Adopting a Shelter Kitten in Korea – Meet Penny!

For those of you who know me or have been following my blog for the past few months, you remember that back in March of this year, we took in an adult cat from the streets. At the time, he was being fed by a local store owner, but didn’t have a permanent home, and my husband and I had been talking about getting a cat but didn’t know if it was the right time or not. Fortunately for us, Leo was the perfect addition to our home. He’s healthy, sweet, and lazy (which is good for us, since he doesn’t get into much trouble).

However, Leo is very dog-like and he was anxious whenever we left him by himself. It was pollen season, and my allergies were acting up, but both my husband and I got itchy eyes whenever we played with him. We decided to keep him upstairs, away from the kitchen, dining room, and our bedroom, to keep those areas clean. Eventually, both of us realized that we (thankfully) don’t have cat allergies, but we didn’t want to constantly capitulate to his cries for attention.

We both talked about getting a kitten that could become his companion and lessen his anxiety when alone. However, everything happened so fast and unfortunately the situation did not end well for us. We found an ad for an adorable female kitten and I asked my husband to look into it. He called, and the owner immediately came over with the kitten (when I was not home). By the time I got back, the kitten was still at our house but the owner had left, and my husband told me that he had bought the kitten.

I was hesitant about the whole situation, because I had thought that we would be able to visit the kitten in her own home before deciding to adopt her. However, once the kitten was with us, I grew attached to her. We named her Luna and loved watching her and Leo interact. However, she ended up being diagnosed with Feline Panleukopenia (distemper) and after about a week on an IV at the vet’s office, she passed away.

Our vet recommended that we not get another cat, saying it would be best to wait at least 45 days. We were really sad about what happened, but we knew that Leo still needed a companion. However, distemper is a hard disease to get rid of in a house, even through bleaching and thorough cleaning. I decided a kitten might not be for us anymore.

After our 45+ day wait was over, we talked about going to the animal shelter to look at the cats up for adoption. They have a website and post all the information about the cats there, so I found a few I was interested in looking at. We called them and they told us that they are only open for adoptions on weekdays from 1-4pm. Since my husband works a lot and I couldn’t really handle the paperwork alone, we were not sure what to do. However, they told us we could come by on a Saturday and look, so that’s what we did.

I’ve only been to a few animal shelters before, in my hometown in Tennessee, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The facility we went to is fairly large, with lots of cages for dogs and two small rooms for cats. They also have a separate building for the administration office. We went into the rooms with all the cats, and many of them hissed at me and were visibly scared. There were just as many kittens as there were adults. We explained to the volunteer who was helping us about our situation with distemper.

In one cage, there was a cat that I had seen on the website that I was interested in, but she didn’t seem too excited to get out and meet us. However, there was a kitten laying down in the same cage with her, and the worker said, “She’s about six months old…and from the website, it looks like she had distemper last week but tested negative a few days ago.” I couldn’t believe it. A kitten who had beaten distemper? While in the shelter? She came out and meowed for me to play with her.

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I sat down and she crawled right into my lap and begged for me to pet her head and scratch her ears over and over. She was so sweet that it just seemed right. The volunteer told us that if we went online and reserved her through the shelter website, we could pick her up on a Saturday, which was perfect for us. We went home and requested to adopt her.

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Around the same time, Leo started acting weird and was losing weight. I would put his food bowl in front of him, and he would look at it and meow as if he were hungry, but he refused to eat his food. I tried different foods, and he ate it sometimes but refused it more often. I was worried, so I took him to the vet, but he couldn’t find anything seriously wrong with him.

On adoption day, we got everything ready at home and went to the shelter. We walked into the admin building and told the man there about our reservation. He went around to the computer and then started speaking to my husband in a stern voice. I only caught bits and pieces, so I was worried that we wouldn’t be allowed to take the kitten anymore. It turns out that my husband had accidentally made the reservation for Friday, but sent a message to them asking to change it to Saturday, and the man told us that they never saw the message.

He said we would still be allowed to adopt her, but he was concerned about the kitten being sick. She had been sneezing and coughing a lot with a runny nose, and he told us that she might still be able to give our cat Leo distemper since she had it recently. We were pretty sure Leo would be fine, since he had been around Luna when she was sick, and we guessed that he had been vaccinated. The man told us that vaccines don’t always work and that we would be putting Leo at risk if we took her home, but that it was our choice. He demanded that we immediately take her to the vet and keep her separated from Leo, too.

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A worker took our carrier and brought it back with our kitten inside. We had already decided on her name – Penny – and we marveled at her cuteness as we signed the paperwork. We had to agree never to sell her or give her away to another person, and to spay her so that she can’t be bred. I’ve heard that some shelters give cats their vaccines, but in Korea I don’t think that’s the case. I appreciate that the shelter we went to aims to inform new pet owners on the basics.

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We took Penny to the vet and he diagnosed her with a parasite, coccidiosis (an organism that causes diarrhea), and a cold that was most likely Feline Herpesvirus. He gave her a pill and then gave us more for us to give her daily. He also suggested that if her cold seemed worse, to buy a medicine called L-lysine, but her sneezing didn’t seem severe.

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I gave her the upstairs bathroom and played with her in there most of the weekend. My husband had to help me give her the medicine each night, and I was so glad when we were done with that. Her coughing did get worse, though, so I went back and got some L-lysine and a powder medicine from the vet. She never took the powder, though, because she doesn’t like wet foods and she refused to eat her dry food when I sprinkled the powder on it. The L-lysine was easier to administer, though, so she got a lot of that, and it really helped.

Eventually, she was running around more and sneezing less, and about 11 days after the vet first saw her, I took her back for her first round of vaccines. Her parasite was gone, her cold was much better, and the vet allowed me to introduce her to Leo a few days later. Leo meowed at her constantly through the door, and he ate even less than before. I knew that his nerves would calm down once he was able to play with her, but I still bought a new kind of cat food. I even changed his litter from sand to an organic pellet-type (he liked to lick the litter out of nervousness, and would always throw it up) made from tofu.

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My friend came over this past Friday, and we were so excited to let the two meet. At first, I put Penny right outside the glass sliding door, and Leo tried to smell her. Then, I put her in her carrier and moved her into the big room and let her out. She immediately ran around the room and Leo chased after her, dying to smell her and get to know her. They were fast friends, and Penny has so much more energy now. Within the first few minutes of introducing them, Leo ate his food and since then there haven’t been any more incidences of him throwing up or refusing to eat.

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Penny is the sweetest kitten ever. She’s almost 6 months old, loves people, and loves to play. I think she wears Leo out but secretly he loves playing with her (unless she bites his tail) and he has more energy now. Our house is peaceful again, and our little family of four is complete (for now). I am so happy to have two healthy, happy cats. All the hard work and stress I endured was definitely worth it, and now my husband and I can just enjoy being pet owners.

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