Tuesday, August 12, 2008

When A Cat Goes Missing

Pix: Jacques (top), Otto (bottom)

Pak Abu's golfer friend Affendi wasn't his usual perky and pesky self last night when we ran into him at the Club. Understandably so, for his family's beloved pet cat has been missing for five days now.

While it isn't a pedigree, Fendi says the cat has attractive markings. He suspects it has been catnapped because that cat is such a homebody and the likelihood of it going on a walkabout is almost nil.

You have my sympathy, Fendi. I am a consummate cat lover and have experienced the heartbreak of losing precious feline pets many times over. Each time it happened, the family would grieve for weeks.

The front yard of our house in Bangsar was a veritable pet cemetery; we must have buried a dozen cats during our stay there in the mid-1990s. We lost them mostly to speeding cars; those despicable goons behind the wheels stepped on the gas even on a side street.

As my PR consultancy business peaked, the number of cats we had in our care increased. The most we ever had at any one time was 25. With the exception of one, all were strays that we took home, fed and loved with all our hearts.

Some of my relatives questioned my wisdom in spending so much on the upkeep of strays when I could easily have raised a houseful of beautiful Persians, Siamese, Burmese or even more exotic breeds.

But they had missed the whole point. I am a cat-lover, not a cat breeder. Expensive breeds mean nothing to me - they are just cats, no matter how illustrious their lineage or how magnificent their pedigree. To me, an alleycat is just as beautiful and as precious as a 'blue blood'.

Otto swaggered into our home one day, looked around and promptly staked a claim on a sofa. He was a sleek looking, orange-coloured cat, a real beauty. I could sense that he was no stray, so I wasn't really surprised to find his claws professionally trimmed and his ears cleaned.

Our vet took one look at him and declared him an Abyssinian, a regal pedigree. Unfortunately we were unable to trace his owners and he remained with us for many years. For some strange reasons, the kids named him Yamamoto, calling him Otto for short.

When we moved to Subang Jaya, Otto's wanderlust nature took root again and he started frequenting a kongsi (makeshift housing for construction site workers) across the road. The Indonesian workers there took a shine to this good-natured feline and started feeding him and playing with him.

Over time Otto no longer came home. He decided to 'downgrade' for good. But we did see him every now and then. I think he must have found a mate or two at the site. I wasn't too upset about the loss of Otto. I think he was godsend, to spread joy to people.

I can still recall Joe's witty comment on Otto's frequent absences. "I think they are feeding him tempe (fermented soya beancurd) and all the good Indonesian stuff, Ma. Maybe he is tired of cat food la."

And then there was adorable Mimi, a real misnomer, for Mimi turned out to be male. I still don't know how I could have mistaken his gender. Mimi had the endearing habit of waiting by the door to bid me goodbye every morning and he would wait until I was out of sight before going back in.

Over time, Mimi developed a close bond with our Chinese neighbour's dog, one of those miniature breeds, the name of which I can't recall. He would spend hours at the neighbour's house every day to play with the dog and would come home only late in the evening.

When the dog went for its daily walk with its owner, Mimi would follow. It was a wonder to see them together; they were like soul mates. My neighbour even prepared a basket for Mimi to sleep over, which he did a lot.

When my family was preparing to move to Subang Jaya, the neighbour requested that Mimi be left with them to keep their dog company. We loved Mimi dearly - he was my first 'baby' in Bangsar - but I felt so guilty for being selfish that I consented to their request.

Although we had over 20 cats at that time, parting with Mimi was heartbreaking. I dropped by to see Mimi almost weekly after moving and was happy to note she was doing well. As God willed it, Mimi died suddenly six months later due to a respiratory ailment.

But the loss of another cat, Jacques, affected me deeply. You could say Jacques was my favourite because he was the only one who stuck close to me at all times. He was also the only one who shared my bed, sleeping on his back in the crook of my arm.

Jacques had a quiet disposition. He found comfort in my lap and occasionally draped himself on my shoulder while I worked at the computer, read or watched TV.

Jacques developed the jitters for cars since a speeding car once ran over him, crushing a leg. That resulted in him having a metal rod inserted into the leg. Since the incident he refused to step out of the house.

One day, however, he went missing. We searched the neighbourhood for days, to no avail. I could only hazard a guess; he could have been mowed down by a speeding vehicle or he could have fallen into a fast-flowing drain and drowned. I remember crying for days over him and I still feel a twinge of pain at his memory.

Yet another cat that loomed large in our lives was a grey-coloured tom we named Yasser, after Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Yasser was a real sunshine; a born leader and a people-pleaser. Sadly, he was struck with cat leukaemia at age five (that's 35 in human years) and died soon after.

There had always been cats in my house from the time I was born, until recently, when we moved to this condo where the keeping of pets is strictly forbidden. There are times when I feel lost and lonely and yearn for feline company to cuddle and talk to. Yes, just like some people talk to their plants, I talked to my cats.

Soon after moving here, I noticed a grey-brown tomcat lurking around in the basement car park. He looked well-fed and didn't mind me patting his head, so he must be familiar with human kindness. I look out for him each time I go to the car park; it makes my day just to catch sight of him...


Royalshoppingarcade said...

I too was brought up with lots of cats until the birth of my first son.The last cat I had was called Salty (i kind of like to name my cats with name ending with 'ty', just don't ask why..hehehe). He sort of knew that I would soon have a brand new 'baby' and would be too buzy to attend to him. He sort of got sickly and wondered off and we never saw him ever again. I remembered ferrying him bck and forth in our satria to my inlaws whenever we went back to visit them.
I don't have cats anymore since I have 3 boys that keeps me on my toes all the time. But recently my hubby asked if I wanted to have a cat as a pet since my children could learn to care for another being,but I don't think I'd have the energy and would not want to offend the neighbours if the cat sort of 'pooed' in their house area. But yes, I love cats.Just can't have them as pets anymore.

Puteri Kamaliah At-Tarawis said...

Cats are so loveable, aren't they? they may have poo 'accidents' every now and then but if you train them well, they are usually alright. when i had lots of cats, my first task every morning was to scoop their poo from the cat litter ...hehehe