I am a lover of felines. And cats, the domestic ones of course, have always been in and out of our household. Each one has been unique in personality and behaviour. A story about all of them could very well be written. But since a story reads interesting with only one protagonist, so also this one will be about a cat that touched my heart the most among all who have been part of my life.
The winter was slowly ebbing and the night was getting slightely warmer than earlier. My daughter had left the window of her room on the upper floor of the house open and had slept.
Suddenly she was awakened by a low guttural sound. She woke up with a stick in hand and cautiously opened the balcony door. The sight that greeted her chilled her and she let out a piercing call to me on the ground floor.
I ran up and rushed to the balcony. My daughter’s scream was justified. I was too shocked for words myself, but I sprang into action.
The mother cat was trying to kill the injured kitten who had been bitten by a stray tom that morning.
The mother was well known to us, but at that moment she seemed a stranger. I shoved her away with a big stick and she ran away making the same blood-chilling guttural sound. The kitten was shivering and we noticed that its head was at an odd angle. We lifted him inside and tried to make him comfortable on a cloth, and I patted him saying, "You should make it till tomorrow. We shall take you to the vet." Shaken that we were, my daughter and I went back to sleep.
The next morning, we went up to the kitten and heaved a sigh of relief. He was breathing! We looked up a vet online and placed the injured kitten in a shoebox lined with soft cloth and drove to the vet. The squealing patient was given a prick, which brought tears to my daughter’s eyes. A strengthening tonic and antiseptic powder were also prescribed.
From then on the kitten, whom we lovingly named Macky after a Bollywood actor, for his black patch over an eye, was given intensive care at our home.
It became my loving duty to clean his wound, apply antiseptic powder, and feed him tonic and milk through an ink filler. My daughter, although busy with her thesis, pitched in at times. Showing rare intelligence, Macky soon became potty-trained and despite his difficulty, would go to his potty — a pile of sand in a shallow box — to relieve himself. We nicknamed him Dev Anand after the golden hero who had a penchant for walking with his neck bent at an angle. Macky turned to me like a baby to its mother.
At night, he would howl in pain and I would rush and cradle him in my arms until he slept. If I failed to come soon, he would come, scratch the bedroom door, and meow fiercely, forcing me to tend to him. The husband's patience was waning, but I responded to the dumb animal’s need.
I realised that Macky was a bruised and frightened animal, and needed all the care. Slowly he was on his feet with his wound healed completely, giving us immense satisfaction. Surprisingly, the husband, never a cat lover, ventured to teach Macky a few tricks, like climbing the tree and jumping over the wall, a training given usually by the mother.
Macky loved to cuddle up to me and would sleep blissfully on my lap without a care in the world. He was growing up like a dog, trusting and friendly.
But the inevitable day of separation arrived, and I had to leave on an overseas trip leaving Macky under the care of my maid along with his toys, favourite cushioned chair and plenty of food. Even as I was packing, he had jumped inside the suitcase with a tote bag accidentally dangling from his paw. I was too astonished for words.
As I left, he came to the gate staring at me, standing on his hind paws and holding the gate with his fore paws. I bid him a teary goodbye saying that it would be for a short period, and he buried his face in my hand. That scene replays in my mind as it was the last I saw of my dear Macky.
When I called the maid a few days later, she reported him missing as she had been out of station for just a day. It is indeed true that we humans are masters at betrayal, and I shall carry the regret of having betrayed an animal's trust for a long time to come.
Has an animal ever betrayed a human?