Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on October 18, 2019 Published on October 18, 2019

My friends Stan, Michelle and Layla are away for the weekend. “Would you, by any chance,” they ask, “be willing to keep Pushkin company while we’re away?” He’s their cat, a small and very loving grey-and-black mini-lynx (note to reader: No, he’s not ANY kind of lynx! But he does have black pointy tufts on his ears. Reason enough to claim lynx ancestry). Being loving, he can’t bear to be left on his own. Not even for two nights. Hence the request.

Of course I agree. There’s nothing quite as pleasant as spending a couple of days in the charming confines of a friend’s home, reading poetry to their feline companion. I go over the day before their departure to get Essential Instructions. “He likes blue things,” says Layla, the daughter of the house, “and he likes to come up onto the dining table for a drink of water. His bowl is white, but if we put it down on a blue placemat... he appreciates that.” His food supplies are stored in small closet along with his toys. His litter box is in the bathroom.

The next day, Bins comes along to “settle you in”. He’s the cat-whisperer after all, not me. But he’s going away for a week and anyway, for some reason, it’s considered unseemly for a man to be asked to cat-sit. When I ask him why this is so, he focuses on the horizon and tugs at his grey-blond moustache, as if even to answer such questions is mildly offensive. So I collect my overnight kit — pajamas, toothbrush, iPad, chargers and daily meds — and the two of us walk over to Pushkin’s place. The pajamas are from Delhi — soft, printed cotton, so attractive and comfortable that I want to wear them all day long (and sometimes do).

Bins and Pushkin bond like lovers from a previous incarnation meeting for the first time in this life. The cat rolls over in delight, his eyes closed in rapture. After Bins leaves, I raid the pantry shelves for cookies. Every good home has a store of cookies SOMEWHERE. Sure enough, I find a nice tin box with “Lisboa” printed on its lid. Inside are two packets of lemon-flavoured cookies. I pause to feel a spasm of guilt: Surely I should ask permission? Check to find out if these are someone’s special treat? Then my baser instincts to take over. Soon there are only crumbs.

The weekend passes in a happy daze. I had plans to read, write and draw but instead I spend all my time reclining on the comfy couch. The best part about cat-sitting is that, just by being present, one is fulfilling the noble purpose of keeping a small furry creature from feeling sad. We watch Animal Planet together and sleep a lot. I go home on Sunday evening with my whiskers shining, purring softly as I walk.

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

Published on October 18, 2019
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