Felinetines Day

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on February 16, 2018

For the past three nights, we have been terrorised by the most horrific screams. Cat politics: two males, one female. The female is on heat. Unlike humans, who pretend that nicely brought up girls know nothing of lust or reproduction, nicely brought up lady-cats solicit sexual services with heart-rending wails.

“It’s a strange thing, huh?” says Bins. He’s something of a cat-whisperer and has deep intuitions about felines. “The ladies sing and moan, howling for a lover to find them. But when a romantic male comes up to them, they slash at him!” “That’s because the toms are not subtle about making advances,” I say. “And sex is quite painful for the poor lady-cats. So they box the males on their ears whenever they get the chance.” I know that lady-cats are called queens but I don’t like the term. It seems somehow fake-respectful and sarcastic.

“Tom cats are all like Harvey Weinstein,” says Bins. “Except that they’re handsome.” Not the one outside, however! We’ve seen him. He looks like a nightmare with a tail. A giant black monster who fades into the shadows and glares at us, without running away. His competitor looks even worse: a white and brown creature with torn ears and yellow eyes. They’e both snarling now, outside. First one then the other, takes turns hurling fearsome insults. The sound is blood-curdling. And whenever they stop, the female’s plaintive mooing wail can be heard. To our ears it all sounds awful, but there’s a crazy harmony to it all.

“Valentine’s Day just went by,” I say. “Maybe for cats this IS soft music and romance?” Bins looks utterly disgusted. “Valentine’s Day is a human-rubbish idea! It’s a honey trap for love-hungry teenagers to spend their money on industrial products such as cards and flowers!” “Flowers?!” I say. “But they’re not–” He interrupts me. “Have you seen how flowers are manufactured in today’s world? Absolutely industrial. Mass produced. Forced blooming. Fake colours. No scent. Nature’s atelier has been turned into a brothel-workshop.”

I tell Bins that if he continues snarling he’s going to sound like the cats. “It’s just a spring festival. The human version of the great renewal of life that takes place after winter. Teenagers are young frisky animals after all, like the cats outside!” They can’t help themselves. “Buying cards and sending bouquets of flowers is their way of spraying on tree-trunks and roaring in the middle of the night!” Outside, the two males are reaching a crescendo. Any minute now there will be an explosion, a hissing, spitting murderous blast as two small furry bodies launch their claws and teeth at one another.

Then a thud, a rustle, a scrabbling of paws: exit one furious but chastened lover. In the silence, the lady-cat moans. Is she happy, I wonder? Did she prefer one tom over the other? And on what basis can she choose? Sadly, we will never know.

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

Published on February 16, 2018

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