The Humanistic Purr
It was after sundown. I was on the terrace, talking to a friend on my cell, lest my mum hear some of the things we were discussing. Well, we were teenagers then, need I say more? I was walking to and fro under the partial shed my mother had had constructed, so we could sit and enjoy the sun in the winters and the rain in the summers. It was raining then. I was about to go sit in a chair when I saw her. She was sitting calmly, half under the chair, and looking at me. I stopped in my tracks, this was my first encounter with her like, up so close. I was intrigued by her stillness and scared by her proximity. Tentatively I took a step forward towards her, inducing no reaction from her. I went and sat down on a chair close to the one she was under, all conversation with my friend forgotten. She kept sitting there looking at me, then turned at looked at the rain. As I was watching mesmerised, she got up and simply walked away, and over the wall. The rain had stopped. This was not to be a single encounter. It was the beginning of a life long love for her and her kind.
I saw her quite often after that, on the terrace. But it was my mother who took the first step, being acquainted with her kind. A few pieces of roti laden with ghee, and she would come sit with us quite often. No longer able to contain myself I once tried to touch her. But it took a few more days and attempts for me to succeed. Since then on I fed her everyday she came, and to her credit not once did she try to enter the house or make any unwanted noises. I still remember the day when I was sitting with her, early in the morning, just before school. She was purring at my toes, when she decided to sit up, stretch and jump into my lap. That day I realised that I had finally earned her trust, and I valued it. Now I could lift her, I could touch her paws, examine her claws, sit within an inch of her face while she lapped at the milk. In some strange way, we were bonded.
She wasn’t exactly stray, someone used to feed her daily, but she never stayed at their place, unless she had to. And that was rare. It was with a delight that I took the news of her pregnancy, my mother having discovered it from her prior experience with these beautiful creatures. Her family had taken care of countless generations of cats. I waited and waited until she stopped coming, making me think something bad must’ve happened to her. I started asking for her till I found someone who knew where she was, and they led me to where she ‘had to stay’.
Her ‘owners’ told me she was supposed to have three kittens. When in labour she had been howling. A man irritated by the noise had kicked her brutally, instantly killing a baby which was born dead, and another which died soon after birth. One grey little kitten was left, the size of about a small rat. My mother had told me kittens are small, but so tiny??? I could fit three in my hand! My mother had also warned me not to touch the kittens if their eyes were closed, or the mother might not recognize them, and so I was shocked to hear that the cat would let some of the owners touch the kitten. I wanted to try.
Very timidly and slowly I moved my hand towards the cat and patted her as she purred in recognition. I then proceeded to touch the sleeping kitten, my fingers were just above the kitten now, and mommy cat was just fine. I touched her after some uncertain moments. That moment when she let me hold her baby will always stay with me, that moment when she trusted me enough to hold that tiny little thing.
The cute little kitten grew up fast, and then I introduced her to my house. She was scared at first, hiding into corners and nooks, but in time she was comfortable, and I only would get her for a few hours. Eventually she would even let me give her the occasional bath, but she would gift me a few scratches too!!! And though I had learnt a lot about cats from her mother, this baby would teach me a lot.
Today as I’m writing this, with a warm feeling in my heart, I remember being unable to understand why people don’t like cats. At first I thought it was superstition, but that was only a facade for the real reasons, reasons that people wouldn’t admit to even themselves. And the most common statement I receive from ‘cat-haters’ is, “They are so selfish!”. Initially confused I would ask them to elaborate. And then I understood.
Cats are not creatures who wag their tail at your every command, they have a fierce sense of independence that only generations and generations of tamed, perverted breeding can stamp out. And unless your’s is one from such a generation, you will never be able to say that you ‘own her’. You might feed her, even give her a place in your house or your blankets, but she will not let you command her. A cat’s trust is very hard to gain, and if you don’t believe me, try feeding a stray cat, and see how much time she takes to even come within a ten feet radius of you. But when you do manage to gain her trust, it is not to have a say over her, it is to be her equal, strange as it may sound. She will let you touch her, pat her, hold her, even tickle her, but only if she wishes. A cat will most likely not jump to your rescue if a burglar comes in, she will not follow you around like a puppy. She will stay who she is, and the only thing she will expect from you is food and love, and love she will return in her ways. And even after this, she will not stay dependent on you, if you refuse to feed her, she will find another place or hunt.
While I agree this may be selfish but isn’t this what humans are like? Most people we meet, think of themselves first, and lets face it, don’t we too? Our sustenance is our priority, and why should it not be? Then why do we hate creatures who are as independent as us? Its quite simple really, because in reality we can’t be as independent as them. We envy them and their freedom. People love dogs, because no matter what dogs will always love you and be there for you, and when I say no matter I mean even if you hit them, mistreat them, lock them up or starve them. Many of us have dogs which are taken care of by servants, we only like them when they are well fed and can stay at our feet or amuse us by their antics. The same goes for birds, we like them caged, at our disposal. Fishes in aquarium, doomed to live in a few square feet of place. Even cows and horses can be tamed and made excellent use of; for our sustenance, our selfish purposes. But who can make cats submit?
A cat never promises its loyalty, it will not even approach you unless you do. It takes hours and days of effort on our part to gain its trust, and we want a payment for out effort. We want to bind it, keep in our house, play with us when we want it to, sit on our laps and sleep in our house. Cats will not do that. And that’s why we hate them. Because we can’t make them as dependent as us. And there in lies the reason why so many of us hate cats.
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