Cybelle's Saga

The beginning
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We've shared our home with cats for more than 30 years, but never had kittens until now. It wasn't planned, but sometimes the choice isn't ours. The story began on Friday, March 1, 2002.

Dawn on March 1
Sunrise, March 1, 2002

The first of March started normally enough. There was a beautiful sunrise, which we enjoyed as usual while walking to the far end of the beach in Kaaawa. Anna Banana, a black and white cat who lives next door, was in Day 5 of a sit-in high up in an African Tulip tree next to her house. Ms. Lizzie, one of our black-and-whites, was still causing consternation by long absences.

Then we got a call from friends asking for help in a cat rescue. We were off and running.

Anna up the tree
Anna's sit-in

Toshi, named for her
deceased person

A woman who lived across the street from our friends had died suddenly. When police went into her house, they found cats, and more cats. The final count was around 40, but it took weeks to find them all. The house was a disaster area. Filth everywhere, an overpowering smell. Most of the cats were obviously very sick, some were dead, others dying. She had lost control of the situation long before she died.

Her obituary appeared in the Honolulu Advertiser:

FRANCES "BOKE-CHAN" TOSHI FUKAWA, 64, died Feb. 24, 2002. Born in Tochiguken, Japan. Head waitress at Club Osama in Waikiki. An active student of Kineya Shamisen, Kikunobu Dance and Aiko Karaoke Schools. Service 11 a.m. Saturday at Diamond Head Mortuary; scattering of ashes at sea. Casual attire.

Nothing, though, about her cats.

first sighting
Before the rescue

Our friends rescued two kittens and an adult cat the day before, and these turned out to be in good health. So we all went into the house thinking more could be rescued, but it was worse than we thought. We finally emerged with just five cats we thought worth trying to save. We thought there would be more, but the others were too sick or too wild. We were overwhelmed. Finally piled the cat cages in the back of our station wagon and drove this little group to the VCA animal hospital in Kaneohe.

One cat had to be put to sleep immediately. Another died within two weeks. The other three had an upper respiratory infection and an intestinal bug, but appeared likely to survive.

We found homes for two. The remaining cat was a Siamese that appeared to be pregnant but wasn't, at least according to the initial veterinary exam. We feared the swollen belly could be an as-yet undiagnosed disease, which blocked our attempts to find her a home.


We blinked first, and after several days of hospital care I took the little Siamese to my tiny office in Century Center, a high-rise building across from Honolulu's convention center, and started her on two weeks of antibiotics and other medication. We couldn't take her home because she had to be isolated from other cats while on the medication.

But she adapted very quickly to being an office cat, and we developed a relationship.

Office cat
Room with a view

Her respiratory infection responded to the antibiotics, but her belly didn't return to normal. So we returned to the vet's for a St. Patrick's Day follow-up exam.

That's when our vet looked up with a smile and asked, "did you want kittens?"

A few days later, on the solstice, we found a name that fit and dubbed her Cybelle.

She kept getting bigger

We had very limited data, and no way of knowing when this pregnancy had started or when the kittens were due. Her pregnancy couldn't be detected on March 1, although she looked pregnant, but became apparent (to the vet, at least) by March 17. I found references indicating that a vet can confirm a pregnancy by day 28, and putting the average gestation period at 63 days, with a range of 58 to 70 days.

I felt the way I do when we're flying back from the mainland and the pilot starts reading out numbers for the airline contest where you have to guess exactly when the flight is halfway to Hawaii, based on an assortment of figures like total distance, takeoff time, flight time, air speed, wind speed, etc. Lots of data. Not a clue what it means.

So I was reduced to badly informed guesswork. I guessed that the kittens would be born on April 1. That date quickly came and went. Then I thought, well, another week will certainly do it. After all, she can't get any bigger. But she did. She went from looking like a cat that swallowed a football to one that swallowed a basketball. And still the kittens didn't appear.

Did I mention that Cybelle has no teeth? Just another little setback in life which she's brushed aside. I, on the other hand, worried about things such as whether she could chew through the umbilical cords without teeth, or pick up and move the kittens when necessary. Our vet reassured me, but I continued to worry.

And finally it happened.

April 30, 2002--The kittens arrive!

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