Favorite spots

“If you cannot find her, she’s most likely asleep on one of the dining room chairs, or behind the curtain on the bedroom window sill,” her owner warned me. “These are her favorite spots nowadays”.

New spot!

Only seldomly Donna comes and sits with me when I’m looking after her. Occasionally, she jumps on the couch I’m sitting on and walks back and forth a couple of times, only to then decide she prefers another spot in the house. Oddly enough, this is very often to be found in a room in the house where I am not! If I’m in the living room, she generally chooses the bedroom. When I go to bed, she mostly leaves. Not straight away though. On the contrary! As soon as I’m heading for bed she’s looking me up. It’s a created situation, as she is used to her owner giving her a handful of treats before going to sleep. It goes without saying I’m keeping the tradition alive!
Most of the time she joins me while I’m settling into bed with a book and some soft cushions in my back. With those gorgeous green eyes of her she stares at me. But after the treats have been finished, she seldomly keeps my company. Only once in a while she stays on the foot end of the bed. As soon as I lie down to go to sleep, and turn around a couple of times, she mostly calls it a night.

Best spot!

Much to my surprise and gratification she finally did choose a spot in my proximity. When I came home one day, I found her on top of my suitcase, that was lying on a bedroom chair. The lid was not entirely zipped up, so she had comfortably sunk into it. She spent the next couple of days at her new spot. “I do have an old suitcase somewhere,” said her owner when she heard the news. Mine would after all disappear with my departure!

Kittens!

In my adult life, I have only been a cat owner once. During a visit to a friend of a friend I instantly clicked with the cat of the house. She immediately took her place on my lap, deeply content. “Would you like to have her?”  asked the lady of the house, “my husband thinks we too many pets as it it is”. At the first occasion I stood my ground, but after the second visit I went home with a litter box and a weekend supply of food and kitty litter and a beauty in a travel basket. They say the cat chooses the owner, I’m convinced in this case it was fully mutual. 

Less than two weeks later a friend and I had to draw the conclusion there was something odd going on with my new house mate. She was very easy-going and you could do pretty much anything with her, except touching her tummy. Could she perhaps….?
Yes, she was pregnant. Within a month after her arrival, I was the proud owner of not one, but five cats. One young mother and her four kittens. It was an attack on the respiratory system but oh wat a joy. As an acquaintance at the time put it: Kittens are better entertainment than tv!

Undoubtedly, some sits have an added bonus. Very often, it’s all about location. Like a place I had always wanted to visit, or not necessarily and where I had a splendid time. Or circumstances, such as Paris in the snow. A beautiful or extraordinary house I also consider as a present. 
But the cherry on the cake called cat sitting is definitely kittens! 

Learning to climb a tree

There was already an intention to return to a former destination and their presence made it all the more alluring. So, for a second time I departed for Büyükada. I had given up watching television a long time ago, but with little Lily and Mimi in the back yard I had all the entertainment I could wish for. With the opening of the door I was enthusiastically greeted by the little ones, in unison with their mother, uncles, aunts and cousins. Among the 
back-yard cats, the kittens had a privileged position. Without a doubt, I kept a close watch to make sure they could eat their bellies full. It was heart-warming to witness how the other cats made sure the little ones got what they needed. 

Anything can be played with

One day at lunch, I missed Mimi, while she and her sister would normally be at the front when it was feeding time. After handing out the biscuits I found Mimi fast asleep in chair. That worried me, as it was very uncharacteristic behaviour! Rattling with a bowl of food didn’t elicit a response from her, so I tried to entice her with wet food. She only drank the liquid and immediately went back to her chair. After consulting with her owner, I decided to keep her close to me for a while. That meant putting her in a basket inside the house. That immediately revived her! The young lady made sure to let me know she didn’t agree by meowing by the back door, as far as her voice allowed it. I opened the back door, after which she took her place on the terrace again. After all, in spite of being less close, I could also keep an eye on sleeping there. So, I created an extra spot in the shadow for her and allowed her some peace and quiet. And indeed; the day after she was the spirit of liveliness again. As a kitten should be. 

Hello Kitty is a girl

Thinking about the most famous cats ever the cartoon character Hello Kitty quickly springs to mind. After all, she has cat ears and whiskers. But no: Hello Kitty apparently is a girl. 

Anyone who takes a good look, can easily see she is indeed walking around on two legs, but besides that? Does she actually have a tail? Isn’t it some kind of abstraction of a cat that we’re looking at? 

In 2014, Hello Kitty expert Christine R. Yano put together an exhibition on the subject for the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. While writing the script, she referred to a cat and was subsequently corrected by manufacturer Sanrio: the cartoon figure is a girl called Kitty White. She’s English, lives in the vicinity of London and her parent’s names are George and Mary White. Could she be any more British? She also has a twin sister, who can easily be found in illustrations. The funniest detail: Hello Kitty has a pet, a cat named Charmming White. 

