to make him leave. I didn’t want cats hanging out at our house.
A couple days later, I was making dinner in the kitchen when I heard another meow. “Again?” I thought. I pulled the curtain again and saw the same black and white kitty, sitting on the ledge next to the door. His big green eyes stared at me and his meows started getting louder. “Sorry kitty I don’t have anything for you.” I closed the curtain and went about my day.
This went on for the next several weeks. Every few days I would hear a meow and it was the same cat each time. It made me curious, if he was a stray, why does he come to this house so often? He seemed well taken care of, he had a shiny coat, he was in good shape but he did have a broken tail.
The first step
Every so often I would see tuxedo cat around our house: napping on the ledge, playing in the dirt or chasing insects at night. I was really hesitant to interact with him at all, I was a bit scared he would try to bite me and who knew if he had anything. But I gave it a shot, I gave him a little pet on the head one day and he immediately started purring and rubbing my hand.
I was taken aback. He didn’t try to scratch me or bite me! From that moment on, I started to give him pats on the head if we crossed paths. He seemed pretty used to people, purring and doing that head rub thing to get me to scratch his chin. He absolutely loved getting his ears scratched and would press them back with that look of pure bliss.
I had to admit at that point, he was pretty cute!
I refrained from giving him too attention since I didn’t want to get attached. I was still closed off to cats but each time I saw him, meowing and giving me that look that says “love me I’m adorable!” my heart melted a little bit.
For the rest of rainy season and beginning of dry season, we saw less and less of tuxedo cat. I was getting used to seeing him and there but his absence was obvious. Even though I still wasn’t too fond of cats, I hated to think of him alone out there especially during the hard rains. I hoped that someone took him in or that his actual owner was taking care of him better.
Fast forward to April. A couple weeks before I left for the States tuxedo cat started showing up again. He looked the same – healthy, shiny coat and talking just as much as before.
While I was in the States, Yeison said that tuxedo cat was coming to the house nearly every night, joining him for dinner and keeping him company. Yeison affectionately named him Arturo and even wrote about him about in his What to do when she travels post.
When I came back, I wasn’t surprised that Arturo was there to greet me at the door. He started napping between the bars on our windows and we even found him sleeping on the couches we put on our balcony upstairs! Sometimes in the morning and I’ll hear a bouncing down the stairs as he sneaked into our house during the night by opening our screen door!
We’d officially been adopted by Arturo.
Then one day Arturo showed up at the window in the evening and as I went to say hi, I noticed something on his back. He had a huge hole, it looked liked someone took a knife and just sliced a huge chunk off! I started panicking, I knew that he needed to get stitched up or else it would get infected and that would be bad.
Even though Arturo wasn’t our cat, I had no idea if anybody would take care of him and I wouldn’t take that risk. I couldn’t just leave him completely injured! Without any hesitation, I bundled him up and took him in.
By a stroke of luck, one of Yeison’s friends who is a veterinarian actually moved to Coco the week before. He came over and said that Arturo definitely needed stitches so we made an appointment for the next day. He cleaned the wound and we kept Arturo for the night.
The next day we took Arturo to get fixed up. Luckily surgery went well and his wound was all fixed up. I knew taking him in meant that we would have to oversee his recovery so we went to the store and got ready to take in our very first cat.
I kept a close eye on him, making sure that he was doing OK when we brought him home. I’ve seen cats recovering from anesthesia before and sometimes it was a little ugly. They’d cry, yowl and hiss but Arturo was great. He just laid there looking confused, meowing every once in awhile but he didn’t cry and barely made any noise.
His wound completely healed after a couple weeks and suddenly we found ourselves being taken in by Arturo. We weren’t sure what to do since we didn’t feel right just putting him back out on the street though we knew he would come back to us.
He kept sneaking out of the house so at that point, it seemed he was getting cabin fever and was ready to go back to his normal kitty life again.
One thing that surprised me and made me a bit sad was that we found out Arturo was already castrated. Our vet friend said that he was in great health and there was a very high possibility that he used to have owners.
I didn’t want to think about the possibility that the former renters of our apartment used to be his owners and abandoned him when they moved, it makes me too upset.
A happy ending
To this day, Arturo is still with us. He loves sleeping on the couches upstairs and when we go on walks, he’ll even follow us down the street! He comes when we call and we give him plenty of chin and ear scratches. If we weren’t leaving I would take Arturo in as our own no questions asked.
A part of me feels guilty about that but I’m going to find him a good home before we go, one of our friends said he’d take him if we couldn’t find anyone. Update: Arturo has been adopted by a loving family!
Changed by a cat
I never thought that I would jump to action like this for a cat. I never thought I would fall in love with a cat! Our relationship has grown so much since that first meow at the door and he completely changed my mind about those felines. They deserve love just as much as any other pet and are amazing creatures. They’re so smart, they know how to sneak into your house!
One of my dreams is to open up a dog rescue center one day and now I’m expanding it to include a cat rescue center because of Arturo. I’d love the opportunity to educate people about taking care of cats and the benefits of having one as a pet.
I truly think there was a reason why Arturo chose us. Nobody would have taken care of him if he didn’t come to us when he was hurt and that outcome would have been devastating. I miss my own dog who is in Washington so much and Arturo has helped me relieve some of that pain.
It’s amazing the impact one animal can have on your life and how they can change your perspective forever. My two year anniversary of living in Costa Rica is in August and I’m still learning and experiencing new things all the time. Who knew that one stray cat would have made such an effect on me to open up my heart and I’m so glad it did!
If you are a dog person and would like to help the stray animals in Costa Rica, please consider donating or visiting the Territorio de Zaguates, the largest no kill dog shelter in the world.