A weird turn of events

Of course Mini had to go. That was a foregone conclusion for Huz.

But for Amu and I, the story was far more complex and fraught with emotion to have such a neat ending.

With great half-heartedness, we started a campaign to find adopters for little Mini. But I was becoming more and more certain that Fuzzy’s presence in the house was no longer something I wanted to tolerate. I felt like I was done with him. Even Amu was indifferent by now. He was just a badly-behaved, spoilt-rotten cat, hell-bent on making sure I couldn’t have a pretty house. I found myself looking at him with a mixture of sadness, frustration, anger and despair. I began to neglect him and stopped brushing him, esp since he had begun to flinch and back away even from the thing he loved the most. I didn’t care that this was only a manifestation of his anxiety at Mini’s presence in the house and began to look for a shelter to give Fuzzy up to. I just didn’t want to handle his spraying and marking anymore. I even thought of abandoning him somewhere, immediately dismissing the idea even though urged by well-meaning but ultimately misguided parents and siblings to do just that.

The dissonance in my head over the cat conundrum was causing a great deal of just-under-the-surface stress, the kind that makes you broody and think dark existential thoughts. I was really tired of cleaning up cat pee on a daily basis, failing at administering antidepressant, failing at finding another home for Mini, failing at not loving her so it wouldn’t be difficult to give her away.

So it certainly didn’t help that Nazish had begun to come in later and later for work. Her expected time of arrival had gone from 12 to 2, and I was getting increasingly irritated by what had really begun to seem like her taking advantage of my good nature. I decided I would let her go too.

I told Huz and he looked at me like I was hysterical, sternly telling me to calm down. Nazish was a good maid, trustworthy and quiet to boot, so what if she always looked depressed and we barely communicated with each other? Firing her at a time when we needed help keeping the house pee-free and dust-free was the stupidest thing I could possibly do.

So of course, I proceeded to do two stupid things.

I wrote to the only animal shelter in Karachi to ask that if they would take Fuzzy, we would not only donate money on a regular basis, we would even provide a cage to keep him in.

And when I opened the door for Nazish to enter on Monday, (the day after Fuzzy and Mini’s poopy battle) I waited till she had begun to wash dishes before breaking the silence between us by saying she should start looking for other work as her schedule was no longer acceptable to me.

She took the news stoically, only asking if she should leave immediately or stay on till the end of the month. I was immediately regretful, as I felt I had somehow failed her by not understanding her problems and her reasons for coming late, failed her by making her feel so disposable. But all I said was there was no need to hurry, she could take her time finding another job. Then I left the kitchen and left her to mull over her immediate future as she continued washing dishes. Huz just shook his head and warned me that my imminent housework-related stress would only mean he would have two stressed creatures to contend with in the house, one human, one feline.

I avoided Nazish for an hour, but then she struck up a conversation as I chopped veggies, confessing sheepishly that she knew my anger was justified and that she really had troubled me greatly with her erratic timings and that she was willing to ask around and get me a replacement.

It was as if she had only to speak for me to soften. Of course I didn’t really want to fire her, I said. I liked her work and I trusted her and had no desire to go through the hassle of employing, training and getting used to the presence of another person in the house at all. Come to think of it, did it really even matter what time she came as long as the work got done? I told her how stressed I was about Fuzzy and Mini and how I was thinking of giving Fuzzy away as a solution to my problems.

Nazish looked at me and asked, “Kitne mein deingi? Main le jaoon usse?”

She had mentioned once or twice before how much her little daughter adored cats and how she loved playing with one that lived at her mother’s place, where she left both her daughters each day before coming to work at my place, as she couldn’t possibly leave them alone at home in an environment like the Colony where she lived, a dense settlement of mostly Pashtuns.

I looked back at her, incredulous. She actually thought I was selling Fuzzy! But my incredulity turned into hope…giving Fuzzy over to Nazish and her little daughters seemed so much better than giving him up to a shelter….

We started talking nitty gritties. All talk of firing Nazish had been banished, and I figured her sudden talkativeness and animation stemmed from nervousness at having come very close to losing a job she really depended on./

She reassured me that Fuzzy would be safe in her ‘store room’ and could romp in her courtyard if he liked, and that as long as I provided his kibbles, they would take care of him for us.

I bounced off to tell Huz what had just transpired. He looked at me and shook his head again, laughing at how rapidly the situation in our house managed to swing with such mercurial changeability, but completely approving of Nazish’s acquisition of the errant Fuzzy.

I set about packing his things, his bath towel, shampoo, food and water bowls, his brush…not allowing myself to feel the slightest tinge of wtf-am-I-doing.

It was decided that she would fetch her daughters from her mothers house and bring them back to my place, after which I would pack Fuzzy into his basket and drop them all home. I had never seen where she lived, in a year and a half of her working with us, and it seemed this was the day I would finally make the leap across the class barrier that divided me from Nazish’s world.

She sat down on the floor in my room, where I was brushing Fuzzy for the last time, feeling the first glimmers of sadness at what I was doing. It was late afternoon and the sun’s presence was waning as Nazish began to talk to me in a manner she had hitherto never done. I listened as she started telling me detailed stories about her life and her childhood and her complicated family dynamics, her husband, her marriage, her parents and siblings, her uncles and aunts and cousins, all caught up in traditions full of patriarchy and misogyny. I listened to her talk stoically about the difficulties she faced, the bad choices she had made or that had been made on her behalf and which she was now trapped in. She talked about her daughters birthday and how she danced with her uncle, the weddings that she loved to dress up for, the intrigues and scandals that were the fuel of their family get-togethers. She told me about all the places she had ever worked at, the kinships she had formed with men who never disrespected her, the employers who helped pay for her elder daughters schooling and rebuked her for getting back together with an uncaring, sometimes abusive husband. She had been engaged to him when she was little, but he had defied his betrothal to her by eloping with her erstwhile school friend, then divorcing her out of remorse at being ostracized by the family and marrying Nazish eventually. It was as if she had been propelled into self-disclosure by the faith I was displaying in her, by entrusting my pet to her.

