Adapting,  Living Abroad

How Don Quijote Became a Teen Mom

Today we welcome to the blog Skylar!Up on the blog today we are taking a break from our usual posts and welcoming a guest writer—Skylar Gingrich. Skylar is originally from Washington state (USA) but she’s currently living in Extremadura, Spain where she teaches as an auxiliar de conversación y cultura. Back at Seattle Pacific University she majored in European Studies with a concentration in Spain and Spanish language. Consequently, she did a summer study abroad program in Salamanca as well as an additional study program that had her traveling between Madrid, Sevilla, Granada, and Barcelona. After graduation, she served in the U.S. Peace Corp in Ukraine and Thailand before finally returning to Spain to live, not just study, in September 2016.

We are honored to collaborate with Skylar who is a proud a pet-owner and who was so kind as to share with us her unique experience of rescuing and adopting a cat here in Spain. Without further ado, we’ll turn over the floor to Skylar…

How Don Quijote became a Teen Mom

It all started with a basic Spanish phrase: “Estoy buscando un gato.” I came to Spain knowing that I’d be putting down roots for a while so once I’d secured a flat, my next quest was to find a cat. After asking every abuela (grandma) on my street and wondering through the Saturday market in hopes of finding someone handing out kittens from their campo (farm), I finally got a hit on a stray cat from a waitress at a café. She said she’d seen a kitten hanging out in a bush at the foot of the castle and she’d Whatsapp me later if she saw him again. I got a text at 9pm on October 8th, 2016, and that’s when tiny, mewing Quijote stole my heart and moved in. I decided on the name because Don Quijote is arguably one of the most famous Spanish figures in the USA, and I joked with my friends that my cat was going to be one of the most famous Spanish cats.

kittenQuijote was small and malnourished, so the vet and I guessed that ‘he’ was only about a month old. Typically you can tell the sex of a kitten at around 8 weeks, so Quijote was too young to definitely say if he was male or female, but the vet told me he was leaning towards male. During the next couple of months I looked at way too many pictures of cat butts trying to determine if he was macho or hembra (male or female), until finally at his last vaccine appointment the vet just told me to wait until March when he’d be about 6 months old and we’d confirm his gender then and get him neutered. Since Quijote was 100% an indoor cat I figured there was no harm in that, so we just went about our lives and I enjoyed all the kitten cuddles and documented his cuteness on Instagram and Facebook for all of my friends back home.

Fast forward to February: In the south of Spain we celebrate the Día de Andalucía on February 28th, so teachers and language assistants usually have a long weekend. I decided to go to Lisbon with a friend and entrusted Quijote to the care of my landlords, who loved him almost as much as me. When I got back, my landlady commented “Quijote really enjoyed hanging out in the garden, he made so many friends!” I thought that was weird, but at the same time he is a friendly cat so I guessed it wouldn’t be the strangest thing ever. And then she continued. “Although it was so odd, he kept putting his butt up in the air when he was out there.” And that’s when the wheels started turning and my heart dropped…Was my fearless Quijote in fact a sweet Dulcinea (Don Quijote’s female love interest)? Did she just have a rowdy weekend of unprotected sex while I was out of town? Am I going to be a grandma at just 28 years old?

mama cat and kittensFirst things first, I looked at her tush one last time and noticed a profound lack of balls. It was March 1st, they probably should have been visible by then, even though the vet appointment was a couple weeks away. Then I addressed the matter of her name. I had been calling her ‘Quijote’ for about 4.5 months, so she wouldn’t respond to ‘Dulcinea’ ergo I did the typical Spanish thing and just added an ‘a’ to the end of a masculine name to make it feminine and thus ‘Qujota’ became her new name. A week later I googled “Signs Your Cat Is Pregnant” and sure enough, she was being super needy and cuddly and started gaining weight only around her middle. So yes, I was about to go from proud mom of a little boy cat to proud grandma of a litter of kittens. No one ever said owning a pet isn’t exciting.

So, here I was, with a pregnant, barely pubescent cat. My main concern was her health, but everyone assured me that she’d be fine. “It’s nature!” they said, “She so small, she’ll have one or two kittens max” they predicted. I started trying to convince parents of my private class students that they’d need a kitten when they were ready to round out their family. I made a birthing box in the living room. I read every cat blog I could find and prepared as much as I could. Finally, 10 weeks after that fateful weekend, Quijota gave birth to not one, or two, but to 6 healthy kittens. Thank goodness for the maternal instinct. All I could do was watch in awe as she pushed a kitten out, licked it clean, rested, and repeated the process. She handled it like an absolute pro. After the long birth, she was exhausted and was very relaxed for the next couple of days while her body healed.

six kittensNow, Quijota was barely more than a kitten herself, and I think the hardest part of the birth was having to take care of her babies and not getting to snuggle in bed with me 24/7, so on the third night she decided to take matters into her own paws. I woke up to the sound of kittens crying and 5 of them were in my bed and Quijota entered carrying the sixth one in her mouth and jumped up onto the bed and curled up between me and them. I could write another whole article about the joys of raising kittens, but in summary, it’s a cuteness overload and chaos.

Fortunately Qujota was popular amongst my students, and the kittens were super cute, so after weeks of them running around, all of them had found homes. They went off to be with their new families, Quijota went off to the vet to be spayed, and I realized what an adventure I’d gotten myself into by wanting a pet here in Spain, and how I wouldn’t change it for anything.

-Skylar Gingrinch

Thanks for sharing your experience, Skylar! If you’d like to follow the adventures of Skylar and Quijota, you can follow our guest writer’s Instagram account.

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