If you are a cat lover, the chance is you have already heard of Kunkush – the famous rescue cat and his miraculous reunion with his family. Today, another miracle happened. One of the cat lovers I know happen to know his foster family in Berlin and Emma the foster mom agrees to chat with us! If you haven’t heard of him yet, here is a recap of his story…
Kunkush trekked all the way across Turkey with his Iraqi family before taking a rubber dingy over to the Greek island of Lesvos. It was on this Greek island where they lost track of Kunkush, thinking they would never see him again. They searched but eventually the family were forced to continue their journey across Europe without him, leaving the refugee cat to fend for himself on the streets. Kunkush was then being found by rescue volunteers in the fishing village of Skala a short while afterwards. Through the power of social media, Kunkush miraculous reunited with his family on Valentine’s Day thousands of miles away in Norway.
(Warning: you WILL cry if you watch this video…)
Alice = me
Emma = Kunkush’s foster mother
Alice: Hi Emma, thanks for talking to me today. I know you were the foster mom for the famous rescue cat Kunkush. Can you tell us how did that happen you become his foster mom?
Emma: Hey Alice, you’re welcome! Well, a friend of mine follows the Facebook page of Nine Lives Greece, a cat rescue and neutering charity, who in turn were sharing a page called Reunite Dias, about a lost little white cat that had been separated from his refugee family when they landed at the Greek island of Lesvos. (The people who found him had named him Dias, the Greek form of “Zeus” as he seemed a tough little fellow.) The aim of Reunite Dias was, obviously, to find his family and get them reunited, so the more people who shared the page, the greater chance of it being publicized. At that time, it was believed that the family had settled in Germany, so a temporary home in Germany would be the best thing for the cat. So I mentioned that my husband and I could look after him, as we live in Berlin.
Alice: How was it like taking care of him?
Emma: I thought he’d be scared and shaken up by all his experiences, but once he arrived at our apartment he strolled out of his carrier like he owned the place, had some food, had a look around, jumped up into my lap and settled down for a sleep! He was very easy to take care of, except for a bit of a worry about his health issues, as he had picked up a parasite, giardia, and ringworm during his time running wild on the island. So there were a few vet trips and medications for him to take. But he took it all in his stride.
Alice: How was he like? His personality? His favourite things?
Emma: Man, he was LOUD. Such a tiny cat but so loud. When I was waiting in the airport to meet him and Amy his rescuer, I could hear his yells while they were still in the security area. He was very curious too, and he had a little seat on our windowsill where he would spend hours looking out- luckily some building works were going on opposite so he could snoop to his heart’s content. He also loved chasing felt mice on string, which we would do until he would start to get a bit manic and aggressive; since the first day he didn’t sleep much, so he would get overtired- when that happened, I would go to the bedroom and get under the covers, he would join me, and then he would relax into sleep, and I could sneak away.
Alice: I can imagine it must be hard during the departure, it must be very hard to say goodbye, tell us something about that?
Emma: To be honest, we didn’t really expect the family to be found, so it was quite difficult trying to maintain an emotional distance and remember that this was someone else’s cat. When we got the email from Michelle, who ran the Reunite Dias page, saying that the family had been found, my first thought was “oh.” But then I saw photos of them and they are such lovely people that I was genuinely happy for them. We Skyped with the family about a week before Kunkush left, and that was just amazing; he kept going round the back of the computer looking for his family! And after that, every time the doorbell rang he’d gallop off to the door thinking his family was there, so it was lovely that he knew they still existed, and was sort of prepared in a way, to be reunited with them. The day he went was… mm, very mixed feelings! He’d really bonded with my husband, so both of us felt pretty sad about it. Michelle at Reunite Dias was great; she supported me online throughout the day.
Alice: Oh wow! Such a fascinating story!
Emma: It was quite strange having a guest cat with a mysterious past; I kept trying to do detective work on him – I guessed that he lived with children because he always pricked up his ears and got excited when he heard the children in our apartment block go past the door. And there are 5 children in his family. Also, we didn’t know his name, so when we found out his name, I went to the bedroom where he was lying on a chair and just gently called “Kunkush!” and his head shot up at once. “Kunkush” means “thick fur” apparently! He had incredibly thick fur; the family used to shave him in the summer months to keep him cool.
Alice: I know he has passed away since reunited with his family. It is very sad but I am glad to know that he was finally home in the comfort of his family when he crossed the rainbow bridge.
Emma: Yes, it is sad, he contracted FIP. We Skyped again with the family a couple of weeks after he was reunited with them, and he looked so quiet and content sitting with the mother. He is now immortalized in the book that Amy and Doug, Kunkush’s rescuers, wrote, “Lost and Found Cat”. It’s a children’s book telling the story of the flight from Iraq to Greece, how Kunkush got lost and how he was found. It’s a lovely book and quite unusual in that it addresses the issues of refugees, which I think is important for children to learn about, because the refugee situation is so serious and on-going. The book also emphasizes the role that social media and the internet, Facebook and Skype, play in connecting people.
Alice: Thanks for sharing such an amazing story with us today!
Emma: You’re welcome; it’s a pleasure to remember that it actually worked out, and that against the odds, Kunkush found his family again.
If Kunkush’s story touches you, please consider helping the following charities in helping the refugees.
Amal Shop is an income generation project that supports the livelihoods of Syrian families living in Izmir, Turkey. The initiative provides an opportunity for Syrian families living in Turkey to support themselves by helping them sell their handmade work to the global market. Volunteers work directly alongside these talented mothers to design products that you may enjoy. The income helps to pay for rent, food as well as other necessities. As a result of lightening the financial burden on the family, children can go to school rather than having to work – just another benefit of this initiative.
Philoxenia Kitchen provides hot meals, comfortable spaces and open arms in stressful environments. They work to provide positive support and inspire a sense of humanity and solidarity that people can carry with them throughout their onward journey. The Kitchen provides a warm meal to 1000 people a day. That means, during their first year of operation, they will provide around 356,000 warm meals to asylum seekers throughout the EU.
Nine Lives Greece is the cat charity that has found Kunkush. It is a network of volunteers dedicated to the reduction of the stray cat overpopulation through trap-neuter-return programmes.
As mentioned by Emma in the interview, Kunkush’s story has now been captured in a wonderful children’s book. This is a great opportunity to teach the future generation about love, tolerance and compassion. People from other countries might look different, but we very often share the same passion and we have a lot more in common than we imagined. Lost and Found Cat can be purchased on Amazon or any good book shop.