31 May 2006

My Cat, Her Story

It was very bitter. I was in my room upstairs, and when I heard my maid talking loudly to my grandfather in Malay, my heart froze. There was a feeling of disbelief, like something distant disconnected. I wanted myself to believe that it wasn't true... maybe she was talking about something else, but it was so unlikely.

She asked me before that if I knew where the cat was. I did not see the cat that morning. She then went around calling for her, but the cat never appeared.

My heart froze, because while I do not understand Malay, I do know what the word mati means...

In late 2002, the cat appeared in our house. I think it was around November, I cannot be sure. She was a small kitten then, approaching warily, begging for food. We fed her with a bit of the leftovers we had for dinner, and my grandmother put her by the gates, sort of as a way to urge her to leave. She left.

The next day, she came back. Begging for food once more. We again fed her with some leftover, but this time we did not put her by the gates. From that moment on, unofficially, she took up residence in this home.

She was a tabby cat (more precisely, a brown mackerel tabby) with grey fur if one looks from far, but upon close observation, I could see a mixture of black, yellow and white fur. Around her upper limbs were stripes of very pale yellow and black. It looked more like the stripes of a tiger than a zebra if you were to disregard the colour.

The most prominent feature of her appearance was her L-shaped tail, which stood up naturally, thus revealing her ass most of the time. I believe the shape was a result of her skeletal structure. Touching it with my hands, in the first part of the 'L' (which connected to the body), I could feel something hard, which I presume was the bone. The other part (which was the end of the tail) had only flesh.

Her eyes were light yellow in colour. I often watched in amazement how her pupils can stretch from a slit to a complete circle. They were so beautiful.

A vehicle must've knocked her head. One of her eyeballs were protruding halfway out the sockets. It was stained with blood. It was so horrifying.

My maid shouted for me from downstairs and told me that the cat died. My mother, while going to the supermarket, apparently found her and called back home. Feeling a bit disoriented and foreboding, I set off after my maid.

I did not spay my cat initially. So she mated with some other cats that used to loiter in the neighbourhood, and had her own kittens. It must've been an ordeal for her, since during the last week of gestation, I was in BMT. I had never been so long away from her before that.

She had three kittens. All had the same coat as her, though all had their own distinctive features. Some had short tails while others had a stub. Some had black patches on their faces and some had white "socks".

My brother brought two of them to his NTU hall (when they were old enough), as my mother said that perhaps four cats was a bit of a crowd. At first they were quite well-received by the people there, but soon after they disappeared. I guess that someone brought them home or to a cat shelter.

The other kitten was kept at home. The mother and son grew very close bond, despite occasional and minor disputes which were settled with a few hisses. Shortly after the mother gave birth, I got her spayed. But her kitten, a male, was not spayed, despite the fact that I wanted to. I wasn't at home most of the time because of NS, so I asked my mother to do it for me (she also brought the mother cat to the vet for spaying) but my mother said that the male cat shouldn't be spayed as it would reduce its ferocity against intruding cats. Naturally, when the time came, he began exploring and expanding his territory, and finally, when he was about one years old, he disappeared.

I could remember the day he disappeared: it was the second day of the Chinese New Year of 2004. I felt rather sad that time, but not as miserable as now, probably because it was rather gradual (for a few days, I was expecting him to return) and I do not know what happened to him.

After he was gone, the mother had been living alone with us.

The cat was just across a street. It was lying still against the kerb. All the time I had been hoping against hope that my mother had identified the wrong cat. But as I crossed the road, I recognised the L-shaped tail.

There was an odd feeling... as if the world has sunk into a surreal state. I did not break down at that moment, I did not cry. Somehow I knew what to do. The instructions were clear in my head, though my head was not clear.

I gently lifted her body and slid a bag over her head. Then I pulled the bag over her body and lifted it up. I passed it over to my maid. We then returned home.

All the time, I dare not look at her from the front. I was standing from behind, and I could see one of her eyeballs were protruding halfway out the sockets. It was stained with blood. It was so horrifying.

The cat has a temporal sleeping locations. For a time she liked the long armchair and doormat downstairs. Then there was a time she preferred the corner of my bed (which was a bit of a problem, since she left lots of fine fur wherever she slept). And then for a long time she liked my couch (for so long that I took a lot of photos of her different sleeping positions). There was once when she slept on a dusty shelf in the store room, such that when she emerged she was, on her sleepy face, full of dust. There were many other places that she slept, many of which I probably did not know. Recently, she preferred the red armchair I'm now sitting on.

The red armchair... yes... she had always liked to jump onto my lap while I was on the armchair. Sometimes she'd miaow pleadingly before leaping on, and sometimes she'd just suddenly plop on my lap without warning, giving me a fright. But always, she'd leap from the floor, through under the armrest, never missing her target. It was only lately that she developed the habit of, after some time of comfortable stroking, stepping off my lap onto the chair itself and digging her head behind my back, prompting me to get off so she could have the chair all to herself.

Like all cats, she displayed signs of contentment when being stroked. I found that she liked being stroked on her head, her neck (both the back and the underside) as well as along her spine. Sometimes she'd even tilt or lift her head so that I can more easily reach the desired parts. However, she never purred when contented (though she does when there's something hostile nearby) but she'd usually given those kind of pleasing miaow, soft and prolonged, and her eyes were usually closed or half-closed. And sometimes when she needs attention, she'd give an extremely prolonged miaow (up to a few seconds), quite analogous to a person stretching the word "please", at the same time throwing a look that probably could be best described by that of Puss-In-Boots in Shrek 2.

I helped my maid wrap the cat's body in plastic bags. More precisely, I helped to hold the bags while she wrapped. I felt numb. Everything sounded so distant. There was this hollow feeling swelling like a flood. I staggered up to my room, closed the doors and lay on the bed. I cried.

It was so painful... there was this sour burning in my throat with every breath I took. It was just so terrible... so confusing... so disorientating. I managed to calm myself down a few times, only to break down again.

Till this day I will always wonder why the cat ventured out of the house. I've never seen her do that. Maybe she did it only at night when no one was looking. Maybe that was her first time doing it...

I've pretty much gotten over the initial pain now... what's left is just some ebbing sadness, which will probably dissipate with time. Things will have to go on... move on... without her.

1 comment:

ZenEkz said...

Guess the last thing u can do for her is to give her a proper burial. Take Care Bro...