28 January 2006

'Our' Cats

To me cats seem to be the most agreeable pet in the world, they are very low maintenance. You don't have to walk a cat and they are smart enough to not leave turds halfway between the bedroom and the bathroom for you to slide in on your way to a night session.
Unfortunately our lifestyle with a lot of travel doesn't really lend itself to pets, but we have been lucky to have some 'extra low' maintenance cats in our life.

In Perth (Australia) we had at least three neighbour cats come visiting on a regular basis. To begin with I think they just dropped in to drop something in themselves. See, there is no real soil in Perth, it's all sand. The house we bought had been a rental property where nobody had bothered looking after the garden and was essentially just one big sandbox, a cats paradise in toilet facilities. After we made up the garden the cats would still come by and instead of fertilising the soil they would spend a few hours sleeping on our new timber deck. Great company for us and when they grew hungry they would just leave and go home to be fed there.

In Singapore there's thousands of stray cats. I guess they keep the rats down a bit, at least the ones that are not as big as the cats. Eating out is cheap in Singapore so after work we often opted to eat out instead of cooking at home after a long days work. One night I was sitting on a bench under our apartment block, waiting for the wife to come so that we could walk over to the local food centre for dinner. A small red/ginger cat came over towards me looking very distressed and meowing like cats do when they recognise a sucker that might feed them. It looked like it just had its tail chopped off, it wasn't bleeding but it was clearly a fresh wound. It only had about five centimeters of the tail left.
A lot of the cats in Singapore seem to have either chopped of tails or broken ones, it could be done by cruel people or perhaps by accident, I don't know. Most people actually seem to like the stray cats and since most of the cats are very friendly towards humans, they must be well treated most of the time.
The cat was more distressed than hungry and when I started petting her she calmed down. When the wife came the cat was sleeping on the bench beside me. We left the cat and had our dinner never expecting to see it again. But the next day she was there again and this time she followed us up to our apartment, this happened a few times and we began to feed her once in a while. She never really grew dependent on us and there would sometimes be a week between her visits, which suited us well since we where taking every opportunity to go traveling in Malaysia on long weekends. When she was around she would spend most of the time sleeping in a chair while we were watching TV, getting a break from the rough life on the streets.
I fell into the habit of calling the cat: "Lille Skiderik" which is Danish for: "Little Shithead", my wife didn't like that name one bit so we stretched our imaginations as far as they would go and came up with the very original name of: "The Cat". If she was around in the morning she would follow me half way down to the MRT (train) always stopping at the same point, looking after me until I disappeared around a corner. I guess it must have been the limit of her territory.
One day we realised that The Cat was pregnant when we noticed she was struggling more and more getting through the bars at our entrance door.
In Singapore everybody has bars in front of their doors and windows, making apartment blocks look like minimum security prisons. This is in the country with the lowest crime rate in the world. I guess it comes down to the general paranoia of the Chinese culture, but come on! Who's gonna break in through the window twelve floors up?
Well where was I? One day... yada yada yada... The Cat pregnant... yada yada yada... trouble getting through the bars. Ah there we are... Late one night The Cat was behaving weird and was trying to get us to follow her and we did. Thanks to the low crime rate in Singapore you feel safe everywhere regardless of the time of night, so taking a walk at half past eleven was no worry at all. The Cat lead us across the neighbourhood to a nearby buddhist temple, she could just squeeze through the pillars that made up the surrounding walls but we couldn't. She came back out looking very disappointed that we didn't follow her and went back in. We had to give up getting in there with her as the gates to the temple was closed for the night. We went back home and shortly after she showed up back home as well. She refused to come inside and just sat there on the doorstep meowing. She was clearly ready to give birth and was frustrated that we wouldn't follow her. In the end I found a cardboard box and placed it on the patio outside our door and she crawled inside.
The next morning we found her there in the cardboard box with three kittens. One looked just like the mother red/ginger with stripes and a white belly, another was all red/ginger and the third one was all white. From then on it was a constant struggle to keep The Cat from dragging the kittens into our bedroom closet. They ended up taking residence in the neighbours shoe rack, that they kept just outside their door. At first I was worried that our neighbours, an Indonesian woman and her two grown up daughters, would take offence at the four cats suddenly residing where they kept their shoes, but they took to them as well. I had to hose down the patio two or three times a week to get rid of the stench of cat piss, but I didn't mind. Eventually the kittens grew up and left to find their own place in the world. The white one disappeared long time before any of the two other kittens and we suspect it was kitnapped (he he) by people who thought it would look good with an all white cat around the house.
The Cat did get another litter but this time she was better prepared. We never found out where she kept them this time round. Once in a while she would turn up with one of the kittens for us to see only to take it away again after a couple of hours. We thought she might have kept them a few floors up higher than ours, because we would sometimes see her coming down the stairs. This litter had the same colours as the litter before.

We have been back to Singapore several times since and a couple of times we have been out to our old neighbourhood in Tampines. We half hoped to see The Cat again, but we never did.

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