Camyl Besinga is a residential interior design consultant and a full-time mom to two kids and two cats. Taking in cats since 2003, Camyl first adoptee was a spotted stray named Cutie. She says, “My childhood home has a wide yard, so it’s perfect for cats who come and go as they please. It helps that we don’t have a very busy neighbourhood, so most of my neighbours know which cat belongs to whom.” Camyl reminisces how she became the cat mum of Yoda and Mittens with Waldo’s Friends.
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Waldo’s Friends (WF): How did Yoda and Mittens come into your life?
Camyl Besinga (CB): In 2008, my then-boyfriend-now-husband Ryan’s household help found an entire litter of black kittens living under his car. They were not so sociable and would scamper away when they tried to catch them. Yoda was the second of her litter that they were able to catch. Since my husband already had a very temperamental black cat in his house, he couldn’t adopt Yoda and her sister Kobe, so I volunteered to adopt them.
Yoda and Kobe eventually warmed up to me as I initially kept them in my bedroom. Sadly, before I could have them both vaccinated and dewormed, Kobe succumbed to what I think is parvo. Yoda quickly became the house favorite because of her big, expressive eyes and unusual color. She is mostly silky black but has a triangular-shaped white patch at the bottom of her stomach—making it look like she is wearing white underwear!
Meanwhile, Mittens was another cat who literally strayed into my mother’s garage and found friendly company with my sister’s black Labrador. We named her Mittens because when she was younger, the dark spots on her paws were so pronounced that it looked like she was wearing mittens. When I moved out of my home, I eventually adopted her and Sticker.
WF: Did you experience any challenges while the cats were growing up?
CB: Yoda and Sticker practically grew up together, so they were best buds. We often found them snuggling up to each other in bed, giving each other baths, and calling to each other. Mittens was the third wheel, but she was sociable enough to not feel left out.
Then, we decided to bring Shadow, my husband’s adult male cat, into our small apartment. Shadow was used to living in a busy street. He also came and went, so despite being vaccinated and regularly dewormed, he most probably carried viruses from the street. Unfortunately, he brought one into our apartment, and within days of him living with us, all three female cats were struck ill and had to be hospitalised.
Yoda seemed the most resilient, but Sticker did not survive. As soon as Sticker died, Yoda’s condition deteriorated considerably. The vet asked us to bring them home so that they could recuperate in more familiar surroundings, but Yoda was visibly depressed with Sticker’s passing. She went into hiding in my closet and would not eat, drink, pee, or poop for over a week. I really thought she was going to die. Mittens recovered slowly too, as pus developed on her hind legs. We had to bring her back to the hospital for treatment and minor surgery.
I didn’t blame Shadow because it wasn’t his fault he was the virus carrier, but of course, we were incredibly saddened with Sticker’s passing. In mourning, my husband and I deep-cleaned and disinfected the entire house. We felt we owed it to our cats to make their home a healthier place to live in.
WF: What would you say makes your cats unique?
CB: Yoda has never fully developed for reasons unknown to me. I heard a vet say that that was really one of her breed’s characteristics, while another told me it could have been because she was also struck with the same virus that killed Kobe, which resulted in her stunted growth. Aside from always being skinny and always sporting that “white underwear,” she sheds her hair once or twice a year. Visitors are daunted by her being a black cat and because she stares at them so intently, but she has always been so affectionate to me. When I ask for a kiss, she willingly kisses me with her cold, wet nose.
Mittens is the more sociable one. She loves getting people’s attention, and she often gets it because of how cute she looks. She has icy blue eyes, but one of them is smaller than the other, so she has a strange, thoughtful look on her face. She is also very affectionate to strangers, but when we try to hug, kiss, or cuddle her, she always tries to break free! It’s frustrating because she is so cute. Haha! She also loves staring at birds outside the window and does that bird-watching whimpering that cats are so famous for.
WF: What are the things your adopted pets enjoy doing with you?
CB: Yoda loves to snuggle between my legs in bed. Before we had kids, I would always let her until I’d get leg cramps. Haha! She doesn’t stay in bed with me as much as before, mainly because she doesn’t like how rowdy the kids get when they’re playing in bed. But when I work in bed, you’ll always find her there with me.
Mittens always sits by my feet under the dining table while we’re eating. I don’t know why because we don’t feed them table scraps. She also loves sneaking out the door! We sometimes find her waiting patiently outside our door to let her in—after being unaware that she’d been out the entire afternoon.
WF: What’s the best tip you can give to people who decide to save kittens or cats off the streets?
CB: As soon as you adopt a cat (or any kind of pet for that matter), have them neutered or spayed.
WF: Why would you personally encourage others to adopt animals? And what’s your advice for people thinking of doing so?
CB: There are so many animals out there who are alone, unloved, and who deserve the same kind of love and attention we give to every pet we’ve ever had.
The best advice I could think of is for interested people to do their research and visit pet shelters like PAWS or CARA. Basically, get knowledge first about the animals they would like to adopt before they do it.
Despite their reputation, cats are so easy to love and care for. It’s true that they don’t give the same loyalty and affection that dogs give, but cats can be just as lovable in their own unique ways.
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