“Cat ke sudhu pass away hoye jete hoy na
Se tomar du bari pore giye settle korbe
Tar aro onek cat friends hobe
Aar tomake suspiciously treat korbe
Kintu abar onno biral der moto indifferent-o hobe na
O tomake niye curious hobe kintu tumi oke niye kono curiosity dekhate parbe na
Cats are very independent minded
They will decide if they want you or not”
“A cat doesn’t simply have to pass away
He can go settle two buildings away from you
He will have many other cat friends
And will treat you suspiciously
But again, will not be indifferent like the others
He will be curious about you but you dare not show curiosity about him
Cats are very independent minded
They will decide if they want you or not”
This humbling of human egos, yep, this is what I love about the Macavity-s of the world. (Sorry for the political incorrectness, the quoted words from my sister’s letter, in translation, apply just as well to the ‘she-s’ of the tribe.)
I’ve long wanted to write about them, my respect for the species is unbridled, but been lazy, not unlike my subject. Indolence is a wrong accusation laid at their door; look into their blinking pupils, you will see the inner gate to a mind deep in busy thoughts, one to which they’ll never hand you the key. Those that know me as a dog person, alongside those that have never had the privilege to live with both these non-human kinds, couldn’t possibly realise, you can never be a cat person. Unless the cat decided you’re eligible to be its ward.
You cannot ever own a cat – a stupid presumption that you can be ‘owner’ to any sentient being. Unlike a dog or human child whose guardian you may boast of being, it is the cat which firmly takes you under its tutelage.
Holds you by its gentle but decisive paw.
Not for them the stupid, blind faith of a dog, so often betrayed; the tail wagging, boot-and-everything-else licking subjugation of soul: holy mother of God, their spirits were put upon the earth to teach humankind a thing or two about freedom; that utterly miserable jumping up and down at the first sight of you, how so very uncouth is that! They would pitter patter their luscious lashes, then if they feel it worth enough, rise slowly – very slowly – stretch all their cells into a perfect taut arc, jump down to a Nadia Comaneci landing from the perch (cats have a flawless talent for spotting high ground, nothing but a throne or tower would do to oversee the world go about its bumbling ways) and move nimbly to you, decline to rub itself against you, make wispy figures of eight between your gawky ankles.
By now you’ve melted to that very anatomy in gratitude at having been accepted.
A cat in motion is as much royalty as I could hope to catch sight of in my ordinary life. Each last one of them knows himself related to the jungle-dwelling cousin. That shoulder muscle waving from side to side with each flick of the paw, oh my, I could pen several poems on those steps
To watch a cat move is to witness the adagio in Swan Lake.
A cat never walks, it glides. Except for the last few leaps while striding across a hectic road, when its reign on the land is rudely overruled by the screeching nearness of a tyre or an irate honking. That so many of them are done under the wheels, is the curse of evolution fast outpacing them, with more junk in the name of mechanical progress, and thoughtless, reckless out-of-control humans, too harried to tell Life is more than speeding from one end to reach another.
Graciously courageous, the cat will not curse you for your ignorance, it knows, being human, you are cursed as it is. Bertrand Russell, in his Road to Happiness, said wisely:
“We imagine ourselves more different from the animals than we are. Animals live on impulse, and are happy as long as external conditions are favourable. If you have a cat it will enjoy life if it has food and warmth and opportunities for an occasional night on the tiles.”
That is an observation worth its weight in golden cat fleece. “Your needs are more complex than those of your cat, but they still have their basis in instinct.”
Russell, followed by dogs, came into my life much earlier than cats, but watching several of the latter up close, am in no doubt about the philosopher’s sagacity. He knew what he was talking about, well trained by his pussy, am sure.
What I’m no longer certain of is, whether a puppy is more fetching than a kitten. The latter have their extreme vulnerability, and mild submission, that tickles your inherent parental instincts out from hiding. It finds its feet faster, grows more confident in its prowess, more daring in invading, and ruling, spaces defying its entry. Only a cat can dare challenge a household infested by five angry dogs, to come sleep on the washing machine every nightfall. A doggy slap or two is no match for such cussed wilfulness.
You weep the kittens you could not save single-handed from collective canine vandalism. Someone got his guts ripped and died on the operation table of a conscientious vet, having sheltered under a stationary car that lived to its ‘zero to hundred in one second flat’ tagline, dragging your gentle good fellow’s gore and life-force heavenwards.
Why didn’t it know better? You mourn all your life. Why was it so naïve?
It is you who plague yourself with remorse, that incarnation of nine births is tripping someone else up somewhere, unmoved by your longing.
The deepest mysteries of life, learning to let go, balancing detachment with extreme attachment, a cat will teach you. ‘Animal lovers’ – a loathful pompous title – come in many shades, but in my book, one who loves a cat has reached the highest levels of enlightenment. This human is the truest such lover, resigned to accepting that it has no control over a wandering wind, holding his palpitating heart on the edge, but never forcing protectiveness on the footloose fancy of the other.
My current lifestyle and economy forbids a dog companion, but yearning for non-human presence, a circus I prefer over the demented human one, I’ve decided to ‘get’ a cat (another of those conceited human verbs.) Worrying how its eventual mortality will pain my sensitive nine year old, who is too young and wounded to understand the intense life lesson this passing will teach him, that first death, oh it jolts you, I shared my predicament with my sister, another ‘rescued’ human, who thus replied.
Watching the orderly breakfast congregation outside our kitchen backdoor each morning, the spiting of those heinous canines pussyfooting through the latters’ territory – a dog barks her head off, half out from the window in agitation, while the object of wrath dolefully peers at her from the safety of the boundary wall five feet away, creating loads of noise pollution but also pure comedy – some in playful imitation of prudent convivial dogs growing more dog-like in their manners, chubby tabbies preening in the sunshine of the unkempt grassland in my back garden, no, I cannot have enough.
One of the most uplifting moments of my entire human existence was when a thin kitten came into my arms, in a beachside tea stall, and promptly fell into deep trusting sleep, chin on my shoulder.
No citation, award, words of praise will measure up to those fifteen minutes of profound self-worth I felt, sitting very still, its soft lifting breath dictating mine, watching the roll of waves, in unhurried surrender.