The cat who loved hide-and-seek

Did I tell you I love cats? I love cats. And most other animals who don’t get a ‘She’s-the-next-meal’ grin when they see me.

Anyway, so I love cats. And they love me back too! (Haha, I wish! What I mean to say is, they have often come seeking refuge at my door. With cats, you can never claim they love you – unless, of course, you’re my mom).

Recently – in September 2008 – I lost my most recent and, perhaps, best-loved cat ever. His first name was Kittypaws and he seemed to know how effeminate it sounded coz he never answered to it. But then, he didn’t give any inkling of his gender identity until fairly late in the day (more on this some other time). As a compromise, he answered to the name of ‘Picky’ or ‘Picku’ – if you could do a decent imitation of my mother’s voice, that is. If not, he would still know he was being summoned – his ears would cock and relax in a ‘I-heard-ya’ fashion – but no way was he coming back to you.

Well, so Picky had arrived as a newly-rescued, teeny weeny kitten late one November night, shivering all over and refusing to sit anywhere but in people’s laps where he could lap up your body warmth. He hated driving – sorry, riding – in the car and would meow loudly (actually, it wasn’t loud to begin with. He would start with a soft meow and build it up to a crescendo if you kept ignoring it). Here’s a picture of him riding at the back of the car, thoroughly pissed off and refusing to say cheese for the camera. And there’s another one of him grabbing a nap in his favorite spot next to the window, with sunlight streaming right in at him.

The best thing about Picky, apart from his superfine well-groomed fur, was his intelligence. And I don’t say this as an attached pet owner; I say this as one MENSA member acknowledging the same traits in another (haha, MENSA indeed…but you get what I mean!). I kid you not, but he invented games and used tools. I mean, you and I know all about hide-and-seek but a kitten coming up with it on his own? Well, that’s how smart he was. Hell, he even used his claws as hooks, reeling in fish swimming in a gigantic bowl in the kitchen sink. Of course the fish were dead but if you got the faucet running and churned the water a little, no cat would be able to tell the difference. Given how much cats hate water, Picky’s fishing expeditions were a serious achievement, right up there with the cat that used toilet paper to wipe it’s a** (No, that didn’t really happen. See? I told you – no cat as intelligent as this one!)

Well, so the point is, we lost him. Most of all, my mum, who had come to be regarded as his mum (by him as well as by all the under-seven kids in the building). One windy evening, he sauntered into the garden for a ramble and was pounced upon by a large stray dog instead. No one saw it happen – except a lady who saw it from her balcony high up in another part of the building.

When I do think of it (all the time), I picture him sniffing a wildflower among the grass. He doesn’t know what’s creeping up behind him and I prefer not to visualize it either. The next moment, there he is, lying bleeding on the grass, thinking frantically about seeing his mother (mine too) for the last time ever. Of course it didn’t happen; she never saw him again.

But every time I pass the garden, I see him stuck high up in a tree, not sure whether to ascend further or descend with a thud. When I see his favorite car in its parking slot – one which he’d always sat on the roof of, but never rode – I softly call out to him, using my best imitate-thy-mother voice. And though I believe in rebirth and the moving-on of souls, I will still always picture him there, looking smugly down at the big scary dogs from his perch on top of the huge red car. Now that, he loved.