Feline tales

Feline tales

The furry ball came to our threshold as though swept in by autumn breeze. When I called my four-year-old granddaughter Nikki in Mangaluru about this kitten, she squealed with delight, “Ammamma, please call him Chhota Bheem.”

Every morning, Chhota Bheem would softly meow from the window, purr at our feet, finish milk and be gone. Within six months, he was fully grown. As the kitten grew into a cat, Nikki’s instructions followed, “Ammamma, now he is a cat, only milk is not enough. Kill a rat from the garden and feed him.” My daughter explained to her that Ammamma and Ajja, though regularly hunt for spectacles, car keys, cell phones etc, are not equipped to hunt rats for Chhota Bheem.

Meanwhile, Nikki wondered if ‘Chhota’ Bheem is an apt name for the full grown cat, but the name stuck. Soon, however, nature intervened to declare that indeed it’s a misnomer. Chhota Bheem became pregnant. We diversified her diet introducing egg, rice and buttermilk. Yet, we took conscientious decision not to let her inside the house as we didn’t want additional obligations in the seventh decade of our lives.

When a litter of three arrived, Nikki was ecstatic over video chat and christened them Loud Mouth (LM), Pebbles and Honda. Each one brought their unique personality and attitude. For instance, even as I was about to give him milk, if LM heard our neighbour’s door open,
he would ignore me and rush to their house, because they cooked fish while we were vegetarians. Nikki had her fill with the kittens during summer holidays. On the day she left for Mangaluru, she made buffet lunch on a banana leaf for them — cheese, biscuits, cake and curd-rice.

With time the kittens disappeared, but Chhota Bheem still meowed at our window unfailingly. About two months ago, she was not seen for a few weeks and we longed to hear her call. A bad odour from under the staircase led us to her lifeless body and a few centimetre-long fur. From the feeble movements of the fur, we realised she had made us the godparents to her kitten.

Just once, she broke our resolution of ‘no cats inside the house’, to save her baby. We went shopping for baby formula and droppers. Slowly and steadily the feeble fur, now “Peep-squeak”, opened her eyes and struggled with movements. Throughout her fight for survival without the warmth of her birth mother, her litter box habits were impeccable; truly nature’s miracle. Now at two months, Peep-squeak is a show-stopper and has her own mind — no bed on the floor, only sofa.

Recently, when we had to go out of station, we put her up with my cousin, familiarising Peep-squeak with her home in advance. When we came back to pick her up, she jumped on our feet and rubbed against our legs and purred non-stop for a long time. We were astounded by this dog-like behaviour from a kitten. Did we hear you say ‘Badhaai Ho’?