We talked till it grew dark, me asking curious questions that she had no qualms about answering, and I confess I found myself fascinated, witnessing and undergoing a complete transformation in my perception of who Nazish was, not a mournful, depressed girl, but a thoughtful yet feisty individual with strong convictions and aspirations despite the challenges life was constantly throwing at her. But more of this in another post.

For now we finally got to meet her daughters, 9-yr old pretty Ailya, who shared her birthday with Amu, one of the reasons I felt Nazish was destined to work for me, and 3 yr-old pixie-faced Sidra, the future mistress of a fallen-from-grace Fuzzy. Little humans and cat were introduced to each other and I spent some time explaining the do’s and don’t’s of dealing with him.

Nazish and her daughters slid into the backseat while Amu cradled Fuzzy’s basket in front. I smiled uncertainly at her, she smiled uncertainly back, and then we were off to Nazish’s house in the heart of a slum we had never set foot in before.

(to be continued…)

Fuzzy vs Mini (part 1)

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Fuzzy after a bath does not look quite as voluminous, in fact he looks downright weird. Was that why Mini did a double take when he trotted into the kitchen to find his food bowl? Was it because she couldn’t place the new smell of wet rug and a hint of shampoo?

Mini was near the food bowls when she caught sight of Fuzzy approaching. I had my eye on her and was about to pick her up and whisk her away to another room, but hell broke loose so fast my reflexes stood no chance.

There was a low, menacing, animal sound and I couldn’t tell which cat it was coming from. It seemed to be a part of the atmosphere of the kitchen. Mini looked like she had just caught her own reflection in the mirror, hair standing on end, back arched, ears rolled back. Fuzzy’s body language was that of a lion about to jump on his prey.

They attacked each other simultaneously it seemed. Mini should have run and hid under something, but she stayed her ground and fought.

Flashback to 1980. Nine year old me, trying to intervene in a cat fight on behalf of Noni, my first cat. Noni was so worked up he sank his teeth into my hand to get me to let go of him so he could chase the other cat before it got away. I still remember how the shock of that bite made me nauseous; I threw up in my mother’s aunt’s sink and when I looked up into the mirror, my chocolate-brown face looked gray.

‘O shit o shit o shit o shit’ was all I could say as Fuzzy and Mini grappled, flesh memory from 1980 preventing me from putting my hands in the line of fire. Below is not a video of Mini and Fuzzy’s epic battle, but it will create a suitable ambience as you read on.

I could not believe this terrifying scene was unfolding right in front of my eyes in my own house. Mini soon realized she could not defend herself against Fuzzy’s strength and I suppose her anxiety made her lose control of her bowels. She couldn’t help pooping as the fight continued. I shouted to Huz to come help while helplessly pleading with the cats to stop it stop it stop it! There was poop and pee everywhere and the freshly bathed Fuzzy and Mini were both rolling around in it. Huz finally managed to get Fuzzy to withdraw a bit, using a towel to swat at them and a long-handled broom to nudge Fuzzy into an enclosed corridor. Meanwhile, a dazed and frightened-out-of-her-wits, poop-covered Mini dashed off to hide behind the curtains

It had been a long day full of chores, I was exhausted, palpitating, and my hands were shaking. But the house was a disaster and it took an hour to clean up not just the area where the fight took place but the entire trail of Mini’s trajectory as she shot to safety. The poor little thing had to be bathed as well, and that too with cold water as there was no hot water and no time to heat it on the stove. But I dried her off fast and she hid under Amu’s bed thereafter.

Then it was Fuzzy’s turn to be cleaned up again, and I couldn’t help cursing myself for being in such a stupid situation. Stressed and full of despair, with no clue how to deal, my brain filled with conflicted thoughts. On the one hand there was Fuzzy, who couldn’t be sent away or abandoned despite the problems he created. On the other there was little Mini, whose future was clouded in uncertainty whether she stayed or not.

Huz, being the clear-headed problem-solver, saw only one path of action. Mini must go.

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28 Delightful Things About Demon Kitty

Little billi/demon kitty was a very difficult kitty to put a name to. I think the reason why it took us two months to settle on something that stuck is because of the uncertainty regarding her future with us. Dr Isma, while prescribing a treatment for poor Fuzzy’s stress tentatively asked if it was possible to find another home for the little rescue. And though we begged asked around on social media as well as in person it seemed like a halfhearted attempt, because quite simply, we were in love with her. Here is why.

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1. She goes nuts with scrunched up newspaper and little rubber balls.

2. Curls up to sleep, purring like a fridge, on everyone’s neck/shoulders.

3. Looks deep into eyes, then touches cheek with paw.

4. Follows me everywhere and seems genuinely interested in the way I fold laundry/chop vegetables/exercise/scoop poop from litter with spade.

5. Carries her toys in her mouth (thread spools, newspaper balls, rubber bands) and deposits them in her basket.

6. Likes to sleep, neatly curled up in her basket, if no humans available.

7. Pees and poops in litter!!!!

8. Likes sleeping on warm spots, like laptops and chargers and pools of sunlight.

9. Likes sleeping wedged neatly into narrow window ledges.

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10. Plays hide and seek with Amu’s hand under blankets.

