Visiting Villa Kitty

When my beloved cat Sophie recently escaped, I postponed the departure date for my sabbatical trip to Southeast Asia – and seriously considered cancelling it altogether. I didn’t feel right leaving with her still out there somewhere, and certainly couldn’t imagine enjoying a vacation.

When Sophie joyously returned home, I went ahead and took the trip, only having to delay my departure by a few days. One of the things I’m so grateful I still got to do was visit Villa Kitty.

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When I was planning the Bali portion of my trip, I knew I wanted to try to get off the beaten tourist path a bit. Beaches and waterfalls and temples are lovely, but what do I really care about most? Animals are high on the list. And of course, more specifically, cats.

Tabby basking in the sun

In the process of researching photo tours, I learned about Villa Kitty, an Ubud cat rescue founded by Elizabeth Henzell. Reading about their work struck a chord, so I wrote to Elizabeth, who graciously invited me to spend some time volunteering. While the rescue pays staff like vets and animal technicians, there’s never enough time to cuddle and play with all the cats and kittens, to help heal and socialize. That’s where volunteers come in.

Elizabeth Henzell, founder of Villa Kitty
Elizabeth Henzell, founder of Villa Kitty

When I got to Villa Kitty, Elizabeth welcomed me warmly. The whole operation blew me away – a huge serpentine maze of brightly coloured corridors and open spaces full of cats and kittens playing, sleeping, curled together in cages, quarantine rooms, and play areas, depending on their age and health status. The place is currently bursting at the seams, housing 300 cats, but the space is well organized and efficiently run.

Molly Parr Isolation ward

People walk into Villa Kitty with tiny kittens found in gutters, ditches, and river banks; cats who are injured, orphaned, or abandoned; and every other heartbreaking scenario you can think of. Staff bottle-feed the littlest ones, perform free sterilizations for the community, and continually spread the word about caring for cats responsibly. They place kitties in foster homes and find adoptive homes for as many as possible.

One-eyed cat in cage

I wish I’d had more time to spend with all these cuties, but I know I’ll return if I’m ever in Bali again. And if you’re a cat lover who finds yourself in Ubud, your cuddles are needed at Villa Kitty – so don’t hesitate to reach out!

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Visit Villa Kitty on the web, Instagram, or Facebook.

White and tabby kitty meowing in cage

Tiny Creature

I thought it was dead at first.

A tiny creature, just a few inches long, dark grey or maybe brown, attached to a larger organ of some kind by a thin tissue fibre.

And then the little thing squirmed and let out a few plaintive meeps. And I knew it had to be a kitten. A newborn kitten.

It lay just behind the latched gate of a daycare centre. Shane asked if I had a scissors or knife on me so he could sever the fibre tied to the organ – we weren’t sure what it was, a placenta, maybe? With one hand on my phone to call the SPCA to see if they were open, I walked around to the daycare centre’s front door to see if anyone was around. The door was locked, and I couldn’t find a doorbell. The SPCA website was not responsive and it was next to impossible to find the phone number on the tiny mobile version.

I rounded the corner back to the kitten, but it was gone. Shane explained that in the moments I’d been out of sight, the mamma cat had come looking for its baby, gave the human interloper at “WTF?” stare, popped the kitten into her mouth, and walked off with baby and attached placenta.

Shane looked bereft.

Over Indian food, he told me that we’d nearly gone home with a newborn kitten to add to our menagerie of three felines.

Maybe next time.