"My Stray Cat" is a linguistic contradiction since stray cats by definition don't belong to anyone. But I have come to regard "Catty" [that's the unimaginative name I gave her] as mine, and we have known each other for more than a year. There she sits every day on the footpath that leads to the bus stop from several blocks of apartments. And that's how I came to be acquainted with her on my way to work in the morning and on my way home in the evening. Catty is not a beautiful cat, unlike Lucy the cat at the marketplace, the feline equivalent of Marilyn Monroe, wearing a collar set with Rhinestones and sexily purring her way into everyone's heart . Nor has she an adorable disposition, like Tom, the cute cat who loves to sit in places with a good view, his head poking out between the iron railings of the staircase and giving you a welcoming meow. Catty, is a dour, morose cat. You never see Catty prancing about, playing with twigs and leaves or even enjoying a good snooze. Her demeanour does remind me of the former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
She has no interest at all in food. While other cats gather to anxiously await the coming of the lady who feeds stray cats at 8 pm, sitting around in a tight circle and licking their lips, Catty sits far away from the crowd. And the cat-feeding lady has to bring the food to Catty instead. When food is placed before her, she eats without gusto but in a functional way, and nearly always not finishing her portion.
Yet, I like her best of all, although I know the feeling is not mutual. But in her inimitable way she shows that she at the very least tolerates me by allowing me to pick her up , carry her in my arms and talk to her. Once in a while she utters a meow, though I am not sure what this meow is meant to convey to me. But such blissful moments are shortlived. Within two minutes, Catty will start writhing out of my arms to jump down to the floor. I have noticed that one way to prolong her time in my arms, is to turn her over so that she faces me. Then she is content to just lie there and listen to what I am saying to her, though of course still not more than for five minutes. I postulate that she has vertigo [fear of heights]. When she is in my arms looking down, she panics, but when facing up looking at the sky, she is alright. In fact I think that Catty is neurotic in many ways. For example, I think she also has low self-esteem. She doesn't so much walk around as slink around, heavy with inferiority complex. When she sees other cats coming into her territory, she will slink away, to hide behind a bush and watch them. She doesn't have the self-confidence to either confront or welcome them. Instead, a bullying cat will occasionally chase Catty away from her homeground. Times like this call for divine human intervention. So I will chase away the invading cat and bring Catty out of the bushes, and calm her quivering body by petting her and talking to her in a comforting voice.
Every day, when I see her from afar, I call out her name. But she never even turns her head, and simply ignores me. The only consolation I get is that she does not run away as I approach (that would be a definite sign that she doesn't like me]. So what happens after I put her back on the ground or on a bench? On her good mood days, she will stay with me, sitting down beside me, vigorously swishing her tail from side to side. (I wonder what that means in Cat language?). And while I go on babbling to her, she will resume her look- straight- ahead pose, until one of us gets bored and say good bye or good night.
It has been five days since I last saw Catty. The lady who feeds the stray cats has not seen her too. This is serious. Although I know that relationships with stray cats cannot last, and inevitably one day they will be gone, still as I walk to and from the bus stop, I nurse the hope that somehow Catty will re-appear. But with each passing day, the probability of my hope being fulfilled diminishes.