11. Plays with everything.

12. Attempts to chomp on everything.

13. Boops my nose affectionately, purring, and licks it.

14. Licks my hand if I pet her when she’s grooming herself.

15. Acts like every funny cat video I have ever seen.

16. Entertains by mad dashing, sliding, and falling off surfaces.

17. Swats at my pen as I write, or my fingers while I type.

18. Looks pretty.

19. Tries to cover up food she can’t finish.

20. Tries to cover up playthings when she’s done playing.

21. Is easily distracted by moving objects and wants to touch, very dangerous when object happens to be the needle of a sewing machine.

22. Carries things in her mouth and drags them around the house, like shoes by their shoelaces, or stoles by their tassles.

23. Just pushed my pen cap off the table and proceeded to swat it around the floor.

24. Takes kibbles out of her food bowl with a delicately curved paw and swats it around for a while before chomping it.

25. Eats weird things, like feathers and thread and potato peels.

26. Crouches and pounces and ambushes from her hiding place under the bed.

27. Talks to pigeons outside the window.

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28. Talks to flies and moths. If she manages to catch them with her paws, she eats them.

We debated names like Nutsy, Smelly, Jinni/Ginny, Pagli, and a few more I can’t remember anymore. The latest is Mini, which seems to suit her just fine.

So it seems she is around to stay, since there are no takers, and because I could never be convinced anyone could love her as much as we do.

Perhaps Fuzzy began to sense a shift in our loyalty which is why he lost his appetite/refused to eat anything with antidepressants in it. My problems with him were far from over. Mini’s playful attacks were becoming increasingly aggressive, and so were Fuzzy’s response to them. I began to fear Mini would get hurt soon, for though she was all tooth and claws, Fuzzy was still the bigger cat and he did, almost reluctantly, fight back in self defence.

Still, I was struck by horror at what happened that fateful evening when I gave Fuzzy a bath and he became unrecognizable to Mini.

It turned out to be one of the most frightening events in my life, and a complete game-changer as far as the future of the two cats as co-habitants was concerned.

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Demon kitty and the depressed cat

Fuzzy, our charcoal gray semi-Persian has been the resident cat for eight years, which seems a long time indeed when one ponders the trouble and anxiety he brought to our lives.  It was because of him that we had to construct partitioning doors so he couldn’t get to our good furniture and pee on it. No way could we have artsy floor rugs to prettify our place, as he would promptly pee on them too. A LOT would be the number of things we have had to throw away because of this. But he has a cute face, so we dealt with it instead of throwing him out too.

I realized early on that he was the proverbial scaredy cat, frightened by sudden noises, shy around visitors. You could forget that he even existed, given that he spent long hours sleeping/hiding under the bed, only to emerge for food and his precious water.

When he began to display an unusual interest in a certain ugly tomcat that taunted him from the balcony door , I began to think (twisted logic, I know) perhaps Fuzzy would like some feline company in the house.

Cue little lost rescued kitten, whom we called little billi at first. She looked sweet and tiny and pathetic, but was actually the devil in disguise. We kept the two physically apart initially, though little billi was still visible through the glass separating door and I could see that her presence was making Fuzzy edgy. When they played ‘pawsie’, the Fuzzster was curious and wary but the little one was feisty and playful. She’d stick her skinny paws way out to swat at him, while Fuzzy stayed just beyond reach, watchful.IMG_0258IMG_0092 Eventually I let them spend time together. If she didn’t appreciate her tiny butt being sniffed by the persistent Fuzzy (she is quite a smelly kitten) she’d turn around and jump on him or swat and nip at his paws to make him back off. He would beat a hasty retreat then, clueless about how to deal with this aggressive little creature who had taken over not only his space but his family’s time and attention. So we were amazed and delighted to find her sleeping snuggled next to him one day on his wicker bench…and that he had allowed it! I decided Fuzzy was ambivalent about this newcomer, quite sure he only pretended to get annoyed by her presence, though I did have to yank her away from him when the attacks got too annoying. My Instagram bears evidence of quite a few of her antics. (do check them out!)

When little billi joined him once too often on his bed, Fuzzy stopped sleeping there altogether. IMG_0369 I should have known better than to give them food at the same time too. Little billi was a voracious eater and ate hungrily and greedily, even taking over Fuzzy’s bowl forcing him to back away slowly and be patient until she was done. It was hilarious to hear her grrs as she attacked her food bowl. She was tiny, but she already had the large personality and attitude of a street cat. IMG_0360IMG_0361 Little billi morphed into demon-kitty for the way she ambushed and attacked, biting and swatting anything that moved. Her appetite for play was insatiable, and for the first few weeks all we did was watch her and play with her and delight in her presence. Her favourite game was scrunched-up-newspaper-football. It seemed what we had on our hands was the most playful kitten in the world, lighting up our lives with her craziness. What was most amazing and joyous however was the fastidiousness with which she took to her litter box. She knew exactly where to go from day one. I was in love. IMG_0270IMG_0304 She liked sleeping snuggled with Amu, and Amu loved her snuggliness too. She was going through a rough time in school and it was comforting to have such a kitten-like kitten to come home to. She kept her company while she worked on assignments at her desk, either curled on her lap or shoulder, or just hanging around watching her write, swatting her hand occasionally or trying to chomp on her pen.

