Cats change your life. They bring joy and sometimes a whole cocktail of emotions - frustration, grief, love, pleasure, laughter. They have such unique personalities - each one is SO different. The list goes on.
We had a black and white cat called Cutex which we bought as a kitten only months after arriving back in our home country, South Africa. Cutex wasn't always the easiest cat. She was always hungry!! I used to get so frustrated with her in the kitchen because she nagged me for food constantly. Eventually I got used to it and started to see the humour in it.
She adored dairy. Cheese, butter, cream. Anything with a drop of dairy in it became a treat.
She was also extremely grumpy. Maybe because the last few years of her life, she had allergy and skin problems and didn't like to be touched much. I even tried to cut out dairy from her diet, but somehow she found it and ate it - whether from our plates or in some toast crumbs (with butter). But her grumpiness was funny and I know it sounds mean, but she made us laugh. She was like loving and grumpy at the same time. She used to hold meowing conversations with my husband sometimes. My husband is the resident Dr Doolittle in our home - he has such a way with animals. They all adore him!!
Anyway, she passed away several months back. We still don't know what happened to her but we found her dead in the yard of the people a few houses up from us. Either she was knocked down or attacked and went in there to lie down or her body gave it. She just hadn't been looking good the last few months before she died but there was nothing seriously wrong with her except for the allergies.
My kids really wanted another cat. And so did I. But we were wary. We didn't feel like we could replace Cutex. No, you can never replace a pet. They're each unique and special in their own way. We took a drive out to our local SPCA and looked at what cats they had. Two cats caught our eye - the one was long-haired and beautiful and not so much a kitten anymore. The other one was white with brown splotches and the friendliest little thing. It kept on coming to us and wasn't scared. He would see us off as we went there three times before we eventually chose him.
His name is Laska and he is the most wonderful cat! He's got a great personality. He's fearless. The vet called him "Rambo" when we took him for an injection because he didn't flinch. He's the only cat who's not scared of our two dogs and has befriended the dog that used to chase our cats the most outside.
Laska is playful, energetic yet can look so sleepy sometimes and he actually likes to be held. Not many cats do. When my husband went to Canada for three weeks, the one weekend my kids were away on camp. I was quite lonely. I'm so used to my family around, so it was kind of horrible. Anyway, Laska was great company. He slept in my room for the two nights. He loves to sleep by our heads or necks and purrs loudly most of the night. It's so cute although you don't get much sleep.
Here's a couple of pics of him:
Anyway, you must wonder what this has to do with books and writing. Well, in His Halloween Kisses, the hero Byron give Ali a black cat. She's most upset in the beginning because he doesn't even ask her but just drops it off at her home. I won't tell you what happens, but here's a short snippet from the scene when she discovers he's given her a cat:
That evening, Ali came in the door and ran to the couch to rest her weary feet. She’d taught five lessons in one day and couldn’t be happier. If it weren’t for the horrible let--‐‑down of the night before, she would be at her happiest in ten years. Who would have thought she’d love teaching art, of all things? Not science, not history, but art. Watching what the kids under her instruction produced brought her even more joy than when she’d designed her own jewellery. Who would have thought? Pat, her long--‐‑time school friend and now roommate, came through and stood staring in at her.
“Guess what?” She clapped her hands together.
“Someone dropped this off for you.” Pat ignored her and pointed down at a basket on the floor which Ali hadn’t noticed yet.
The basket wriggled and moved. Something black peeped from inside of it.
“I think it’s a cat.”
“A cat. You know, those furry pets that have whiskers, a tail, and go ‘meow.’”
“I know what a cat is.” She walked up to the basket and opened the lid. A tiny, furry, very black face stared at her and gave out a little squeak that could pass for a meow.
“It’s a kitten, not a cat.”
Pat merely stared at her, a cookie poised in her hand but not going to her mouth.
She touched the cat’s head tentatively, wondering if it would try to scratch her.
