Estela the Camino Kitten

All things bright and beautiful. All creatures great and small. All things wise and wonderful. The Lord God made them all. … And some of them even end up with me in Santiago πŸ˜‰

Adorable, isn’t she?

Like a lot of stories, also this one began – on Facebook! At least for me, the kitten’s story started earlier, so let’s go back to the beginning. Once upon a time, there was a tiny kitten that lived alone in a big, dark forest. And there was a well traveled route passing through this forest, a route taken by thousands and thousands every year. The little kitten was too young to hunt and, even when it found some food scraps from time to time, always hungry, always thirsty, always scared, always just a tiny step away from death.

The kitten ‘asked’ many pilgrims for help and a few gave it a bit of their food or water, some even played with it for a short while. But then they moved on and left it behind. One day it met a pilgrim that was different. Somehow the little kitten felt that this pilgrim was her last chance for survival. So, it took all its courage in its little paws and ran up to the pilgrim, right up his leg until it had reached his chest – where the heart is. Also this pilgrim fed the little kitten, and gave it water, lots and lots of water, and also this pilgrim played with the little white kitten. But this pilgrim didn’t leave it, like so many others had done before him, he took the little kitten with him on his Camino.

I know there is ham somewhere! WHERE is the ham??? Eating with Esti being in the same room proved quickly impossible …

He tried to find an animal shelter that would take over, but no luck, no shelter had the capacity to deal safely with such a small kitten. It needed feeding every few hours and animal shelters are chronically overburdened with abandoned pets and understaffed with humans. So the pilgrim carried the kitten with him for ‘a few more days’. He also took the kitten to the vet. The vet shook his head and said there was little he could do. He could give the kitten some meds to get rid of parasites but for any vaccination, it was far too young, only around four to five weeks old and also far too underweight. There went the idea of boarding the kitten in a cattery, as those require their guests to be properly vaccinated, right out of the window.

And so the pilgrim and the kitten continued their pilgrimage. But things got difficult, sneaking the kitten each day into accommodation that doesn’t allow pets, caring for and carrying it, after two weeks pilgrim and kitten were exhausted. And so the pilgrim asked on Facebook for help.

 β€œAnybody here in Spain that wants to foster this adorable little creature until I have finished my pilgrimage and can take it home? Only for a short while, I promise!”

A friend of mine saw that post and tagged me in a comment. For good measure he also send me a message alerting me to it. I read the post and alarm bells went off. Sure, just for a short while and where does the pilgrim live? In the United States. It wouldn’t be easy to arrange that kind of travel at short notice … I politely replied and said that I was willing to help – if he couldn’t find anybody else. I had an idea that the Camino kitten, named Estela btw, would be more of a long term project than he thought…

And here goes a piece of spicy chicken …

All stayed quite for a couple of weeks, it was now mid-September, and I thought that the danger was over, when, out of the blue, I received a late phone call from the pilgrim. Yes, he had found a foster place for her, no it didn’t work out for various reasons and yes, could I take her like – tomorrow? I had the volunteers of the Anglican Camino Chaplaincy staying with me, so first course of action was asking everybody if they were OK with a kitten in the house. Everybody was happy, nobody was allergic, and so I gave the pilgrim the thumbs up and less then 24hours later, Estela arrived. God, was she still tiny! The pilgrim, by now accompanied by his wife, spent just an hour at the house and then they traveled back to finish their Camino. Saying that in a couple of weeks they would be back and taking Estela home to the States. I smiled …

Not the best picture of me, but a good one to show how tiny she was the day she arrived at the house.

If you have ever been at my house, you know it has quite a few stairs. Some of the stair steps are open at the back, I didn’t want the little one to take a really bad tumble, so it was carrying her up and downstairs as I moved around the house. She didn’t like to be left alone if there was action in the house, she wanted to be in the middle of it!

She soon learned to navigate the stairs carefully, giving me a few heart attacks in the process …

I must admit the first night I was afraid I would squash her to death, so tiny was she. But she survived and she ate and grew, and grew and ate. The pilgrims and I stayed in contact and quickly they realised that they had been ‘a bit’ too optimistic. No way they could start organising Estela’s immigration to the States whilst on the Camino, and, also, the rabies vaccination had to be done a certain amount of time before the travel and their flight was leaving earlier than that. So Plan A died a quick death and Plan B was developed. They would travel home and organise from there a transport with a professional company that picked Estela up at my place, did everything that needed to be done and transport her to her new home. I smiled again …

By now Estela had become quickly part of the life and on goings in the house and the chaplaincy. Many of the pilgrims that came in for a chat had either met her on the road, or had heard of her. And wanted to meet the ‘Camino Kitten’. So we got a fair bit of socialising done and when nobody else was in the house, the chaplains were always happy to play with her. And so it became October. And on Saint Francis Day she was the star, and only four-legged creature, at our pet blessing service.

Father Bob Bates blessing Estela the Camino Kitten on Saint Francis Day.

End of October saw the end, for this year, of the chaplaincy and the chaplains left and it was only me and Estela, and the odd visiting pilgrim friend in the house. Meanwhile Plan B had also died and we had arrived at Plan C. I would handle all the paperwork/vet appointments here in Santiago and the pilgrim would fly in from the States and take her back home with him. I smiled with a little bit more of optimism now.

