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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Black Cat

In memory of my pet cat, whose affectionate ways I still miss.

In Bengali Hindu culture, black cats are considered inauspicious and harbinger of bad news; at least, it was, in the community where I grew up. My father encouraged me to question superstitions and think rationally:  how could the pigmentation of an animal be responsible for unrelated events?

I already had a male Japanese Spitz named Snowy. He was 10 years old when a black kitten found its way into our home. I think she started with foraging for leftovers from Snowy's dinner bowl. One day, when Snowy was in a foul mood, she tried to steal from him again. He gave her a chase, and she hid under our fridge. I heard him bark incessantly, and decided to see what the ruckus was about.

I prostrated myself on the ground and saw the poor thing - smaller than a rat. She looked scared and I feared she might have a heart attack. Snowy just wouldn't stop. I took him to another room, closed the door and offered a saucer full of milk to the kitten. After much coaxing, she appeared, hardly able to walk - a tiny baby. I wondered where her mother was.  I asked her.

But she seemed content to lap up the milk as fast as she could, and to show gratitude, she rubbed herself at my feet. I picked her up and petted her. She needed to be cleaned. Snowy had stopped barking.

A few days passed, she stayed on. No one ever came to claim her. And she became quite friendly with Snowy too. In the winter, she slept in his lap. Many times, I saw Snowy wake up before her but he didn't move lest he would wake her. He took his paternal duties quite seriously.

She demanded PDA frequently; hopped onto my chest when I lay on my back, massaged me with her paws, sniffed my lips, and licked me clean whenever I allowed her. It was her way of saying she owned me. I gave in most of the times, but it was worrisome when I had to study and she jumped on my study table and curled up on the book I had just opened, refusing to budge an inch until I petted her to her heart's content. My parents didn't make any fuss, but some of our neighbors reminded us constantly of the myths associated with a black cat. I felt furious but I couldn't change what they chose to believe, so I kept quiet. Sometimes, I argued that she wasn't completely black, she had some white fur on her chest- like that would help.

She grew up to be a gorgeous cat. Her fur was glossy from the healthy food, and she took great care in grooming herself. Her vanity grew when suitors tried to woo her. We often wondered who she would choose- one was a rough looking tomcat, another a baby-faced singer who serenaded her with cat songs at 11 in the night - much to our chagrin. My bet was on the singer.

Soon enough, she had a litter of three kittens. A male we named Simba (her first born who looked like Babyface; we decided to keep him) , and two females we chose to give away. The second kitten was the prettiest I have ever seen, with eyes like Cleopatra- as if someone had drawn her winged eyelids on both sides of her eyes. I wanted to keep her too but it isn't practical, advised my parents.  Dad and I helped Mini  through her motherhood. She gave up her usual bed in favor of a cardboard box we got for her. The kids grew up fast and it was time for two of them to leave.

Snowy passed away owing to old age. And a year later, I left home for my undergrads and my parents moved their residence. I heard it was quite traumatizing for her initially and she hid for days. But she got comfortable with her surroundings eventually and started  going out again. However, one day she vanished from our lives just as she had walked in.

When I visited home, I asked my parents what happened to her, where had she gone, if they had looked for her. Years later, I was told something I choose not to believe : that she was seen  dead by the road. I wondered if someone had run her over, was it dark and they couldn't see her? Did she die a natural death? Was she in pain? I guess I will never know.

Suggested Further Reading:
Why do cats groom people (MNN)

1 comment:

Garuda yali said...

I totally relate to this feelings. I had gone through this..I was generally anti cat fellow.. I loved dogs more than cats till a friend introduced me to her cats. I learnt the life, emotions around the cats. They are different to dogs but they are loving creature. I lost my pet in same way as your but it was too long ago when I was still in school.