Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Tigerlily - the beginning

We didn't choose Tigerlily. She chose us as her pet-family.

I've meant to post the following account of how Tigerlily came to be part of our family but didn't get round to it. Its been more than a month since she's joined our tribe. I wrote this the day after she came to us. Here's a look at how it all happened...

Yesterday I was on my way with Trin to see the speech therapist. As we stepped out from our gate, Trin pointed across the road and said: look, cat! Then she started making 'meow meow' sounds. Amazingly the cat responded with meows and came towards us. And I knew instinctively that this little animal wanted to come over for some stroking and cuddling.

So the cat came over to us and immediately lay on the ground, feet up, belly exposed and waited for us to stroke her! I've never seen cats behave like this before. I thought they were always haughty and standoffish but this little one was very friendly. It also did not seem wary of humans as I thought most strays would be.

We petted her for a while but as we stood up to leave, she stood up too and walked with us. So I tried backtracking into our garden, thinking that maybe she would be too wary to go into the grounds. But I was wrong. In she came, rolled over on the ground, Owain and Trin stroking and cooing in delight.

We really had to leave, so I carried Trin and went to the gate. The cat accompanied us but this time I kept on walking. After a while, the cat stopped several metres from my house and watched us go. Then it turned and went back in.

According to Lolita, the cat stayed in our house (or actually, the porch area) for several hours until Owain left for school and the house was locked up. We thought we'd seen the last of it, but not so. She (Lolita discovered it was a girl cat) came back in the evening. We didn't have cat food so we gave her bread from a curry bun and she finished everything.

The kids were thrilled, particularly Cait, who loved to spend hours outside with the cat just stroking it. Every once in a while, she would go out, sit outside, or sit on our ledge, but she would always come back and play and manja a bit. Even with me and KH, the cat would come, curl around our legs and mew. She didn't seem scared at all.

Occasionally, when she sat outside looking into the distance, I got the feeling that it was waiting for something/someone, sort of expecting somebody. Her stance looked watching and maybe even, a bit protective. It reminded me of the story in Neil Gaiman's book "Smoke and Mirrors". I read it sometime ago and that story really stuck with me. It was about a stray cat who battled nightly demons to protect its adopted human family. I remember liking it so much I made a photocopy of it and later on, bought the actual book. This little cat's watchful stance reminded me of this.

KH, who has always been resistant to the idea of any pets, seem won over or resigned to the fact that the cat seems to like us. But as I pointed out, we didn't choose it. It chose us. That's got to count for something right? Why did it choose us? And as KH jokingly said: "what on earth did Trin say to it! Either way, since it has chosen us, we cannot turn it away. We will do the best we can for it."

Last night, when everyone had gone up to bed, we last saw her settling down for the night on our comfy cushioned seat out on the porch. The next morning at 6am, which is today, the cat was still around. As usual, when we left, it accompanied us to the gate, sat there and watched us drive off. Cait forgot something so we turned back. When she ran in to get her stuff, the cat again tried initiating play - rolling around on the ground (you'd almost think it was like an excited puppy wanting to play all day!) . Cait gave it one last stroke and said bye-bye. Again, it followed her to the gate, sat outside and had a puzzled look as to why she was leaving again. Then it promptly went back in.

When I called home at 1pm, I was told the cat left when Owain went to school. It only came back in the mid-afternoon.

I don't know how long the cat will stay. I think being a street cat for so long would make it hard for it to remain housebound. With my big windows and doors perpetually open, with the gate slats wide enough for her to slip through, I think it would be near-impossible to keep her house-bound. We just have to accept that she will roam. We just hope she will return. My friend did warn me that she might one day go away - street cats sometimes did - and if it did, it might or might not return. So that is something we need to get used to. As Isaac warned us last night: don't get too attached. Remember what happened with the pigeon?

The pigeon was our first 'pet'. It limped to our house one fine day, one wing damaged. It could not fly so we put it in a cardboard box, gave it food and water, brought it to the vet. Despite the fact that the pigeon pooped all over the house when it was well enough to wander around, it was still a companion of sorts - watching tv with the kids, hopping out into the garden when the kids played etc. Isaac was really attached and he was very sad the day the pigeon was well enough to fly away. It never came back.

But anyway. We hope the cat stays - more or less. I've just bought her cat food pellets, her own bowl for water and another for food, and finally, her own little collar with a bell. I won't put it on her for now though. We will put food and water out for her and let her know she's got a home with us. But we will not restrain her indoors or cage her and we do know that she's quite the independent roamer so she will come and go as she pleases.

If she is still with us beyond a week, I will buy a cat carrier and transport her to a vet for an examination and sterilisation. Even if she does not stay with us, being sterilised can only be good for her and for the community. She does not look malnourished and her fur is nice and thick. Her head looks small and her eyes are huge - pale green jade colour. Her ears are big and perky and overall she looks like a juvenile cat, not quite an adult yet. She also has a jaunty tail which sticks upright whenever she approaches us. A friend told us this means that she has identified us as her family and she is comfortable with us.

Tentatively, we decided to call her Tigerlily, the Indian princess from Peter Pan, 'tiger' because of her black tigerish strips set in her tortoise-shell patches and 'lily' because of her snow-white chest and paws. I was told though that the name is too long and cats are more likely to recognise and respond to names that are max 2 syllables long. So we'll think about it again.

For now though, Tigerlily stays.

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