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Cat-sitting

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on March 13, 2020 Published on March 13, 2020

For the whole of this week, I’ve been staying over at my friends’ apartment, keeping their cat company while they’re away.

He’s an elegant little fellow with glossy grey-black fur and white accents under the eyes. He expects very little of me. “I know your type,” he sneers, the moment I walk in the door. “You know nothing about cats. Probably allergic. How about scratching behind my ears?”

The apartment is very comfortable, in a gracious old building with tall ceilings. It’s on the first floor, with a view of the lawn on one side, rimmed by tall trees. In the distance, I can see the grey, restless waves of the Atlantic Ocean. I say to the cat, “Well...this is my second time with you. We got on so well the first time around. You’re right, I am allergic to cats, but so far, I’ve not had a reaction to you.”

It’s true. Most cats produce a mild hay fever in me. It normally starts within half an hour of stepping into a room where the cat has been. But not this cat. “Pooh,” he says. “I don’t believe you. You can’t even say my name, I notice.” He insists that I call him by a different name each time I visit. This time, it’s DimSum. “But why?” I ask him. “That’s such a common name! And you’re not a common cat!”

He adores compliments of this sort. “Go on,” he purrs, falling on his side on the beautiful red carpet that he knows suits his colouring so well, “say it again. Tell me how unusual I am.” Of course, I have to stroke him while we have a chat or else he’ll simply raise his tail in disgust and walk away. So I caress his silky head while saying, “Ahh... your eyes are the colour of melting glaciers! The tips of your ears are tufted, like a lynx! Your fur is softer than a baby chinchilla’s!”

Alas, I cannot spend the whole day massaging his lordship. The moment I stop, he stares at me with an expression of eternal disappointment, then stalks out. He stays away for an hour or two or till whenever I make a sound to indicate that I’m alive. Then he comes back in, with a truckload of complaints. “Come on! Where have you been? I need stroking! I need poetry! Music! And ice cubes in my water-bowl!”

This last item is his favourite thing. The bowl must be placed on the dining table. He’ll drink the water from it even when there’s no ice but if he sees me putting in the cubes, he’ll jump up right away and have a long slow drink. Another favourite thing is galloping through the flat at 3am. “Why?” I ask him. “Why so early? What are you chasing?” He gives me a scornful glare. “The secrets of the Universe,” he whispers. “They’re in that room, under the bed!” Then he charges off again, without a backward glance.

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

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Published on March 13, 2020
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