The life of a stray animal is pretty rough in Cambodia. With limited support for stray animal colonies, infectious disease running rampant, and high motorbike traffic at every end of the city; wandering animals have the odds stacked against them.
While animal organizations like PPAWS try their best to limit the suffering of animals in their city, they can’t help every single one on their own. Thankfully, there are animal lovers throughout the city of Phnom Penh that know they have a place to go when they find injured animals that need help. In a busy city like Phnom Penh, unfortunately, you find animals in need quite often.
While I accompanied PPAWS on multiple missions around the country during the 5 months I spent there, there were a few times that I found fur babies in need of care while I was wandering the city on my own. While I am always proud of the veterinary work I am able to take part in when I volunteer in these countries, I am always most proud of my foster babies.
Let me tell you about three kittens I stumbled upon in unexpected circumstances that have now gone on to find their forever homes throughout Cambodia!
When I first arrived in Cambodia, I started joining the PPAWS team on some of their weekly pagoda checkups. PPAWS has a list of pagodas that they tend to around town for regular vaccine boosters and basic medical care. I joined Dr. Vina on a quick trip up to a pagoda close to the clinic to see if they had any new animals that needed routine care. While there, we stumbled across a tiny kitten with a severe eye infection.
Since upper respiratory infections are so common among pagoda cats, many kittens end up with severe eye infections that are beyond help. With how bad his situation was, the only option was to remove his eye. We then took him back to the PPAWS clinic to have the surgery performed, and within days, this adorable one-eyed kitten was getting cozy in my tiny Cambodian apartment!
Mochi spent the next month with me as he recovered. He quickly came out of his shell and became the spunky kitten I always knew he could be. Soon he was ready to find his forever home! Within days of going up for adoption at PPAWS, he found his person!
An American woman that was living in the city as a teacher fell in love with Mochi at first sight. Though she originally planned to just foster him in her home, she knew he was too special to pass up! Within a few weeks, Mochi was officially adopted and living his best life!
Srey Mom (Sray-Mum)
I crossed paths with Srey Mom by chance. I happened to be spending the day on a side of town that I didn’t often frequent, and decided to walk into a pagoda to see if any animals needed a quick snack. Since I always walked around with a few cans of food in my backpack, I made sure to browse for any hungry mouths that needed feeding.
While I was feeding some of the pagoda cats, I heard a loud cry in the distance. The cry sounded obvious of a cat in distress, so I decided to investigate. When I walked toward the ruckus I found a small kitten that appeared to be injured. She was crouched to the ground in fear of motorbikes passing, and the sight of me walking toward her frightened her even more. Though I was there to offer my help, she quickly ran from me and up into the wheel of a tuk tuk (a common transport vehicle in Southeast Asia).
I ran toward the tuk tuk driver waving my arms and stopping him as he was about to pull away. Srey Mom had curled up high into the wheel and was biting anyone that tried to grab her. Luckily, I was able to recruit a young monk that used a small cloth to help me grab her safely. I then stuffed her into my backpack and made my way to PPAWS.
Once we arrived at PPAWS, it was clear that Srey Mom had a serious tail injury. Whether this was before the tuk tuk incident or during the chaos, we will never know. Though the origin of the injury was unknown, she was able to heal up within the week with the support of the PPAWS team. Once she was healed and infection-free, I took her home to foster her until she was old enough to find her forever home!
To this day, Srey Mom is the spunkiest kitten I have ever fostered. She was up for any challenge, ready to play at all times, and appeared absolutely fearless. Each of these qualities combined made her perfect for her future as a boat kitty!
Srey Mom ended up being adopted by a couple that owns a diving school in Koh Sdach, Cambodia. We took Srey Mom along on a 5-hour car ride to a city near their destination, and a final speed boat that drove us directly to their bay. Though Srey Mom was a bit nervous about her new home, she immediately settled into the island cat life!
Srey Mom now spends her days as Bonafide boat kitty! She rides on her dad’s shoulder as he cruises the ocean, jumps into the water in an attempt to catch passing fish, and truly lives up to being the bravest kitten I’ve ever known. Srey Mom (now Mimi) is one of a kind!
I met Pocky while showing a visiting veterinary volunteer (Dr. Travis Strong) around a local pagoda. While attempting to vaccinate a few of the pagoda dogs, I heard a tiny cry coming from the ground. In a crowd of 4 or 5 aggressive pagoda pups was a tiny kitten that couldn’t have been older than 5 weeks of age. She stood proudly in the middle of these dogs as if they were her crew, unafraid of their large size.
Pocky appeared to be under the care of the local monks at the pagoda. Though they were offering her everything they could, she still was fighting a vicious upper respiratory infection and was dangerously underweight. At first, I toggled with the idea of just leaving the monks with a bag of food and medication to care for her, so we didn’t have to take her away.
Though we had every intention of letting her stay with the monks, our minds changed when we saw her desperately licking an empty can of soup in search of food. I attempted to give her some of the hard kibble in my bag, but she was too young to chew it. It was clear that she needed some extra TLC that she just couldn’t get at the pagoda. Thankfully, the monks allowed me to take her home.
It was clear that all Pocky needed was some delicious canned food and some routine veterinary care. After a month of eating a quality diet and being dewormed, she was a chunky kitten that absolutely loved her life. Pocky enjoyed nothing more than to cuddle up with me each night as I slept, quickly becoming my best little friend.
I become extremely attached to Pocky, making it extremely hard to leave her abruptly when COVID struck. I had to board a plane home to the states within a few days’ notice, forcing me to take Pocky back to PPAWS to go up for adoption.
Though it was hard to leave Pocky so suddenly, it ended up being for the best. Pocky was recently adopted by a lovely woman living in the city, where she will go on to live in a loving home with another furry friend! Everything worked out for this special girl.
As you can see, fostering saves the lives of animals around the world. If you ever find yourself with some extra space in your home and in your heart, I urge you to reach out to your local rescues to see if you can provide a temporary home for a furry friend!
Check Out Part 5 In My Series : Amber Abroad: Part 5 – Children Are The Key To A Better Future For Animals
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