I used to have no particular feelings about cats. I neither liked nor disliked them, I didn’t think of them. Then we moved from the city to the country (much to my dismay), and I discovered that our new home comes with a cat. The grandparents, whose house we now share, used to send us eggs, (dead) chickens and rabbits, but not once did they send a (live) kitten. Before we moved in with them, they gradually got rid of all their livestock, so that we came in to only a cat and some (unacknowledged) rats in the yard.
The cat intrigued me. She was (still is) a huge black one, and most of the time she acts invisible. She lies outstretched in one of the vegetable or flower patches in the garden and when not asleep, she observes the course of humanity with an aloof eye. She would scare you to death, if you choose to believe that it’s bad luck when a black cat crosses your path. From the beginning, she didn’t run away from me, but neither did she look impressed when I tentatively stroked her fur. She would always get fed up with me soon, twitch her tail once and slowly walk away, very dignified. That’s what she does.
I never quite succeeded in my project of becoming friends with the cat. I decided that it was perhaps too much to ask from her, to start acting affectionate when she’s been suffered rather than petted by the grandparents so far. The old couple are old school, so they do not recognise the concept of a pet. To them, a cow or a cat is a domestic animal that is to be utilised and receives no more care than necessary for its sustenance. I was no expert in animal keeping, but I noticed that the cat had no water bowl, ate her dry food from a rusty tin and received kitchen leftovers dropped on the ground. So at least I bought her two bowls and had her neutered.
The cat grew on me. I decided I newly liked cats. I thought I could do with a kitten to bring up and see if it will be any more affectionate when taught so from a young age. It was the summer when I was finishing my master’s thesis, and I called my new kitten Emma, for my thesis supervisor, to remind myself of my study duties when attending to kitty duties. She was fluffy, beautifully multi-coloured and cuddly enough (my cat, not my supervisor). Several months later, though, she conspired with the older cat against me and refused to be held unless I fed her meat while holding her. Then she got lost, and later I learned that she was run over by a car.
I duly mourned her for two years. On which I adopted a cute grey tabby, hardly five weeks old. I named her Ella, short from Elise, because everyone was already used to the similarly sounding Emma. While I figured Ella would be easy to learn, everyone but me calls the new cat with her deceased predecessor’s name. My new kitten was cheerful and outgoing. She never grew up out of the belief that I was her natural extension, and until now she likes to nap on my lap. She not only tolerates but enjoys being held and have the fur on her head ruffled. I was hoping for an affectionate pet, and strangely enough, that’s what I got.
Paw, the older cat, never approved of the new addition. She’s looking to sleeping curled up under the spruce tree in the garden, not to being chased around by a naughty ball of fur. Despite her better judgement, Paw can’t help her concern for the welfare of a fellow feline. She might hiss at her kitty competitor whenever the latter dares come near, but at nights she brings her dead rats snacks and meows plaintively until the kitty emerges to either eat it or pass. Paw is old school, like the grandparents, and she won’t unlearn catching mice for food (unlike the grandparents). It’s surely nice of her that she doesn’t take her food for granted, but I’d prefer her to stop devouring voraciously whatever pest she murders like I never feed her.
Ella, I suspect, never caught and killed anything. I approve – much to the dismay of all farmers and gardeners in the family (all family), who consider rats worse than plague. I’d rather have a rat than a plague. Ella would rather have me than a rat. The other day the two of us were spending quality time in the garden and I was holding the kitty on my lap. Suddenly she spotted movement, leaped out of my arms and ran after what turned out to be a poor little mouse. The mouse stopped, playing dead. The cat gently sniffed the mouse’s back and I braced myself to witness slaughter. The cat shrugged. The mouse resumed running. The cat twitched her tail, returned and climbed on my lap. We love each other like that.