And so it became November and, to make a rather long story short, here is what needed to be done to get her out of the country, on a plane, out of Europe and into the United States of America. And yes, over the weeks, Monika the vet and I became fast friends. Here is what the poor vet had to do to a rather reluctant kitten:

Apply another dose of anti-parasites liquid to her neck area. She really loved that! Nearly as much as having her temperature taken by the vet </sarcasm out>

Get a microchip into her, same neck area, with a horribly thick needle. She actually tolerated that quite well. The kitten, I mean πŸ˜‰

Get her pet passport filled out and connected to microchip number and activate her registration. For this I needed a letter of authorisation of the pilgrim and all his contact info.

Get her her shots (rabies and another one I always forget the name of) and note and stamp them into pet passport.

Get her a health certificate that is not older then ten days at the time of traveling and check that microchip is still in place.

And we were done!

Oops, we were not done yet!

Monika the vet diligently checked everything and discovered that Esti, as I had nick-named her, also needed an export permission. Excuse me, a what? Correctly heard! Turns out that, in order to leave Europe and to travel to a non-EU country, little one needs an export permission. And so, the same day the pilgrim arrived from the States in the afternoon, I took an early morning train to A CoruΓ±a and to the agricultural department of the Galician government. The one that issue export permissions for little abandoned Camino kittens, and any other creature that wants to leave the country. Thank Bastet they didn’t wanted to see Esti, just her, by now substantial, paperwork. So me, a rather big stack of papers and a lots of prayers in my heart traveled up north by train whilst the pilgrim was traveling to Santiago. The civil servants examined all the papers, took various copies, asked a whole bunch of questions, stamped a lot of papers, asked more questions, and after half an hour I was issued that all important piece of paper that allowed Esti to leave the Kingdom of Spain …

And next day the pilgrim and the kitten, happily reunited, traveled to Madrid and flew home. Plan C had worked out and Estela the Camino Kitten is now ruling the pilgrims’ house over the big pond πŸ˜‰ And as a little reward for being good pilgrim and good kitten, Iberia even upgraded them, for free, to business class! The little feral kitten was starting the next step of her new journey in style!

Do I miss her? Of course I do! She was great company and a really engaging little character. She has a zeal for life, and food !!!, very few cats I have met over the years, can match. Do I want a permanent pet? No, not at the moment! Would I foster a similar case again? Most likely, but I think I need to find another vet first. Monika warned me of that πŸ˜‰

Look how Esti has grown in the two months she spent with me! This picture was taken shortly before she traveled to her furever home.

And here, congratulations that you made it so far btw! The checklist about what to do if you want to travel with a cat out of the EU/Schengen-Area, in this case from Spain to the US. For regulations importing pets into other countries, ask Auntie Google;-)

You need an export permission, issued by the agricultural department or, alternatively, at the airport IF that service is provided at the airport. Make sure to get that one right, if not … Oh, and you also need to make an appointment with them beforehand. And to get this Holy Grail of cat export, you need, in exactly that order!:

A cat πŸ˜‰

A cat that is de-parasited.

A cat that is micro-chipped.

 A cat that has been vaccinated against rabies and whatever else is required.

A cat that has a health certificate that is no older then ten days at the time of travel.

And with all these papers, but sans cat, you need to go to the aforementioned office and, fingers crossed, you will get your export permission. Well done!

Any questions/remarks/jokes? Please leave them in a comment!

Greetings from Santiago, SY

10 thoughts on “Estela the Camino Kitten”

  1. In a world filled with bad news, this story is medicine! Beautiful Esti is where she needs to be, but the farewell would not have been easy for either of you.
    I’m secretly wating for the CC pup.

    1. I am not waiting for a puppy!!! Please, dear Saint Francis, no πŸ˜‰ I love dogs but having a puppy again, not just now …
      Esti is now around a year in her furever home and thriving well and happy.
      BC SY

  2. I was hoping she’d be there still in June as a permanent feature… but it’s still a good-news story <3

    1. Colleen, I never know what God and the Camino will throw next in my direction, so who knows what/who you will meet in June (looking forward to it!) but Esti is now where she was meant to be from the beginning – with her furever Camino family πŸ˜‰ I was just her caretaker for a short while until bureaucrazy got sorted out πŸ˜‰ BC y hasta pronto, SY

  3. I was sorry the story ended the way it did. I wish the little kitten had stayed.

    1. I am not! Estela is where she was always meant to be – with her pilgrim family πŸ˜‰ Buen Camino, SY

  4. Great story Sybille, I thought sure that my next time in Santiago I would surely find Esti welcoming the pilgrims and Chaplaincy volunteers at Egeria House! I do suppose it is best for all in the long run, but it had to be a tough goodbye when she finally left.

    1. Thanks Mike, I was surprised you didn’t turn up in Santiago this year! But yes, as lovely as she is, she is better off where she is now πŸ˜‰ It was strange coming back to an empty house for a while, not having her depending on me gave me also a bit of freedom back, so in the end a win-win for everybody involved and a happy ending to a story that could have ended with another abandoned kitten dying in the forest …
      BC SY

    1. Esti was the true star πŸ˜‰ As were you and all the other chaplaincy volunteers that coped with the feline addition to the house πŸ˜‰
      BC SY

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