But as Amu’s cloud of school-related gloom lifted, an altogether different cloud seemed to have descended elsewhere. Fuzzy’s behavioural issues were beginning to enter new territory. If we had been dogged by his peeing and marking before, we now suddenly had to add spraying to his repertoire of activities, something he had never done before. Now, he started to back up against a variety of vertical surfaces, quiver his furry tail, and let loose a jet of particularly foul-smelling piss. Up till now, we could handle his daily misdemeanours near the windows and doors. What was horrifying was when I realized he had begun to mark us. I found a patch of piss on my side of the bed one day. The very same day he peed on the bathroom mat as well. He also peed on my favourite chappals. Also Huz’s. He sprayed my bedroom door. He peed under my dresser. He sprayed my chest of drawers. He sprayed the bass speaker on my table. He wandered into my room one day and sprayed the curtains, all things he had never done before. Little billi/demon-kitty became my official pee detector, sniffing out places when I couldn’t figure out where the odour was wafting from. AlI these things led to Huz becoming firmer in his resolve to convince me that two cats in one house cannot possibly stay. As for me, I was mostly to be found with a bottle of pet deodoriser in one hand and a bucket of water and a mop in the other.

IMG_0354 Demon kitty was unabashed in her exploration of furniture and bounded onto tables and counters with a casualness, agility and will which had never manifested in Fuzzy. But seeing her boldness, Fuzzy seemed to gain heart. He probably began to think that if she could do it, so could he. The final straw for me was when we realized Fuzzy had perched on the back of a chair and proceeded to empty his bladder. I didn’t really understand what I was dealing with were the signs of a very stressed cat. All he was doing of course was responding to perceived threats. His entire body language had changed and why wouldn’t it? He was being ambushed every day by demon kitty, his food was being gobbled by her, she was drinking from HIS WATER BOWL, his bed had been taken over, she was using HIS litter to do some extremely smelly poop in. I was guilty of ignoring all these things, expecting him to take it in stride while I was busy catering to the kitten’s needs.. His world had suddenly become unpredictable and chaotic. He was forced into persistent contact with another feline against his will. Of course this couldn’t go on! Fuzzy took to staying awake all night, keeping up an unbearably mournful dirge which woke me up from my sleep every couple of hours during the night. I was getting dark circles under my eyes and I couldn’t function like a normal human being anymore. You could safely say I was pretty stressed out myself.

I asked around for advice and all I heard was to keep the two cats apart….I had no idea how to accomplish this. But we had been dealing with Fuzzy’s peeing problems since way before the new kitty ever came along to exacerbate it. He was already neutered…what more could we do?? PAWS advised me to go to Dr Isma, the more upmarket vet in Karachi, for a consultation. I packed a very smelly Fuzzy into a basket and off we went.

Dr Isma was lovely. Just seeing the sympathetic expression on her face as she listened to my cat story was balm for my frazzled nerves. She pronounced Fuzzy to be an extremely stressed out cat indeed and there were only three options she could think of to deal with this unfortunate event: 1. To inject Fuzzy with female hormones. 2. To get a calming spray, like Feliway. 3. To administer an anti-depressant on a daily basis.

The first two options being overlooked perhaps due to unavailability or being expensive, Dr Isma recommended a quarter pill of an antidepressant called Clomfranil. We bought a few strips of these from a pharmacy on our way home, 20 rupees ($0.2) for a strip. Maybe I’d pop one or two myself.

That evening, I cut one pill into four uneven pieces and stuck the largest one into a piece of cat food. Fuzzy ate it. From a worried-looking anxious cat that paced relentlessly around the living room, I found him a little while later, stretched out languorously near the balcony door. There was no distressed yowling outside my bedroom door that night, and all the sheets of newspaper that we spread in all his usual spots were piss-free the next morning. The house didn’t smell foul, and Fuzzy was fast asleep peacefully on his wicker bench. My brain did a whoop of joy! My problems were solved!

Or were they?

(to be continued..)

p.s. All beautiful images taken by Amu 🙂

New kitty on the block

After a warm meal of diluted milk with a spot of honey, little lost kitty received a nice rub-down with cotton wool soaked in Frontline spray and a clean cloth to get as much grease off as possible. I could tell she didn’t like the smell of the flea medicine, nor the feel of being wet, but she took it like a sport. Amu and I spent all day checking up on her and watching as she ran around and explored, dying fleas hopping off one by one. That night she spent outside, but safe and away from cold draughts in a big empty litter bag. The maternal instinct had already kicked in as Amu and I worried about the little kitty all night. Needless to say, we had already asked the chowkidar to keep an eye out for a motherly looking cat with babies. He said this one seemed most likely to have wandered into the parking lot from somewhere outside, though there have been a few cat births on the roof in the past.

The next day, and not without a little trepidation, we let Fuzzy (the resident cat) meet the newcomer. We stood alert, and though Fuzzy wasn’t as relaxed around her as we would have liked, nothing untoward happened. I began to get visions of a multiple cat household.

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Fuzzy follows kitty
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kitty marches up to Fuzzy unafraid
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Fuzzy backs away

DSC_0343 DSC_0345 DSC_0349 DSC_0350 DSC_0351 DSC_0355 DSC_0357 DSC_0358 DSC_0359 That afternoon, I gave the little kitty a much needed warm bath with shampoo, as I had noticed that she was quite smelly. I kept it quick so she wouldn’t catch a cold, drying her off with a soft towel and finishing up with a gentle blow-dry. Now she was fit to not only stay inside the house, but to curl up in what was to be her favoured perch for the next few weeks….our neck and shoulders. DSC_0364 DSC_0367DSC_0372 Fuzzy was most certainly not sure what to make of this development and stayed close, keeping a beady eye trained on the new entrant. I read up on how to introduce resident cats to new kittens and everything pointed to keeping the two separate initially and only slowly allowing them to interact. Separate litters, separate bowls for food and water, separate rooms. I rubbed kitty with a piece of cloth, then rubbed Fuzzy with it too, allowing their scents to intermingle. They could see each other through a glass door, but no touching for a few days. Then I let the door stay open a crack and the two cats played ‘pawsie’. But though I was optimistic about the two getting along eventually, I couldn’t possibly have been prepared for what happened in the following days and weeks. (to be continued)    

Things that happen

A simple thing like waking up unusually early one day can change your life forever, or at least for the life span of a cat. Here’s what happened one beautifully crisp morning in December.