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Hello Kitty and her pet cat

Not long after Yano got out with the news, manufacturer brought clarity. In spite of Hello Kitty being a girl, it went too far to say she was not a cat! One might as well say she was the personification of a cat. An explanation that will be acceptable for many a Hello Kitty-fan! 

Shakira has left home

Shakira is not the easiest cat; meaning that she doesn’t just allow everyone to connect with her. To be frank, I didn’t really succeed. In passing, she was skilfully avoiding my hand. She came and went as she pleased – as a cat should! In practical terms, this means she came home to eat and left shortly after. 
On one occasion she appeared to want to sleep indoors. In the dead of night, I was woken up by a huge racket somewhere over my head. I found myself eye to eye with Shakira; she was looking for a way out by climbing up the screen that was supposed to keep the mosquitos out. Surely not suitable as an exit for a cat! She looked quite frustrated and seemed glad I was opening the backdoor for her. I watched her disappear into the night. The evening after, she seemed to want to stay inside again, but I sent her out around bedtime. She was not pleased at all, but it seemed a better option than having her thrash the mosquito screens! 

Shakira, still at home

The day after she was nowhere to be seen. Immediately I felt bad. Could she have thought I was giving her her marching orders? Obviously, that was exactly what I had been doing so it was very well possible she didn’t feel welcome anymore… After all, she had been quite punctual all during the sit when it came to showing up for her meals. She had been there every single time, sometimes also in between. Much to my relief, she showed up again all by herself, a day later. 

Only a few weeks later, after returning home, I got message from her owner.

“Did you know Shakira has left home?”
“Whaaaaaatttt???”

Immediately I remembered my feeling of guilt, about that time I sent her outside. The story about her departure goes like this: The evening after her return from her vacation, Shakira was the last cat out of eight to greet her owner. In the course of the days following, she showed up less and less, skipping meals until finally she didn’t come back at all. 
Luckily, it didn’t take long to track her down. She was staying at a house only five doors down the road. The lady living there, had lost her own cat only a year before that. 
Shakira and the lady had taken a liking to each other. There were no other cats around; no food, love nor attention to share. On the terrace is a chair for Shakira alone to sleep on. She lets the lady pet her and it seems to please her. What more could a cat want? 

Shakira in her own chair

Unfortunately, it isn’t clear yet if this is a story with a happy ending… The island of Büyükada, where all this is taking place, is only a summer residence for most inhabitants. Which means that many of them will leave in the course of the month of September. After that, they generally return to the big city (Istanbul) to spend the winter months there. This makes it very likely that Shakira is going to lose her new home and owner soon….

Luckily, there is another place, where she continues to be welcome. With her initial owner. Hopefully, she will find her way home… 

The Travelling Cat Chronicles

A few years ago a friend gave me this book as a present. As an avid cat lover, I was bound to like this book a lot, that was the general idea. The cover of the Dutch translation is adorned with a sentence from an article published in The Guardian: “anyone who has ever unashamedly loved an animal will read this book with gratitude, for its understanding of an emotion that ennobles us as human beings, whether we value it or not”.

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Nana is a rough tom cat used to living in the streets. He doesn’t care much for humans, but changes his mind after meeting Satoru.
It all starts when he starts napping on the hood of a silver mini van. The owner feeds him tasty snacks. Nana in exchange allows him to pet him every now and again. When Nana gets hit by a car and is injured, it goes without saying that Satoru takes him in. They stick together from that point forward and become owner and cat. Satoru is also the one who names him Nana, meaning ‘seven’ in Japanese, due to the shape of his tail. It happens to be the case his previous cat was called Hachi (eight). Nana doesn’t like it one bit, but accepts it: they belong together now.
This is the start of a love story between human and cat.

After five years, Satory announces, without giving any explanation, that he cannot keep Nana with him anymore. They take off on a road trip together, crossing Japan while staying with old friends of Satoru. It doesn’t take long before it becomes clear something strange is going on. At the first stop, it seems Satoru is looking for a new home for his cat. Nana is not willing at all, and at every stop he creates a reason why he cannot stay there. After all, he has an owner already and he doesn’t see a clear reason to part! Where Satoru goes, he want to go as well. This love between owner and cat, is contradiction with what is generally said about the former: that they will only love those that feeds them. “Cats are not so heartless,” declares Nana. “How could I ever leave him?”

During the course of the journey, it cannot be denied what the true reason for the quest is. Satoru is ill, terminally ill. He visits all people that were ever dear to him. But only at the last address he finds a place for Nana: with Noriko, the aunt that took Satoru in after his parents passed away when he was only a young boy. He can die after finding a new home for his beloved cat. And in spite of Nana not being very willing, he accepts his fate.

