Monday 26 March 2012

Stacy The Cat

Growing up, my family have kept insects, dogs, squirrels, fishes, tortoises, rabbits and cats. The most recent being cats. All of them were strays that had been rescued. Some are gorgeous (like this white Persian with a local face) while others are just, well, local. But all of them have their own personalities.

There's one who likes to chase people and swipe their ankles when offended. It's a good thing that she is rather fat (hormonal situation) or else we would be hobbling from some leg wound or other. Another likes to 'talk' or complain, rather, whenever cajoled to go to the toilet or move from her perch. Seriously, what's there to complain for a cat that sleeps all day?

My mom and sis have spent much of their free time looking after strays. Once, they even fed ex-kampong dogs so they would be less feral and become dangerous. But many times, I've come across such dogs who are more afraid of us than we, them.

To do what they have done, one needs to have a deep-seated love for animals. But to them, a neighbourhood without animals is like a garden without butterflies. It's just rather lifeless. They believe children are better off growing up in such a 'natural' environment. And it's true: Compassion in kids start from being kind to animals. I should know; I was brought up like that.

Although I've kept and learnt much about animals (especially cats), there are still some surprises left. I was reminded of an incident when I visited my mom.

I was wearing a rather seasoned tee-shirt when I appeared at her house. Not only was it faded, it was rather full of holes. My mom was wondering why I didn't throw it away. Well, you know how old tee-shirts are, I said. They are super comfortable! But that was only a partial explanation. The real reason behind my procrastination was that that tee-shirt held an important memory for me.

I once rescued a very young cat that was truly one-of-a-kind.

She was nothing unusual in sight. You would probably have seen a number of her kind of local tabby with light brown shorthair and stripes. But she had a rather pretty face.

I stay on the 13th floor and she had wandered to my apartment and meowed outside.

Since I stayed so high, I figured she must have come from a neighbour. I knocked on their doors to check but no one claimed ownership. I decided then to look after her for a while till I found her a good home. I named her Stacy, after a smilar cat of my mother's. But this Stacy was a lot more friendly.

I know Stacy's breed quite well. They are known for their climbing skill and good balance. They are also very excellent in catching prey. In temperament, they are wild-like and impatient and can be said to be rather independent. However, since Stacy was feral, she could display other traits. I decided to watch and learn.

Since my custody of Stacy was altruistic and at best temporary, I decided to keep her outside my apartment. Home for her would be a basket in a rack by the side staircase. I put up a curtain to shield her from prying eyes and for privacy.

I also prepared a litterbox for her convenience. I kept tabs on whether she was using it or not. She was.

But even so, a neighbour complained that she was peeing and dumping all over. I was surprised. On checking, it turned out to be only partially true. She was peeing and crapping at certain neighbours, one of whom I thought was deserving. The lady of that apartment was unfriendly and snobbish - the kind of folks my mother would describe as "having eyes fixed on their foreheads" - meaning they looked down on other people.

Although I put Stacy's toilet behaviour as something akin to teritorial marking, I decided to train her to do her business downstairs.

I asked her to follow me as we took the lift down. I was surprised that she did. More amazing was how calm she was walking into the lift. It was as if she was walking into a room, not a mechanical contraption.

During the ride down, she sat down beside me, calm-like. And when the lift doors opened she gave me a look of expectancy. I said "Come on, girl" and motioned her out. She followed obediently.

It was the same when we walked along the void deck; she did not stray far away, always at arm's length. When I sat down on a bench and motioned for her to sit beside me, she jumped up immediately.

I have seen people take a cat for a walk; they were always on a leash. Cats are like rabbits. They don't take kindly to new environments and would panic and hide. But not Stacy. If she was nervous, she hid it well. She came across as more curious than alarmed. And I could tell she was really sticking close to me. Perhaps that's the reason: She trusted that I would look after her.

Often times, when she wanted to stray from 'our' bench, she would look to me for permisison. Each time, I would gently put her down and say: "Go, it's alright." And she would go off sniffing and exploring.

When it was time to go home, I just had to call her name once. She would come bounding back.

At the very first few times that we ventured out together, I would walk her back up to my apartment - all thirteen floors. My intention was to let her know her way back. Well, she's a cat. I didn't expect her to take the lift all the time!

Although that familiarisation exercise was useful, it also got me worried. Stacy would disappear for hours on end. And if you know cats, you would know that they have a roaming radius of about seven kilometres at night. I often kept my fingers crossed hoping nothing untoward had happen to her. I was like the worried father of a teenage daughter out on her first date.

But in the end, she would turn up again not worse for wear.

Neighbours from the lower floors would tell me that they had seen her checking them out. She would pop her head through their iron gates. She was a curious cat who liked to travel!

It was not only the neighbour's attention that she caught. A tom cat came up one night and wanted to mount her. That brought on a cat fight that woke up the nighbours. It was quite incredulous that a tomcat had climbed thirteen floors to be amorous. Perhaps it is true the male species will do anything to get laid.

Because of that, I had little choice but to bring her into my house to stay, not withstanding the slight allergy I have to cats that had developed in my later years. Although it was something Stacy had wanted since Day One (after a meal, she would always hanker to come into my house), she would still want to go out for her nightly jaunts.

That's quite impossible because I like to keep a clean house, and cannot tolerate a cat coming and going out of the door. Unless Stacy wore booties, she would bring back all sorts of germs.

Once Stacy realised going out was impossible, her demeanor changed. Once lively, she now looked bored. She would spend her  days sitting atop the sofa looking puffed with that "so-is-it-going-to-be-like-this-from-now?" expression. - Like someone fat who has given up on exercise.

So, I was finally glad when someone did turn up to adopt her - a young man who was crazy about cats and lived on landed property.

But on the day of our parting, she clung on to me unwilling to go. Her sharp, reluctant claws made holes in my tee-shirt, the same one I wore to my mother's place.

I hugged and rocked her like a baby and spoke softly into her ear: "You've got a good home now, and you can run free. Go, it's alright."

Hearing that seemed to calm her down, and she got into the pet carrier without further trouble.

A month later, she came back to visit. By then, she had bonded with the new owner, whom I could tell was as charmed by her as I was.

Seeing her leave the first time was painful. The second time was bittersweet because I know she had found a good home but also that I won't see her again. Giving up Stacy was extra difficult - it's as if I had let a soulmate go. I think it is quite impossible for me to ever meet a cat quite like her ever again.

Next story: Dummies in Retail


  1. I enjoyed reading about about Stacy the cat. I can't believe you gave her up though!

    1. @Yan: Yes, it is still a sore point with me. But at the time, I was allergic to her fur so keeping her was out of the question. I can only console myself with finding her a good home. :-)