Decided to take Amu driving at 7am as the stretch of road where I teach her is relatively car-free and less intimidating then.

In the parking area of our apartment building rang out the forlornly incessant mewing of a decidedly small cat. The mysterious mewing kitty was hiding in the space between the top of the wheel and the chassis of our car, rendering us incapable of driving away without getting it out first.

Seeing us standing around helpless, the chowkidar fetched a stick to get the invisible noisemaker to jump off and run out. What emerged was a tiny grease-covered creature of indeterminate colour and scared blue eyes. I picked her up to stop her from running under the car again, and after ten minutes of confused debate decided to put her in our courtyard for the time being to keep her safe.

When we returned from our driving session, the tiny kitten was quietly curled up behind one of the potted plants, but ran out and started mewing again when she saw us. She was obviously hungry and cold and infested with fleas, and there was no choice but to clean her up and feed her and keep her warm….

(to be continued…)

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Friend or foe?

Ever wondered what a ‘bete-noire’ is? Let me enlighten you if you haven’t. It is a person or thing that one particularly dislikes or dreads. It is another word for enemy, who is, of course, someone who hates, attacks or harms another. An adversary, something that threatens someone or something. Literally, it means ‘black beast’.

Fuzzy, our pet, who for the last seven years has mostly just slept, keeps us as his slaves and wants for absolutely nothing (apart from the occasional bits of raw chicken as I cook and a slice of watermelon or two, or so I naively suppose)

But is the most wonderful thing about being Fuzzy ‘really’ that it seems you’re The Only One? If you have never seen another cat ever since you were separated from your sibling when you were a wee kitten (unless you count the weirdo in the mirror who got startled every time he saw you) do you recognize the yowling beyond your existence as the sound of others like you? And what is that potent aroma wafting towards you from  the balcony and courtyard doors? Smells like cat-pee but not your own…

Fuzzy lost no opportunity making sure that if what he suspected was true, there should be no doubt in anyone or anything as to exactly WHO was Master of this Domain.

Every morning to our dismay, we began to find puddles near every entry or exit point in our house. We dealt with it by putting our daily newspaper to good use. Yes, he had been neutered…or at least the vet did the best he could (since Fuzzy is monorchid)

One of Fuzzy’s favourite hangout spots is also one of mine, the breezy top step of the stairs that lead down to our courtyard. A swing door separates the stairs from the rest of the house, so in the evenings when someone opens that door, Fuzzy steps out for some fresh air. He prowls around downstairs, sniffing pots, inspecting different areas, marking his presence discreetly. Guilty as we feel keeping a living thing in such seclusion, the least we could do is allow him this little bit of freedom to experience the outdoors. This little freedom expanded to such an extent that we even let him spend the night outside since he loved it so much. It’s not like he would ever be able to scale the boundary walls and actually go out to explore the Outside World. He’s just not built that way. He’s the kind of cat that ponders and dilly-dallies before jumping on or off chairs and coffee tables.

Many years thus passed and a routine established itself. Fuzzy snored under my bed in the morning and all afternoon, emerging in the late afternoon, stretching out his back legs, yawning humungously. He’ll sit outside my bedroom door, disoriented and a tad cross-eyed. Then he’ll wander over to the netted balcony door, tucking his legs comfortably under him and sit there basking in the last golden rays of the sun, ears twitching now and then at sounds of passing cars, human voices and chirping birds, eyes half-closed.

Soon,  he will unfurl and walk lazily but purposefully over to his water bowl, positioning his body around it, enveloping the bowl in an embrace. He loves his water bowl.

No one could ever describe Fuzzy as a fierce cat. He is the very essence of docility, unless he’s in a playful mood. His mouth is so small that he can’t manage food that is larger than the tip of your finger. He will patiently chase a piece of kibble that drops from the bowl to the floor until he can latch on enough to be able to chew. He’s not the kind of enthusiastic cat who’ll run to his food bowl when he hears the rattle of kibbles. If he wants food, he’ll go sit by his bowl and wait with equanimity. But if he wants water, he’ll come into my room and get my attention by meowing softly till I get up. Then he’ll lead me to his water bowl , trotting ahead and looking back again and again to make sure I’m following. Sometimes he’ll swat at my ankles with his paw to hurry me along.

The only time he’ll betray any excitement is if he hears the rattle of ice cubes. An ice cube in his water bowl is like Eid for him. He’ll hover over it like he does on hot days in front of an open fridge. Such sweet small happinesses. And then of course, there is the anticipation of being allowed to go down to the courtyard.

We realized why Fuzzy had been acting extra territorial and so very eager to dash out of the house when we found him sitting on the stairs one day with a cat sitting across from him. They were staring at each other emitting low guttural sounds, not fighting but just facing each other. We shooed the other cat away and it ambled off lithely, scaling the wall and disappearing while Fuzzy looked on, unable to fathom how.

Another time we heard some fierce howling only to find Fuzzy having a face-off with the same trespassing cat, but this time, heartened by my presence perhaps, he began to chase the other cat round and round the stairs until the cat managed to jump onto the trellis from the balcony, scale the wall and get away, Fuzzy breathing in huffy bursts,  fuming with prickly antagonism. This was the first time I had ever seen Fuzzy so intensely worked up.

