From Homeless Kitten to Swiss Prince: A Cocoa Update

Just one month ago, a 500-gram bundle of mischief and joy came into our lives on the streets of the stunning Ukrainian city of Lviv. As you may remember from my earlier post chronicling Cocoa’s adventures with us, the kitten’s story commenced in a sad fashion, when he was discarded behind a series of dumpsters right before our eyes. But I’m here to provide a very happy update.

After our 1,000 km. (600 mile) journey overland together from Ukraine to Germany on trains, trams, and taxis, we set to work to market Cocoa’s availability. We blogged and posted social media updates, we posted paper flyers all over my parents’ village in Germany’s Alps, hoping that a loving family would step forward to adopt him. We’re grateful to our family members, longtime friends and those kind connections in the blogosphere who helped spread the word about little Cocoa.

One dear blog reader, Claudine, was quick to step forward and express an interest in being Cocoa’s forever home. Having just lost a beloved feline of her own, and as a hard-working cheerleader for the world’s less-fortunate animals, we knew that Claudine and her family would be the perfect fit. After two years of correspondence, Shawn, Claudine, her daughter and I met in person for the first time one week ago, on the edge of Germany’s Bodensee. We shared laughs and tears at a café overlooking the picturesque lake, and then handed little Cocoa over.

We miss the little mischief maker, of course, but the knowledge that he is living the good life in the Swiss Alps makes us smile. When Shawn and I initially found him, Shawn said that Cocoa would “one day, make someone very happy.” We’re delighted that he’s bringing Claudine and her family so much joy. To think – he was garbage to one, but another loving family was willing to drive hours for him!

“Awake your soul to happy memories.”

Lailah Gifty Akita

Some readers on social media expressed anger at the anonymous man who threw Cocoa away, and responded that they would like to take violent action against him if they could. My response? While I agree that his actions were heartless and inhumane, I don’t condone violence as a solution to this problem. But if you feel moved in any way by Cocoa’s story, or by the plight of the many animals on the streets in every corner of the world, I would recommend making a donation to an animal charity or volunteering at your local shelter. We have family members and friends who even sponsor a dog or cat in need to have it spayed or neutered, thus helping to control the homeless animal population.

The day before Cocoa left us, we did a mini photo shoot with the photogenic little guy. Though Cocoa was in a playful mood and moving as fast as lightning, which was not so conducive to photo-snapping, Mother Nature cooperated by flooding the kitchen with warm light. I hope Cocoa’s soaking up the Swiss sunshine as I type this. Thanks again, Claudine and family, for treating Cocoa like a little prince!

Cocoa Kitten

Cocoa Kitten 3

Cocoa Kitten 2

Cocoa Kitten 5

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

36 thoughts on “From Homeless Kitten to Swiss Prince: A Cocoa Update

    1. Gerard, thanks to the power of the internet. :) I appreciate all the advice you shared relative to kitten rearing. It helped ensure Cocoa had a good start before transitioning to his new home. Wish you a splendid Sunday!

  1. Ya! So happy for him and you :)
    About the man’s actions…I remember being horrified by the way kittens were treated when I lived abroad. One family I knew had a litter of unwanted kittens and the father put them in a bag and threw it in the river. Things may be changing (I hope!), and most people there loved their pets dearly, but overpopulation in the spring/summer was a problem, and people didn’t seem too keen on spending the time or money to have their cats neutered or spayed.

    1. Jenna, what a heartbreaking anecdote, but sadly a version of one that I’ve heard repeated in several countries. Of course, the issue of poverty can sometimes come into play when one considers unwanted litters, but I certainly wish people wouldn’t take on pet ownership unless they can do so responsibly. I’m especially surprised when I hear of pet owners (in the United States too) who refuse to spay or neuter their pets, yet let them roam freely on the streets. Now that we’ve had a success story with Cocoa, Shawn and I have already remarked that it’ll be challenging going back to visiting countries where homeless animals on the streets is the norm, because we’ll want to take them all home. One at a time, I suppose! :) Thank you for sharing your experience, and enjoy the rest of the weekend!

    1. Mary Ann, you’re right about there being so many other Cocoas in need. They’re on our minds, especially as chilly weather sets in throughout Europe. If only all the pets of the world could have a loving home such as yours. :)

    1. Robyn, I appreciate your thoughtful words and am blushing as I read them. Thank you.

      Indeed, we’d seen thousands of homeless dogs and cats through the years, but didn’t know how to help them since we were always on the go. With little Cocoa dropped right before us, we couldn’t walk away.

      On a side note, it must almost be olive-harvest time in Dalmatia. Are you off to your olive grove soon? :)

  2. What a purr…fect ending, Tricia. How wonderful that Cocoa has a permanent home. We have an unusual cat situation on our island where a woman rounded up all the strays that hung around our local grocery store and had them neutered and given shots and returned them to their environment. The grocery store donates the food and the cat lady feeds and checks on them daily. They aren’t adoptable and are content to live outside, keep the rodent population down and not mind an occasional human encounter with the customers who have named them. At one time the idea was controversial, but now everyone is disappointed if they don’t see a “grocery store cat” on their shopping day.

