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Voicing Silence 7

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cat O' Nine Tales

I have never had a pet. Except for one day when I was five or six when I picked up a kitten from a warehouse I had gone to visit with someone (why, I cannot recall). We cannot have the kitten at home, I was told categorically and was to go drop it back where it came from for its mum must be missing it by now. My desperate pleadings went unheeded and I climbed sobbing on to the front end of the scooter while an uncle (I imagine) took his place in the driver's seat. I was handed a large bag made out of rexine with the mewing fur ball inside. I was instructed to hold on to it tight and I did so accordingly all the way back to the warehouse where I left it reluctantly to fend for itself.

I have never been tempted to buy or adopt a pet since. I have very little interest in them and after the children, I have come to see pets as another responsibility I can do without. Every now and then, my younger son asks me about having a pet and the conversation goes like this:

Him: Amma, can we have a dog?
Me: No.
Him: A cat, then?
Me: No.
Him: A hamster? A rabbit? Or at least a rat?
Me: No, no and yuck, no.
Him: So what can I have for a pet?
Me: Look, there goes an ant...
Him (on all fours, talking to the floor): Come here, buddy...

A few days ago, a neighbour knocked on our door to wonder if we can look after their cat. I told her that I had never had a pet before but with enough instructions, I could do a fair job. Plus, it would give the boys something to do over these interminable days of summer. So that's what we have been doing these past few days. Feeding and playing with Archie.

He is a docile house cat who resolutely resists any attempt to be taken out of the four walls, he wouldn't even venture out into the garden. He is easily startled and runs into hiding where he remains, sometimes for hours, until he is gently coaxed out. He can be very, very hungry but he would still want to be petted and stroked and given attention to first before having his food. And his food...for a lifelong vegetarian, it took some effort not to retch at the smell of it. It comes out of a pouch but god, it stinks. Archie is also very well house-trained and does it business in a small litter tray behind the door which I dutifully clean up.

The boys don't want him to feel lonely, so insist on looking him up several times a day, even introducing our friends to him. It is a real joy to see the boys treat him with such tenderness. If I am late to feed him, they worry about him going hungry. My younger son who it turns out, is sensitive to cat hair (he came out in a rash the other day), takes toys around to play with him while the older one teaches him to dance to Ganganam style.

Oppan, Gangnam style!

After this, experience you would think I would have softened my stance on the no-pet rule. You're right, the next time I am asked about having a pet, I might relent and say yes to a pet snail - of which we have no shortage in our garden.

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