Late one evening a few months ago, we returned after several hours spent away from home, me worrying about Fuzzy being alone and hungry. As we climbed the unlit staircase, my worry turned into a strange sense of foreboding when I noticed clumps strewn about the landing halfway up…I was almost afraid to inspect closely, but then I discerned something dark smeared on the floor and my fears turned to panic as I turned to Huz to ask if Fuzzy was inside or out. Huz fumbled with the keys (why does it seem to take forever when you’re panicking?) we all ran in and called for Fuzzy but he was nowhere to be seen. We usually find him waiting for us by the door alerted by the sound of the keys turning in the lock. Heart hammering, I stood in the balcony and called his name…it is usual for him to come dashing up like lightning. After a few seconds I saw some movement and Fuzzy came out slowly from under the stairs and started climbing with some effort. Turning on the lights, I realized the dark blobs on the stairs were bunches of Fuzzy’s hair and the smear was blood.

Horrified and shaking, and too scared to touch him in case he was badly hurt, I let Fuzzy walk into the house unaided, limping visibly and looking rather subdued. I stroked his head and checked him tentatively for wounds, but couldn’t see anything through all his fur. Huz joked that the blood might belong to the other cat and the thought made me feel a little better, but I was sad for Fuzzy and outraged at the other cat for violating Fuzzy’s territory and consistently looking for a chance to attack him. I took Fuzzy to the vet next day and was told he had a sprained shoulder which was causing him to limp, but there were no wounds anywhere. I looked at Fuzzy with a degree of skepticism. How could a spoilt, evolutionarily challenged semi-Persian defend itself against a ruthless street cat and draw blood?

Nevertheless, Fuzzy had to be protected from the wily building cat and stay withiin the house at all times from now on. As a result, he became ever more vigilant at the balcony doors. The anticipation of more confrontations was palpable…Fuzzy was alert and tense on the lookout for further trespassing, eagerly waiting for the building cat to show up and he wasn’t disappointed. The other cat kept coming back and there were further face-offs through the netting (which occur with regularity around the same time every day.) I’ll be sitting in another room and I will hear Fuzzy yowling angrily or I’ll hear the door rattle loudly and I know he has flung himself at the door with force.

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I don’t know how he gets his paws so muddy but there are fresh paw prints on the balcony walls and the floor every day. I began to regard the building cat as a friendly foe since he added so much spice to Fuzzy’s life and suggested leaving a bowl of food for him in the balcony, which Huz and Amu vehemently vetoed. But I had cause to rethink my soft spot for him as a worthy adversary.

I was sitting at my kitchen table one night when I heard rummaging sounds. Fuzzy followed me as I went to turn on the overhead balcony light and open the door. On the landing were two cats this time, apparently the black and white building cat had brought along a ginger friend and they were going through our recycling heap like vandals. Ginger saw me and ran off but Black&white stayed and stared back as he squatted on a brown paper bag and proceeded to pee on it. My jaw dropped at his insolent audacity but I couldn’t help laughing a little too.

Didn’t laugh too much when a few days later he left a little pile of poop on a cushion on the bench as a little gift for us. Or this morning when Huz went to fetch the newspaper from under our front door only to find that not only did it have a yellow patch of pee on it but had been torn up as well.

Seems we have a bete-noire on our hands indeed, albeit with a touch of blanc.

 

 

 

Autumn, anyone?

I’ve been reading a lot of posts about autumn lately, one of which was even Freshly Pressed today, and left me desirous of a warm apple-cinnamon scone with my tea.

For some in the right place at this time (meaning latitudes higher/lower than the Tropics) the air is getting nippier, days are getting shorter…..and trees are beginning to get more colourful.

How lucky are you people of the Temperate zones…..you get to witness and FEEL the change of seasons.

I’m sure it must be glorious….despite getting back into school routine for mommies and children alike. In that sense autumn really is the beginning of a new year. Some even redefine it as a  time for rejuvenation…..of rebirth….and I think I can relate to that if the last two days are anything to go by.

You see, dear readers, I have been spring-cleaning at a time of year normally associated with the autumnal months, though Karachi seems to have registered this time of the year of all times, as the monsoon season.

So while dark clouds gathered overhead and burst their breaches, and as it rained non-stop for 24 hours, turning the poorly-drained streets and lanes of Karachi into rivers and lakes, and as yours truly deemed it wise not to venture out of her bubble for fear of the car stalling while navigating a particularly large lake which is actually her link to the rest of the world, the sponges, dusters and wash-cloths were brought out and the house got a thorough clean-up.

The night it started raining was the same night that I decided to take my allergies more seriously.

I have been waking up in the morning, my lungs choked, unable to breathe, despite the antihistamine pill I have been taking every night for the last month, until I take a few puffs of Aerolin. My bronchioles expand and I relax, and sink back into my pillow with relief.

For the last few years, these symptoms have usually arisen in October……so I’m taken by surprise this year as it started much earlier, and lately I have been thinking maybe it’s not just dust I’m allergic to. Perhaps I have been in denial about my cat allergies, I don’t know, maybe it is time for me to go to an allergy specialist and get myself tested.

I stayed up till 3 am the other night, sitting next to my balcony door, listening to the rumbling thunder, ominously loud at times, and the flashes of lightning periodically illuminating the sky. As the rain lashed against the door, and Fuzzy sat nearby, his ears twitching, looking worried, I read through six different articles that told me similar things about how to deal with cat allergies. I bookmarked this one, and am considering printing it out and sticking it to my bathroom door so I can read it every day and be more motivated and less likely to slack off in terms of safely and effectively minimising my allergic reaction to whatever it is in my house that’s triggering it.

