“Cats are intended to teach us that not everything in nature has a purpose” (Garrison Keillor)
THERE are many quotes on animals that we have heard of. One of my favourites is the one from Mr Gilfil’s Love Story by George Eliot that says: “Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions and they pass no criticism.”
This is so true. Having pets can be very therapeutic. I had three cats, all of which I lost a few years ago.
First there was Tompok, a tabby we affectionately called Cik Tom because of her spots. She came with the house and we didn’t have the heart to chase her away. She was toilet-trained, had beautiful soft fur and was never any trouble. I often wondered who in their right mind would abandon this enchanting creature.
Like all cats, Cik Tom enjoyed “going out” and would only return after office hours when I got home. I never worried about her whereabouts as she was quite independent, as most cats are.
But one day Cik Tom came back late at night limping and the fur on her right side was gone. She had apparently agitated someone and had hot water poured over her! She was in such bad shape that I didn’t even know how to hold her. Her mews were heart-wrenching and she was in pain.
I nursed her back to health and I was the only one she allowed to tend to her. Even the kids couldn’t get close as she would show her claws, which was totally unlike her. Cik Tom lived with us for 13 years. Then one day, she just didn’t come home. Some people say that cats don’t die in front of their owners because they don’t want their owners to be sad.
THEN THERE WAS DINO
But this was not true of Dino whom we got during one of the World Cups. In the true spirit of the game, we named him Ronaldinho, after the famous Brazilian football player. Dino looked like Garfield, except that he was black with grey stripes.
He was a handful. I had my share of broken casserole dishes whenever he pounced on my kitchen counter looking for food. Then there were the plates broken when he felt like sitting on my kitchen table. He would conveniently push the tudung saji (food cover) with all dishes underneath to the floor to make space for himself.
He was also very playful and used to take swipes at our legs as we walked past, leaving us with lots of scratches. Everybody loved Dino except Cik Tom. They were arch rivals. Whenever Dino went close, Cik Tom would hiss fiercely and claw. In the end Dino gave up trying to make friends.
On his more sober days, Dino was most affectionate. He would plop onto my lap and sleep to his heart’s content. Nothing could wake him up — except when the kids called him to makan (eat).
Being male, Dino was very territorial; he used to spray the doors, sofa and everything else during mating season. He always ended up sleeping outside because of this and also because he seemed to enjoy his outdoor escapades with the neighbourhood felines.
Cats not only recognise their owners’ scent, voice and footsteps but also the sound of their cars. Dino would run from whereever he would be lounging at and race me home. But I noticed that day by day, he seemed to be galloping from further distances. Then one day, he didn’t come back. After what happened to Cik Tom, I was worried.
The fat cat was missing. He finally came back starving and bedraggled after six days. He had practically dragged himself home. From where, we didn’t know, but he was very sick and had lost a lot of weight. He was not the Dino we knew.
He refused to eat, drank a bit of milk and just slept. As he had returned to us in the middle of the night, we made plans to take him to the vet first thing next morning. But it was not to be. I heard him mewing under my bed as I was about to perform my morning prayers. I thought I’d pray first and tend to him later. but by the time I’d finished praying, he was already dead. It was a sad day for all of us. My youngest kept asking him to “wake up”. The kids cried all the way to school and I, all the way to the office. I left my Dino for my husband to bury as I couldn’t do it.
Dino had really grown when witn us, horizontally and vertically. He had been more than 4kg in weight before he got sick and died.
AND THEN THERE WAS JUNIOR
After Cik Tom’s and Dino’s demise, we silently agreed not to have any more cats. But then Junior came along. He used to frequent my neighbour’s house. But time and again, he’d hop over to our house because there was food for Cik Tom and Dino.
He was exactly the same colour as Dino but smaller and younger, hence the name Junior, given by my eldest daughter. If Dino was stout and short, Junior was lean and long. When he stretched, he was about 61cm-long.
Dino and Junior got along so we allowed them to be friends but we never really considered him ours as the neighbour was still feeding him. But whenever we opened our door in the morning to go to work, he would welcome himself in. Junior was also around the day Dino died.
Cats are known to be haughty. They have that perpetual expression that seems to say, “take a number and I’ll get back to you!”
Well, Junior was exactly like that. He’d give you THAT look, ignore you and just walk away, even when we called him. But funnily enough, he would sheepishly acknowledge us whenever we called out, “Hey, handsome cat!”
One of the things I loved about Junior was that he liked to keep me company when I marked student papers at night. I’d normally sit on a big throw cushion on the floor with my assignments scattered in front of me. He would plonk himself on top of the pages and clean himself.
Despite me pushing him away countless times, he’d still lay down on the page I was marking. To appease him, I would scratch his neck and he would purr loudly. I would drop a kiss on his flat head and he’d wake up and lick my nose and chin. Then I would push him away again but to no avail. He would stretch and place himself on the same page, looking up at me.
Maybe it was his way of saying, “That’s enough marking for tonight, time to rest”. In the end, I’d call it a day and pack my things. And my souvenir for a night spent with Junior? One of his whiskers on the page.
Ah cats. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them! These three felines — Cik Tom, Dino and Junior — really did colour my life, and my family’s, with their existence.