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Adieu Pus-Pus (Cat)!
By John B. Monteiro
It has been the providence of nature to give this creature (cat) nine lives instead of one. – Piplay’s Fables.
I wished that this was true when a neighbour phoned me up on June 12 to inform that Pus-Pus, the cat with attractive black and white fur and bushy long tail, had been killed the previous night by some dog or other violent animal which apparently wanted to gobble up four of its freshly delivered kitten in a niche at his residence. His concern was to save the four tiny kitten. Knowing my attachment to Pus-Pus, he asked me if I would look after the lovely kitten? I expressed my inability to do so, explaining that I am already feeding, with curried rice and fresh fish (sardines), thrice a day, eight cats including children and grand-children of Pus-Pus and her cousins through the tom-cat who impregnates local cats with single-minded zeal.
My introduction to, or rater confrontation with, Pus-Pus goes back to about five years. As we were playing our daily after-siesta daily game of cards with our senior-citizen neighbours in the basement foyer of my cottage, I was distracted by a cat jumping up to the window-ledge of the out-house, freshly painted white, leaving brown mud paw marks on the wall. Angered, I chased it away only to see it retrace its way back to the high perch and I again chased it away with a hail of pebbles. By this time it had planted a seed of sympathy in my wife who, in my absence, enticed the cat with fresh sardines from the fridge, calling her Pus-Pus – to which name she has responded ever since. If the wife loves Pus-Pus, can the husband be far behind or does he have a say at al? That association, started on a sour note five years ago, grew into a lovely bond and ended on a sad note on a recent night.
After the unpleasant start and reconciliation, Pus-Pus would be at the door at 6AM as I set out to anchor the Bondel Laughter Club sessions. By then we had started setting aside cooked rice mixed with curry in a bawl to be spread on the periphery of our basement. It would eat it and await my return, after half an hour, pleading for more. Then the idea of feeding fish sprang up and we bought fish specially for the cat.
Pus-Pus was an aristocrat among the group of cats that have since vied for our bounty. She has to be serves separately. She would not allow us to touch or fondle her. In this, she was a little self-serving and would brush against my legs, when I read papers or magazines in the basement, to announce her arrival and request to be served. She would understand my hand-language to indicate there is nothing to serve and would walk to other houses. She had endeared herself to the five contiguous householders who fed her without knowing who else patronised her. She would litter her kitten in one fixed house and as they grew take them to the other households, first holding them by the scruff of their necks, for introduction and food support. It showed its gratefulness by doing sastanganamaskara before moving away after feed.
I had a special bonding with Pus-Pus. But why do I feed the other, up to eight, cats? One of her sons is jet black. There is a saying that black cats crossing your path brings bad luck. When I step out of the door with the rice bawl, they rush to the designated feeding spot with their tails lifted strait, like the hooded cobra. Before they can cross my path I exit the gate. Also, they collectively fertilise my garden where they do their job, first digging the earth a bit, depositing the poop, and covering it up with the mud scooped earlier.
This practice of hiding the poop has a legendary origin. Cat, tiger, lion. leopard and jaguar belong to the same carnivore family –Feldae. The cat was assigned to teach the tiger the tricks of the trade. When the tiger thought it had learnt all the tricks, it pounced on the cat to make a meal out of it. It had not been taught to climb a tree. The agile cat quickly climbed the tree and told the tiger: “You ungrateful wretch – now on you not only not get me, but you will not even get my poop”! That explains cats burying their poop. Though leopards and jaguars are seen lazing on tree trunks, cats can outsmart them.
Coming back to the nine-lives line, Clifford D’Souza, founder and head of Prem Chaya Trust, whose campus at Bajpe rescues and nurses to health scores of stray and sick dogs and cats, says that cats are very vulnerable and die miserable deaths feeding on garbage and putrid fish and meat residues around city markets. Yet, I wish, for the sake of Pus-Pus and my wife Lynette, what Thomas Fuller, English author and divine (1608-1661) says is true: “A cat has nine lives and a woman has nine cats’ lives”.
Reproduced from Deccan Herald - City Herald