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?


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. 


The coolest cat

Straight away, that first summer, I thought ÇıtÇıt (pronounced as ‘chut-chut’) was the coolest cat of the whole bunch. His name was chosen haphazardly, by a student of his owner. It translates as ‘snap button’, which is not immediately obvious for a cat with such a soft and fluffy fur. 
At that moment of our first acquaintance, he was on a strict diet of a specific dry food, after having suffered from kidney stones. The regimen had some serious implications for him: in order to monitor him, he was not allowed outside for a full week. 
A full week! That is an incredibly long time for the coolest cat of the island of Büyükada, situated in the Marmara Sea, at a stone’s throw from Istanbul. He valued his freedom to come and go as he wished above everything. But as he was a big softie by heart, he didn’t even protest that much and only tried to escape every now and again. In case he succeeded, it wasn’t even that hard to catch him again. 

The end of the treatment was received with a big relief. Finally, he was able to go wherever he wanted again: outside! Luckily, the imposed confinement didn’t lead to mistrust. He was still around a lot, as one of his favourite hang-outs was on top of the screen that hung over the court yard adjacent to the kitchen.  

ÇıtÇıt in one of his favorite spots

The reason that he was the coolest cat in the island in my eyes, was that he always seemed to be his own cat. Very purposeful, never a sign of stress. There was also something about the way he communicated. Full of self-confidence. If I was busy in the kitchen, a simple ‘meow’ would suffice to let me know he was around and open the door for him; his sound was different from all the others. No need to check if it was really him! Sometimes, he didn’t say anything at all. He would just sit on the wall opposite of the kitchen door, patiently waiting for me to notice him. 

In spite of being a gib,  he wasn’t afraid of any of the other cats. Not even the big intact males that lived in the back garden! He would look straight at them whenever he walked by them; they never even stood in his way. The other cats of the household of eight, he would meow briefly at in passing as if he was saying hello. The kittens that lived behind the kitchen however, would occasionally receive a corrective tap if they annoyed him too much. He would growl or hiss at them while he was at it, so his intention was quite clear!

ÇıtÇıt taking a sand bath

Due to his  soft and fluffy fur, ÇıtÇıt had a very cuddly appearance. He never seemed to care that much, but as it seemed, he awarded me for all my care by allowing me to give him some fuss every now and again. Whatever rocks your boat lady! 

This is how I remember him, after his meal: out of the kitchen door, down the stairs and into the garden. Without a second glance. 


What the cat wants…

The sits at the homes of big cat families are perhaps among my favourites. Quite often, the personalities of these cats are rather outspoken and more than once I was impressed by their cleverness and the way they handled situations. As if being in a group forced them to deal with situations well! This was certainly the case for Tonguç, the materfamilias of the household of eight. Years before, she had moved to Büyükada, the largest of the Princes Islands, with her owner and her mate Kara Biber, a gorgeous black cat. It turned out to be the start of a big cat family.   

Briefly after our very first acquaintance, things were plain and clear: if attending a championship for becoming the world’s biggest cuddle cat, she would definitely be a strong contender. Her appearance had something endearing about it. As if she was still a young feline, instead of a 14 years-old lady! The way she was approaching me, was at least to say persistent. She wouldn’t shun competing with my laptop, as if she thought my lap was primarily her domain. But this optimistic kitty would not let herself be deterred by setbacks and would keep on looking for the best spot. Her most important criterium: close to me. 

Fast-forward the time with one and a half years. I am visiting my beloved island again, and obviously that incorporates a renewed acquaintance with my favourite cat family. While talking to her owner, I feel something soft pushing against my leg persistently. Looking down, I meet a pair of green eyes with an inquisitive expression. She starts to meow, as if saying “hello there, can I have some fuss here as well?!” The visit leads up to the decision to repeat the sit of the previous year. 

While most cats go their own way, as cats do, Tonguç seemed to be thrilled to keep my company. Her persistence was something I remembered well, and it was still present: she wants what she wants! 
So even during my daily meditation, that would usually last a little over half an hour, she prefers not to leave my side. Although I am flattered, it is not entirely practical.  Even in the later hours of the day the temperature can still get close to thirty degrees. And while most of the cats make themselves scarce as soon as I start chanting my mantra, she starts asking for attention instead. By pushing her head against my hands, that are lying in my lap in a mudra (hand position). It generally makes me laugh, as I can clearly feel her teeth due to an overbite. If this doesn’t work she starts licking my hand. It regularly gets me out of my concentration, but I persist, as if she provides me with a good exercise to stay focused!

In the end, she gives in. Her last resort, is to accept defeat and lie herself down next to me. Oftentimes with a paw on my leg. Would that be a mudra for cats?