Thursday, April 14, 2011

the cats that live at my house

About a year ago I was on my way to the park when I heard the cries of a young kitten; insistant and constant.  I looked and found her in the garbage.  There are quite a few street cats on my street and I assumed she had just gotten separated from her mother.   When I was heading back it was starting to rain, and she was still there crying pitifully.  I tried to grab her but she ran off.  The next day, on the way to the park with my girls, the kitten was still there and crying loud, constant meows, I don't now how the neighbours could stand it.  I told the girls if she was still their on the way home, we would take her.  This of course was easier said than done.  Even though she was tiny and half starved, it took three adults and three kids to catch her (she bit one guy trying to help us).

Hungry, dirty, and full of fleas Cookie came into our lives.  She was too small for solid food when we first brought her home.
But within a couple of weeks she was eating kibble.  As a little kitten, she spent a lot of time with the kids, I would often find her sleeping in the doll house while the girls played beside.  She has grown into a lovely cat and we all adore her, even my, not very pet enthusiastic, husband.

A few months after we found Cookie, as I was getting up to start lunches and breakfast, I coud hear a kitten crying.  I opened the front door just in time to see a tabby kitten running away.  On our way home from school I told the girls to keep an eye out for him.  We saw no sign of him until we got to our house and there he was meowing under the hedge.  This is how Mowgli came to live with us.

Mowgli was very wild.  Already able to eat solid food, he was not that hungry and the flea bath traumatized him.  He spent the first week under the cupboards.  I told the girls we'd take him to get fixed and release him back to the street; he seemed so miserable and scared.  But somehow he came around.  He doesn't like the kids as much as Cookie does but he's very affectionate.
Cats are really not ideal pets in the tropics because they kill stuff, and there are so many little creatures for them to hunt here.  Every lizard and bird that they kill is a tragedy and I really wish they didn't.  But Mowgli killed a rat that ran into the house the other night (that was me shrieking, up on the kitchen counter) and that seemed much more felicitous than tragic to me.  There are rats here and when the rain starts they try to move in where it's dry.  So I forgive dear Cookie and Mowgli their bloodthirsty ways.

Occasionally since I've been here in Latin America, I've encountered some pretty incredible superstition about cats.  I remember in Costa Rica, this one woman telling me how cats can steal your soul when you sleep and she was not joking.  She seemed to attribute all crib death to cats.  A lot of people in the countryside seemed to think cats were evil, dangerous and dirty.  You really only saw cats as pets in foreigners' houses.  The city is different, and here in Panama I've met quite a few people with pet cats.  So I was a little surprised when my daughter encountered the whole evil cat thing in the playground.

There's this girl we sometimes see at the playground, who verges on bully.  She's more feared than liked and honestly seems really unhappy.  I keep a close watch when my kids are playing with her, but kids know, there is always wariness when she approaches the group.  The other day she told my daughter in hushed, scandalized tones that "cats are the only animal that isn't in the bible."  This information was supposed to make my daughter feel bad or deviant for having pet cats.  The stupidity of it just kind of baffled her.  'What is that supposed to mean?"  We laughed all the way home to our devil cats.

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