    1. Lynne, purr….fect ending. You have such a way with words. :)

      We’ve read that the trap-neuter-release approach is a good way to address homeless animal populations. I’m happy to hear that it’s not only working on your island, but also brightening others’ days as a result. I can just imagine those grocery-store kitties looking cute as ever so that they can convince shoppers to bring them additional nibbles on the way out of the grocery store.

      My parents recently got into helping a few feral cats in their Illinois hometown too. Apparently some cats were calling the garden of my childhood house their home (my parents are prepping the Victorian-era house for sale). My mom trapped a few of the cats, neutered and released them. One of the little fellows, Max, seemed tamer than the others and was successfully adopted out to a loving home.

      Again, thanks for sharing your success story. It’s inspiring to hear what others are doing to help address this worldwide issue.

  3. Tricia, I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear that Cocas finally found a loving home. You both saved his life for becoming a happy cat. He looks so cute as a little kitten could be. Thank you for saving a cats life.

    1. Cornelia, thank you for your kind words and for having reached out to your friends and family in Garmisch. It is thanks to the blogging community and dear reader Claudine (whom I met in 2012 via my blog) that Cocoa eventually found his forever home. We hope to see Cocoa (and his kind humans, our new friends) in Switzerland soon.

    1. Carol, based upon the report from his new family, he sounds destined to do just that! He’s already gained a few hundred grams, and was given another clean bill of health.

      Glad you enjoyed the happy tale! Thanks for reading. :)

  4. Such a shame that Cocoa will be leaving you, but at least he’ll be living with a great sounding family :) Really happy you got this impromptu photo shoot too :D

    1. Hi Dale, it was hard handing the little guy over, for sure, but he’s now living the good life in Switzerland. Cocoa also reminded us that there are small things that we can do to make a difference in the world. Now that he’s placed in a happy home, I wonder, what next? :)

    1. Darlene, as cliché as it may sound, we’re also quite lucky to have had Cocoa come into our lives, if only for that one month before he was adopted. His presence brought lots of smiles, funny moments, and yes, tears.

      1. We visited a dog rescue centre in Spain just yesterday. My husband sponsors some dogs there and he wanted to visit them. It´s sad so many are abandoned but good that there are volunteer organizations to help find them homes.

      2. Kudos to you and your husband for sponsoring some deserving animals, Darlene. Your comment reinforces that there are animals in need in so many corners of the world; it’s nice to know that you’re making a difference.

        What does the sponsorship entail? Sounds like you might get to take some lucky pups on walks? :)

      3. The organization is called ADANA, By fostering a dog, we pay for the food for a dog while it is at the shelter. We did this from Canada and now that we are in Spain we made a point of visiting the centre to meet the dogs we are sponsoring. Two of our sponsored dogs have been adopted out which is good to know. Because we were there, we took each of “our” dogs for a walk.

      4. Interesting to hear how various programs are run, Darlene; thank you for following up with the organization’s name and contact information.

        What a nice way to get immersed into your new community too. :)

    1. Hi Suzanne, we were certainly in the right place at the right time. I shudder to think what otherwise would’ve happened to the little guy, particularly as cold weather was setting in. It brings a smile to my face to know that he’s touched the lives of so many – including his wonderful new family in Switzerland.

      Thank you for reading and for your kind words!

  5. Ah, what a beautiful story.
    I do know Claudina personally, and am proud to say we are friends.
    Precious Cocoa was lucky in meeting Claudine- and Claudine blessed to give him a forever loving home !
    One thing you can be sure of: no other person coulde love Cocoa more than sweet Claudine does. I am happy for both of them !!!

    1. Wild Rose, how lucky you are to have Claudine as one of your friends. I’m delighted that little Cocoa became the perfect excuse to finally meet her in person last month. When we saw him discarded, we never could’ve guessed that he would’ve gone to such a loving home. I do hope to see Cocoa and his new family sometime soon. Until then, it’s been delightful getting photo updates from Claudine and Sara Luna. Cocoa looks as though he’s already grown a lot in the past month. Have you had the chance to meet him?

    1. Prancingpony, this was certainly a case of ‘being in the right place at the right time.’ I think many other people would’ve felt compelled to do the same thing if they saw a young, helpless animal being tossed on the street.

      Thank you for your kind words; I’m glad Cocoa’s story touched you. :)

    1. Randall, as you can attest, travel has a beautiful way of giving one so many feel-good moments. It’s a pleasure to share them.

      I get regular updates on the little Swiss prince, and see he’s doing well! His latest picture featured him confidently posing atop a white baby grand piano. I think he’s quite at home in Switzerland. :)

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