Perhaps cats belong more properly to photographs and videos. It does seem a little ridiculous to wax lyrical about them; one can project neither mute wisdom nor aching loyalty onto their feline persons, and a cat’s usual mode of complete indifference lends itself ill to any romanticisation.
But I am hard pressed not to whip out my diary (every literature student’s ratty binder of drawings and quotes and 2 AM poems) and scribble on about love and trust and things like that, whenever my kitten stands up on her hind legs to butt her tiny head against my giant one. Or when she meows until I pick her up and then proceeds to settle into the crook of my legs, laying out her limbs like the Sphinx. Or when she looks and looks and looks at me with her pupils wide, ultimately opening her mouth in a silent meow. Yahoo tells me that is the highest honour a cat can bestow. And I feel sufficiently honoured.
Cats are strange creatures. And all my life my love for them has been met with either an even stronger professing of love for dogs, horror at my bad taste in animals (?? can there be such a thing ??) or a condescending declaration that I am thoroughly misguided. I’m not spared this anti-cat propaganda even at the vet, whose assistant tells me while I cradle my sick, 2-month old kitten “Madam, billi na hi rakho toh achha hai. Billi kisi ki sagi nahi hoti” (Its better never to keep cats. Cats belong to no one) I wouldn’t say I ~own my cats, but they definitely love me, and respect me (or my territory), and I take that as proof enough. It’s definitely an ego boost being loved by an animal that doesn’t love indiscriminately, but loves fiercely and insistently. Don’t get me wrong, dogs are AMAZING too. I can’t resist petting a dog regardless of time, place or situation. But cats? Cats are special.
My kitten lets me “manhandle” her paws and ears and even her tail, lets me turn her on her back and nose at her soft tummy – and all this runs counter to my expectations, according to everything I have heard and read. I should be trapped into a whirlwind of claws and teeth and yowling, but my cats are impatient, and a gentle nip is the roughest they’ve ever gotten. “Cats are big baby nerds”, says a friend on Tumblr. My parents and their Bengali friends would be taken aback at this description of what, according to them, are the fiends on the streets of Kolkata. A hate for cats has dictated even the city’s architecture, with grills on windows and balconies being of such design that cats can’t slip through. My grandmother shakes her head over the telephone on my folly.
The thought of giving her up for adoption is painful. Of the kind that makes me clutch her tight and sob and sob in a rictus of panic while she squirms in my grasp, unable to understand what is wrong. For now, as my kitten finds new joy in the same cardboard box that’s been lying around the room for as long as she’s been here, I wonder at her athleticism, grace and utter gullibility. Ten minutes later, tuckered out from chasing her tail, she will leap silently into my lap and nibble at my jaw. Its cat for ‘Hello, large hairless cat, I tolerate you well’. For now, all is well.