Apparently, there are many allergens that can cause the same symptoms as cat allergens, some of which can be more serious than those that can be caused by a cat alone.

Whatever the case may be, there can be no harm in cleaning the house from top to bottom (with a bandanna wrapped around my face) and it can only benefit my fellow inhabitants and I.

The first thing I did was to remove my work table from a closed, carpeted room into a more airy area right next to the balcony. As many of you know, I spend an unhealthy amount of time on my laptop! Therefore, it was imperative that I balance the unhealthiness with a healthier environment, and I think It will make a big difference. Fingers crossed.

I realise that my house is probably smothered in cat allergens because Fuzzy, as his name indicates, has been endowed with very fine, downy fur. He is also, unfortunately, a black cat. Cats with dark fur are more allergy-inducing than cats with light fur.

I wish I had known this when we adopted him. Sigh. But it’s too late now, I love the little critter.

Here’s a little known fact. I am the only person in my family that has a humungusly soft spot for animals. I mean, my Mom does too, but I was always the one who imposed pets on her, she never had any when she was growing up. I do know for a fact that she adored my neighbour’s dog (i think his name was Silver…..he was sadly hit by a car…) and didn’t object to her rabbits roaming our house, munching uncooked lasagne sheets and pooping on the sofa….but I am straying from the topic at hand….

So I started with the space which I shall now inhabit as my primary work area, and armed with a ladder, soapy water and a sponge, I proceeded to systematically wash all the walls, from ceiling to floor. I dusted everything thoroughly with a damp cloth, vacuumed the furniture, the blinds, cleaned the fans of all the accumulated dirt and cat hair (which we do every 10 days or so) and washed the curtains in hot water to kill all the allergens on them.

Needless to say, I have been passing out, exhausted from the hard work, my arms aching, but feeling great that I’m working towards making the house healthier. I smile with happiness as I sing wheezily while going about my work, puffing my inhaler when need be.

Too bad Zahooran wasn’t around to see her employer doing a better job of housework than her that first day 😛

The biggest change for poor little Fuzzy is going to be the fact that I must train him not to sleep under the bed in my room…..which is his favourite place in the whole house for most of the day, emerging only in the evening, stretching out his limbs and meandering his way to one of us for some love, or over to his water bowl if he’s thirsty.

He runs into my room and under the bed, first chance he gets! Especially when the doorbell rings……he is terrified of visitors 🙂

Giving him up is just not an option, friends.

I know I just have to work a little harder, that’s all.

But since we’re on the theme of the art work around my house, and autumn brings to mind dead leaves, here’s some I painted several years ago when I picked them up from somewhere because I thought they were beautiful.

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olive-y

Here’s to rebirth…..and rejuvenation. And cleaner air and less allergens. And hopefully more watercolours some day.

My heart goes out to the people of Badin and all the other waterlogged, flooded areas of Sindh, where people’s homes and livelihoods have once again been ruthlessly washed away. I know better now than to wish for rain in a country with governments that do nothing to improve or spend more money on building and maintaining crucial infrastructure.

The fuzzy cat

So I’m sitting at my table, it’s early morning (earlier than usual for me, since I am NOT a morning person) and I’ve just had a couple of pan-toasted chapatis and a mug of sweet tea for breakfast. It’s a bit chilly, after the surprise rain we received in Karachi during the last couple of days, so I fetch my snuggly old hoodie and proceed to comfortably peruse my blogs and do some moves on Scrabble before getting on with my list of chores for the day.

I’m distracted by a familiar scratchy, gravelly sound outside the study door, and I smile, knowing what this means. No, it doesn’t mean Freddy Kruger is around. It means Fuzzy the cat is being a good boy and using his litter tray.

You’d think that’s only natural, right? Cats are SUPPOSED to ‘powder their noses’ in their designated space. Wrong. Sometimes a fuzzy black half-Persian tomcat decides he wants to break the rules.

Exactly four years ago, Amu stamped her little foot (not really, but it sounds cute) and demanded a pet cat. I tried to reason her out of it of course. Having a pet is a huge responsibility (and I would know, since I have a looooong history with pets) and knowing Amu, I had a feeling she wouldn’t have the patience or the time to look after it.

I humored her though, and after a week or two of daily pleading, I spread open the Sunday ad section of the newspaper and pored over the pet column, with Amu sitting next to me. It turned out there were quite a few kittens for sale! We jotted down a number and made a phone call to get the whereabouts of a semi-Persian pair of kittens. Amu nagged and nagged until we got in the car and drove off to look for the house of the gentleman selling the little felines.

Finding the place was an adventure in itself, but as we parked outside the house and rang the bell, Amu and I wondered what we’d find. Someone came up to open the gate, and a youngish boy with greasy hair greeted us and ushered us into his garden. We walked over to the patio and saw the most adorable sight! Two tiny little gray furballs hurtling after a ping pong ball and swatting it back and forth with their little paws!

Amu and I just looked at each other. If she has an ounce of my genes, (and I think she does), we both felt the same thing. A mix of heart-melting delight and longing was shining in Amu’s eyes, and I knew she was in love with the first scruffy little kittens she encountered on her quest. As Amu clung to my arm and mouthed silent pleas, I asked the youngish boy how much he was asking for one of them. He quoted a sum about three times what I had in mind, so I told him we would go home and have a think and get back to him later in the day.

Back home, Huz and I had a pow-wow. I thought the guy was asking for too much money and it wasn’t worth it. Amu was blinded by love and couldn’t think straight, of course. Huz warned us of the consequences of having a pet cat. What if it wasn’t potty-trained? What if we wanted to go on a holiday, who would care for it? What if it demanded too much time and commitment? Who would take it to the vet? These, and many other questions were debated, but Amu stuck to her guns and assured us she would love it and care for it and we wouldn’t have to worry about a thing. And then she threw in the trump card. She was lonely.

