Our feline masters

Of course, I know by now that cats are not our pets; rather, we are theirs.

We have two cats, Garfield and Odie, named after the cartoon characters. Our life has never been the same since these felines moved in with us six months ago. They are very lovable creatures, especially when they are hungry or sleepy.

They rub themselves against our legs and ankles and lick our toes. I was flattered by this display of affection till I read that this is how cats mark their property!

I think by now it’s high time they learnt our language. After all, they are exposed to so many – Konkani, English, Hindi, Kannada, not to mention Tulu and Bengali, but they speak only Cat. It has such a limited vocabulary – it consists of just one word: meow. Of course, different tones and inflections change the meaning. A pleading mew means “I’m hungry.” An interrogative meow means “Where were you all this while? I’m hungry!” A demanding miaow means “Feed me, serf! Don’t you know I’m hungry?”

Earlier, I used to have a habit of describing myself after a long day of work as “feeling/looking like something the cat brought in.” Now that I have firsthand experience of what it is that cats do bring in, I no longer say it!

Odie hunts lizards of all kinds and brings in geckos, skinks and garden liz­ards,injured and half eaten. Garfy specia­lises in butterflies. Being fond of butterflies, I feel sad when he brings in half eaten specimens of fairly rare butterflies like the Malabar Banded Swallow tail or the Crimson Rose. Usually they just play with their prey till it dies (domestic cats and humans are the only creatures which torture others for fun) but Garfy sometimes eats his butterflies entirely!

When they are not sleeping, which is most of the time, they keep busy exploring the neighbourhood. Though they kn­ow very well what their names are, they pretend to be deaf when I call them and only come in when they want to. Cats actually don’t need us. They can hunt and fend for themselves; they are solitary like tigers and not pack animals like dogs.

So why do we keep them at all? Well, I’m not sure of the answer but I feel they are low-maintenance pets. They are extremely fastidious and keep themselves clean – there’s no need to bathe them. They also don’t need to be taken out for walks – they are free to go about as they please and so get enough exercise. And of course, they have great toilet habits. Kittens are born toilet trained and we’ve never had to clean up after Garfy or Odie.

They are extremely playful and provide constant entertainment. They are soft and cuddly and when they nestle with me in bed, purring softly, it can be strangely comforting. Of course, I know by now that they are not our pets, rather, we are theirs. It is quite rightly said, “Cats don’t have owners, they have staff!”

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