“You’d think it was still Halloween,” Pat said. “Black cat with an orange basket on a blanket filled with spider print.”
“Oh my goodness.” Ali stepped away. “How could he?”
“He thinks gifts are going to take away all the problems—thinks he can buy my understanding.”
Pat merely stared on. Obviously Janet hadn’t told her about her bad date the night before.
“I don’t even want a cat. How can someone give a pet without asking? A pet is a big thing. You have them for years.”
“It has beautiful eyes. They’re blue.” Pat knelt next to the basket and picked up the little creature.
Her heart went out to the helpless thing, but really, she couldn’t look after a pet. She worked all day and had busy nights now with school preparation. And besides, she could barely afford to feed herself. What was he thinking?
And what did he want from her?
“Most kittens have blue eyes, don’t they?” Ali came up to her friend and peered into the lost little face.
“She’s hungry.” Pat handed it to her. “Feed her.” She had no choice but to take the furry, wriggling thing.
“Aren’t you listening to me? I don’t want it.”
Pat moved towards the door. “I don’t think you have a choice. Black cats are bad luck.” She gave her a wink and walked out of the room.
“Wait! Pat…Pat! Did you see who brought it?”
Pat turned around from walking halfway down the passage.
“He was really cute, Ali. And he said he’s sorry. What more can I say?” Pat shrugged and slipped into her bedroom, shutting the door behind her.
The kitten stared up at her as if to say “I’m hungry.” She bent down and looked in the basket. Sure enough, he’d placed a baby blanket on the base with a Halloween print of spiders, creepy hands, and jack-o’-lanterns. Also in the basket sat kitten food in a
sealed bag on top of two small orange bowls.
The absolute cheek to assume she’d accept a pet without questions.
Giving someone a big responsibility like this wasn’t like giving a piece of jewellery or a bouquet of roses. This meant years of commitment. You asked before you gave someone a pet. What if she didn’t like cats? What if she were allergic to them? And if one of her roommates were allergic? Didn’t he think? He had absolutely no sense at all. One minute, he kissed her, the next minute he was engaged, and the next he disrupted her whole life.
“Ugh!” she screamed. The kitten sprang out her hands and scampered to a corner behind the couch. Oh great. Now she’d scared it.
She had to feed the creature, and then she’d phone the SPCA to find a new home for it. After searching for ages for a pair of scissors as her mind was all over the place, she cut open the bag and poured some kibble into one of the bowls. Maybe the sound would summon the cat out of its hiding place. Nothing. It remained
curled up in the corner, its little heart causing its whole body to shake. She didn’t mean to scare it so much.
Laying the blanket flat on the floor right next to the kitten, she put the food bowl on top of it and then quickly went to fill up the other bowl with water. When she got back, the wiry little ball of fluff had tucked in already, now oblivious to whatever had made it scared. Its tail zoned towards the ceiling while crunching sounds emanated from its small head.
If only she could keep it.
But no, she couldn’t. And she should phone Byron first before the SPCA. He knew where the cat came from and should return it there.
She slumped back onto the couch, wondering what to say to him. Really, did she have to talk to him tonight? She’d so hoped she’d never ever see him again.
A pungent smell wafted up towards her nose. Oh no! She’d forgotten that kittens didn’t know how to go outside to the toilet. Running around to the baby blanket, she found a steaming parcel on the floor by the couch. Great. Her roommates will love her now. She picked up her cell phone and dialed his number. “Why didn’t you give kitty litter with the basket? In fact, why didn’t you check with me first before giving me a pet? What were you thinking?”
“Good day to you too.” Byron sounded unusually cheerful despite the status of their friendship.
“Good day.” Was she being rude? Hearing his voice, all the anger seeped out of her.
“She needed a home, and I wanted to show you I’m sorry.”
“Sorry for what?” She wanted to scream at him, but the kitten waddled up to her on shaky legs and put a tiny, sharp claw on her foot.