Cats are really interesting creatures and when they are around, you can bet there will be plenty of stories. They are like those adventurers who hitchhike across the world facing the odds and discovering treasures all alone. It’s just that their world is of the size of a human colony. That nonchalant walk, the pause and stare when they see a human only to assume their airs and walk along if they see no threat. I have been lucky to witness one such cat. And stories I have aplenty to share.
It was a rainy evening. Night was approaching fast with the dark clouds making time advance by an hour at least. I was enjoying the drizzle from my room’s window with a plate of hot pakodas when I heard faint and feeble meows. On checking it seemed to be coming from a not more than week old kitten left by her mama cat out in our backyard. On normal days, that would have been a good enough shelter but not on a rainy day. Guess, mama cat didn’t study meteorology. Her furs were already drenched. Now there is a thing I should clarify about myself. I love animals, especially mammals and birds (no, no reptiles) but they scare me easily. Also the fear that I might hurt them unknowingly. I wanted to help but couldn’t. So in comes my sister who picks her up and gets her inside. No, not my elder sister, I haven’t got any. It was my younger sister. All this while our mother was threatening not to take her in. The kitten now inside looked scarred from the ordeal. She could barely walk but it still tried to hide under whatever covers she could find. Now Maa came along with a saucer of warm milk. She drank a sip. We were told to leave her alone and let her mother find her and decide what to do with her. And just like Maa said, few minutes later, mama cat comes meowing. And the kitten was hiding in somewhere. So we were worried if she would find her. But she did. The next thing we saw was the kitten dangling from her mother’s jaws and being carried away. We thought that would be the end of the story. Luckily that wasn’t to be.
Come next morning, and the mama cat was sitting on her hind legs making gooey eyes so that we would give her something to eat. Accompanying her was the kitten who looked like a tiny replica of her mother, her body covered with white fur save for the two black spots on her forehead and a black tail. Not to forget a cat’s inverted triangular nose and soft as cotton pink paws. All this made her an adorable fur ball. And this is how it all began. We would bring food for both of them and watch them. Apparently the mama cat was not new to our home. It was just that me and my sister never took any notice of her. Until the kitten arrived.
We started calling the kitten ‘Billoo’. Billoo was growing up first. She would sit for hours, licking herself lifting her paws to her mouth. Mama cat would be lying on her belly motionless except for her lively tail for Billoo to play with. That was her only toy then. It was a delight to watch her chasing her mother’s tail as if it were a wriggling snake. She would poke her paws first, probing and then roll along the floor biting the tail by its tiny teeth. All this time mama cat would be motionless as if meditating, her eyes almost closed but those antennae like ears and that sensitive nose would be always alert.
Papa soon showed us how to hold Billoo. Once we got the feel of her fur, we would spend hours waiting for her to show up so that we could play with her. We would imitate her mother’s tail by moving a pencil. And she would comply. Anything that moved interested her. We once saw her chasing a butterfly in the backyard. We would pat her on her head slowly caressing her. And did she love it! She would start purring closing her eyes. My sister sometimes took it too far when she would start holding her just after she had a tummy full of meal. She would launch her claws and scratch. She used it sparingly on us. But you should have seen what she did to Papa’s scooter seat. That was where she sharpened her claws.
We soon discovered Billoo had discovered a bed for herself under the staircase. It was a carton containing old clothes. Every morning before going to school we would check up on her. She would be curled up like a ball. On holidays we would watch her descend from her bed and perform stretches resembling a yogic posture.
After wandering in the surrounding she would be in time for lunch. The days, fish would be cooked, you could sense her restlessness. As soon as we would open the door, she would come rushing in rubbing her head against our leg, going around it with her tail upright. And as soon as she is served, she would just gobble it up. Sometimes I would fear she would choke while eating those fish bones! Soon there came a time when she won’t even drink milk. She would just sniff and walk away. All she wanted was fish.
Once it so happened Billoo didn’t appear. We waited for the whole day thinking she would be just around the corner. But that was not to be. Soon we started worrying for her and started searching in the house and nearby. But she was nowhere to be found. Me and my sister had a hard time sleeping that night. Next morning, when Maa went to the terrace to dry clothes, lo and behold there she was. She had spent an entire night on the roof. She looked frail and when we served her milk she won’t drink it. We were worried but by evening she was alright.
She had a habit of getting close to dangers. One morning I saw Billoo’s gaze fixed on something in the garden. It turned out to be a snake and she was hell bent on chasing it. Another morning, we found a dead snake covered in ants near the staircase where Billoo slept. We don’t know for sure but take it to be her doing.
Another time, I caught her with a tail of a mouse emerging out of her mouth like someone sucking a noodle. I remember I was really disappointed with her as if she had broken our trust and denied her food for a couple of days as punishment. Soon my anger subsided and we were back on normal terms.
Few months down the line, mama cat gives birth to two more kittens. All this while Billoo had started living on her own. She hadn’t grown to the size of her mother but she was a big kitty now. Strangely the arrival of the new kittens made her go back to those days when she would play with her mother’s tail. But now her mother won’t allow it. Mama cat had kept only one of the kittens in our home. The other was in our neighbor’s place. But going against nature our neighbor brought the other kitten to our home too. At this time, I came to know how even cats can have different personalities. The one in our house was a timid one. While the one in our neighbor’s place was naughty. But both were nothing like Billoo. They would make hissing noises as a self defense whenever you approached them. But they got along well among themselves. Soon, the timid one who would remain hiding until now would join her naughty sibling in play.
On one such occasion, both were playing near the washing machine. On seeing Maa, the naughty one fled the scene while the timid one crept under the machine. We didn’t take notice of them. Next day while Maa was sweeping the floor, she felt something underneath the washing machine. To her horror, it was the timid kitten’s lifeless body. Ants had started gathering near her eyes. And if that wasn’t heart wrenching, soon the sibling came along and started poking her as if to wake her up from dead. Soon her mother arrived too. We dug a hole and buried her.
Billoo too disappeared for days. That was the longest she had been absent and when she returned, we noticed a slight bulge in her stomach. Soon we had to move to another city. And Billoo was left behind. We would ask our neighbors if they spotted her and they would say they did. I hope she had many a babies.
The place we currently live in is frequented by a sparrow called ‘Sparroo’ and his partner and I can’t help but feel the same feelings when I look at him and his mischievous ways. Guess it is the same soul that pervades all the earth’s beautiful creatures.
I have been so much in love with house cats that it has now translated to cats of all kinds, cheetah, tigers, lions you name it. Of course I know they will gobble me up if they see me in the wild. But when did the fear of being destroyed ever stop us from loving anyone.