He gets a good life with Noriko, but he cannot forget Satoru. In spite of that, the end to the story is not very sad. Nana like getting the responsibility in the education of a new kitten. But ahead of him awaits the reunion with Satoru. Nana’s dreams reminded me of
Rumi: “Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there”.

The Story of Tom & Jerry

The Tom & Jerry in this story are both cats, and brothers. They may be related by blood, but it isn’t that well visible, aside from the fact that they are both lean and agile cats, with the cutest black paw pads. I do not recall ever having seen them in one another’s company.
The personalities seem quite different as well. Tom mostly keeps himself to himself, he’s a bit of a loner. It’s alright to stroke him, but don’t expect him to be around for long; he only comes home to be fed. Before he was inside more often. I have a vivid memory of him spending his days on a book shelf. This is what he was like when I first met him: While I was working on my laptop, his long black tail was dangling right outside of my field of view. I was aware of it all that time. 

Tom seizes the day

Jerry on the other hand is a very affectionate animal. Not from the start, he is a bit shy at first. In fact, initially I didn’t really notice him that much. Neither could I really understand why he was his owner’s favourite. She was quite adamant about it as well. “This is the one I love the most,” she said. Without a doubt he looked quite cute, with his gorgeous almond-shaped eyes and the little black mark on his nose, that reminded me of liquorice. 
Later, only much later, I finally understood what he was all about. He amazed me with his affection! He climbed on my lap, placed both front paws on my shoulders while putting his little head in my neck. Who wouldn’t succumb to so much love?

Jerry

Their owner had found the boys – many years before that – in her garden. As is often the case with kittens that don’t have a home, they were in an abominable state: dirty, wet and hungry. She cared about their fate and took them in for a while. Just to help them recover, then she let them go again. Unfortunately, they quickly relapsed after that. Their immune system wasn’t up to par and to make matters worse, they developed diarrhoea. This could have meant the end of them, but their owner decided to give it everything she got. That also meant the status of permanent indoor cat. First she tried by herself, when she didn’t succeed with the help of a vet. 

While Tom recovered rapidly, Jerry remained sickly. His owner preferred to keep a close watch on him, which must me why their connection became so strong. It made a bit of a mama’s boy out of him. 
Quite recently, he took initiative to spend more time outside, as if he had decided he was a big boy now. It lasted no more than a few weeks. Than he developed a bad rash on his velvety white tummy that wouldn’t disappear. He rapidly lost his sense of adventure. It was the end of Jerry’s Big Adventure. 

What’s in a name?

A large gib with a somewhat gruff exterior, that was the first impression he made on me. Initially, he would never come to me on his own account unless it was feeding time, that definitely added up to the impression he made. But is what you see always what you get?

In a cat household of eight feeding time can be a pretty busy time of the day. Add the garden cats up to that, front as well as back yard, and the hectic of the process is easily conceivable. Taking into consideration that we find ourselves at the beautiful island of Büyükada, Turkey might lead to the conclusion that the amount of strays in the garden can amount from day to day!
Before opening the front door I already brace myself for cats pushing themselves against my legs, so that I will have to be super careful not to step on them or trip over them! There is also the growling and hissing, arising from a slight panic to be left without food. No need; there is definitely plenty for all of them!

Waiting patiently…

My big friend is the only one who seems to understand. He simply sits by and watches all the hassle, waiting patiently for his own turn. As soon as he notices I’m done with the front yard posse, he turns around to walk towards his favourite pillar. He knows that on occasions, he gets fed there. He prefers it to eating indoors, where he only comes for food or – sporadically – to sleep by my side. So quite regularly, I let him have his way and offer him his portion where he likes it best: on top of his favourite pillar. 
I am absolutely confident of his gratitude. When I briefly stroke his fur as he starts to eat, he is purring. Not very loudly, as that wouldn’t suit him at all. Yet clearly audible indeed. 

But then… his name! Due to a small yet clearly visible black spot right underneath his nose, his owner has called him Hitler, pronounced ‘Hitlèr’ in Turkish. 
During my first sit with this cat family I posted a ludic competition of social media: “Take a good look at this big boy and tell me what his name is”. 

Mister Moustachio

Guess what? In spite of suspecting his name, people would find it too shocking to mention it at all. When I mentioned this to his owner, she simply shrugged. “It’s just because of the little moustache, nothing more to it”, she explained. 
Context is everything: different country, different history, different sentiment.
As for me: I never really managed to get used to call him by his name when it was feeding time. What I ended up doing, is modify it to ‘Hitlertje’, which is Dutch for Little Hitler. Or even better: Sweet Boy. Much more suitable for his goodhearted nature.