That did it. So, against our better judgment, we went back to the greasy boys house, handed him a wad of cash in exchange for Sam, the tinier of the two siblings, feeling guilty for taking him away from his sister and playmate forever.

It was evening as we drove home with a new addition to our little family, and we stopped on the way to buy some things that we had never bought before. Cat food! And cat shampoo! It felt like the gateway to a new world of groceries and products had just opened up for us, and it was kind of cute and amusing to be buying things called Whiskas, or Me-O, or cat litter that came in kilograms, in a sunny yellow bag that said Thomas.

The tiny kitty perched on my knee during the ride home, while Amu leaned over the seat to pet him. He seemed quite comfortable with us, and didn’t seem scared or bewildered by the suddenness of this strange new experience.

Back home, we let him roam around and explore the house and entertained him with things that normally delight kittens. We thought of giving him a new name, since he now had a new life. I can’t remember now if we re-christened him that night or the next day. I was stuck on Prince Rustam for some reason, but Amu decided on Fuzzy. We all approved, and hence, it stuck.

That first night we made him as comfortable as we could, and made him a bed out of a cardboard box lined with newspaper. We wondered if his mom had taught him anything, and imagine our surprise when we witnessed the first bit of evidence that he had been rightly and properly schooled in the way of cats! Out of all the places he could have chosen to relieve his tiny little bladder, he picked a spot on some newspapers we had left lying in a corner for just that purpose. Oh, what a relief! Now I wouldn’t have to worry about learning how to be a mommy cat! Little Sam/Fuzzy knew his business, and by the time we got him a proper litter tray, he took to that immediately as well.

The new addition

We couldn’t sleep very well that first night, Amu and I, as we were worried about Fuzzy being alone outside in the living room. So we ended up staying awake till 5 in the morning, keeping an eye on the little thing as he prowled around, and once again I thought to myself ‘what have I let myself in for’. One does tend to get anxiety attacks when one is sleep-deprived. But after a week or so, we all settled down to happily co-exist, man and beast.

It seems the little beast got a bit too comfortable sometimes, and there were ‘episodes’ where he was too ‘lazy’ to walk all the way over to his litter to relieve himself. Cat piss is a nasty, nasty business involving odours that are very hard to get rid of and have a propensity to linger, as I discovered to my horror. I had a penchant for having a clean house that smelled fresh and lovely, like washed laundry, so imagine my shock at realising how little control i had over my cat’s bladder!

He merrily proceeded to pee at least once a day on something he really shouldn’t. Like the sofas. The rugs. The bean-bag. The comforter. The floor. The newly-installed carpet in Amu’s room. The bathroom mats. You get the picture. The cat was out of control!

I scrubbed and cleaned, and neared the edge of tearful despair, contemplating driving him to a faraway location and abandoning him, or giving him away. Obviously, I couldn’t be so cruel. But I was decidedly not as loving as I should be towards a pet, and remember smacking him on the head a few times until I did some research and learned that’s not a very good way of teaching a cat not to do bad things. I consulted my upstairs neighbour, who lives with six cats, and asked for his advice after tactfully inquiring about any peculiar behaviour he may have encountered in his brood of kitties. He told me about a fabulous product that de-odourises pet ‘accidents’. You just spray it on and let it break down the molecules in cat piss that cause the odour! Apparently, cat pee contains a high concentration of urea, about twice as much as dogs, and that’s what gives it such a strong smell. They can’t help it, poor things. They’re just evolved that way. It’s useful for marking their territory, and keeping unwanted enemy cats at bay.

That’s what we thought was wrong with Fuzzy. We thought he was unusually insecure about the stray cats that prowled around our building, yowling their heads off and busily marking their own territory outside our doors. Of course he could smell their pee. So he went into counterattack mode. Either that, or he was trying to attract some romantic interest his own way….

We marched him off to the vet to have him….(gulp!)….neutered. Now, neutering is supposed to be a fairly simple procedure in male cats that have normally built external genitalia. But our cat chose to be different. The vet felt him up and declared him to have a condition called monorchidism. In other words, he only had one descended testicle! The other one was somewhere in his abdomen, developing at a much slower rate than its twin. Nevertheless, poor Fuzzy had to undergo not just the scalpel, but an utter invasion of his privacy, and needless to say it was a difficult time both for us and him.

It has been four years learning how to live with our cat. He’s been through vaccinations, de-fleaing, de-worming, operations, antibiotics, and many trips to the vet for checkups. You must be wondering if the neutering made a difference. Well, it didn’t. Ultimately, we just had to be very vigilant, make sure his litter tray stayed clean enough for him not to turn up his aristocratic little snub nose at it. We roll up our rugs and protect our sofas with plastic coverings every night, and every morning we unroll the rugs and put away the plastic. We chase Fuzzy to his litter every time he starts sniffing around and acts suspicious. Sometimes he pees on the plastic coverings, so I am to be seen mopping and de-odourising every so often. But at least it isn’t so difficult now that we have accepted this gruelling labour as part of our lives. As you can imagine, Princess Amu doesn’t lift a finger. In her defense, the poor girl has to go to school, so she is forgiven.

So you can imagine, dear readers, the joy I feel when I notice, or hear, Fuzzy using his litter tray of his own volition. It’s a daily triumph to see him do that.

Okay then, my writing for the day done. Time to go unroll those rugs….

how does one stay mad at a cat that looks at you like this?