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"In the 1930's, the British Mandate shipped hundreds of domestic cats into Jerusalem to combat the rat population. The cats minimized the rat population successfully, but hundreds of unneutered cats multiplied into 4 million, causing a massive nation-wide cat population crisis which today is the worst of any first world country.
During a year in Jerusalem, I found myself unable to ignore the plight of the street cats. Domestic cats rely on humans to stay alive. With 97% of cats living on the streets, those lucky enough to make it into adulthood will live a miserable average lifespan of two to three years with various diseases that are passed from colony to colony.
I started taking orphaned kittens off the streets, one by one, getting each one the proper medical care they needed, and finding them permanent homes.
One day, I was informed about a box of abandoned newborn kittens someone found and reported to the municipality of Jerusalem. The municipal shelter was going to lethally injecting them in only a few hours, unless a volunteer could be found in time.
That was the day that the Municipality of Jerusalem delivered a cardboard box of garbage to my door, with three 5 day old newborn kittens inside.
It was a crash course in motherhood as I navigated my way through keeping newborns warm, and feeding and cleaning them every few hours.
I named the most beautiful kitten Matilde di Shabran, after the title character of one of my favourite Rossini operas. A heroine that saved lives by reforming a tyrant.
Matilde was the only survivor from her litter. Her brother and sister both died despite my best efforts (70% of orphaned newborn kittens die without their mothers). By the time Matilde reached one month of age, she had already been through the A to Z of antibiotics, was chronically ill, and refused to grow. The vet told me we were out of options for her, and that her chances of survival were very slim.
It was at this time that I made the decision that I was going to act as Matilde's incubator.
I carried this sick, pneumonia infected baby swaddled inside my thermal vest for the next three months like a human kangaroo mother. I never went anywhere without her. Slowly her health improved and she started to grow.
I had already decided to adopt the first kitten I rescued, whom I had named Lindoro, after the male damsel in distress of another Rossini opera. A character that gets rescued from Ottoman ruled Algeria by his Italian fiancé.
Lindoro raised Matilde as his own sister. He took care of her and loved her. Being her foster mom for so many months, and seeing how Lindoro needed a sibling, I decided to adopt Matilde. We became a family and flew across the world to Canada together.
For a long time, Matilde had very little hair on her tummy, and at times when she wasn't inside my thermal vest she would get very cold, which is why I started putting clothes on her. Both Lindoro and Matilde found the Canadian winters unbearably cold, so I provided them with jackets and warm clothing, which they didn't mind wearing at all.
As an artist, I create and sell items so I can continue rescuing street cats. Because of our unique bond, I've found that my cats are happy to help me by being my models."