My host had three cats, each of them strays from Dubai itself. The one that stuck in my memory the most. He was part of the small group of cats that was being fed in the front garden twice a day. He was larger than all the others and looked quite dreadful!
A couple of other cats, usually to be found right outside the compound, were among her protégées. Under the watchful eyes of the security staff they were being fed twice a day as well. Upfront, I’d been given instructions to pretend not to understand them if they would try to keep me from feeding the strays. But they never said a thing. Though I imagined to hear them say to one another: “They must be crazy, those expats!”
The big tomcat from the front garden I named – appropriately so – Big Boy. After all, that was exactly the way he looked, with his strong, muscled body, his pronounced rear and his broad, robust head with one battered ear. He was there for the food – nothing more – and usually seemed to give me the evil eye. The other guests, all ladies, liked a bit of fuss as well! Food and drink came first, but there were no objections against some patting. The purring usually sounded ear-splitting, though Big Boy never participated in it. Nevertheless, I suspect he partially liked the attention. A tender soul was hidden underneath his rough exterior, as he always let the ladies go first at feeding time. As if he was taking care of them. In my turn, I’d make sure there would be enough left for this big boy.
While he was eating, I permitted myself to give him a quick stroke once or twice. Not very nice, but I couldn’t resist. He didn’t walk off at that moment, though I could feel the resistance. His fur felt rough and rigid under my hands, a bit as if he was touched for the first time in his life. It felt wrong, so I stopped myself. It was the right thing to do. Perhaps he could have gotten used to the attention, but frankly; the chance was so much bigger that he would have walked off after finishing his bowl!