Portrait of a cat 4
November 6, 2006
Last, but not least… Well, no, in some ways last and least. Tua lek (little one) got her name more or less by default. As she is the smallest cat around and no one knew what she was called we just referred to her as ‘the little one’ and it stuck. She’s an original native Thai cat (not Siamese) with a stumpy tail and thick soft fur. We thought she was the youngest but it turns out she’s probably older than the others and she’s already a grandmother. For a while lived in the lane by a neighbour’s house who was not interested in her. I used to take her food twice a day but she would often disappear for days on end. On on occasion, while the neighbour was away we found her lifeless and wheezing so we took her off to the vet. On her return she decided to move in and as she was then a rather pathetic little creature we made an exception to our ban on new cats. Once in, Tua lek decided that was where she wanted to stay and even now will only venture outside for very short periods and always within a 10 yeard radius of the house. For months she was not in good health, her main problem being an infection of her mouth so she found eating painful. She also pulled great lumps of her fur out. A succession of vets simply gave her an injection or two and told us to come back when it reoccurred. Between monthly visits she would lie still, a miserable malodorous little bundle, her normal resting place being my lap or chest as I worked at the computer. For a long time I was reduced to typing the manuscript for a book with one hand, the other holding Tua lek in place. Then one day we went to a new vet who took one look at her and said’ right let’s have all her teeth out’, which he did, except one Since then she has been a new cat, playing all day like a kitten. She’s obsessed with a piece of string, she pulls it down as soon as I appear in the morning and waits by it for me to drag it along for her to chase. She races after it, ending with a series of skips and a skid into the nearest wall. Every so often she will do a vertical take-off and land on the string which she will attempt to chew with her one remaining tooth. She doesn’t really run, but hops like a rabbit. Sometimes when she wants a attention she will do a silly walk and bump into furniture before ricocheting off it onto my leg. She’s still very affectionate. periodically I feel a slight wobble on my chair which tells me that Tua lek has jumped up and will soon be settling on my lap. When I watch TV she will come and sit at my feet and fix me with a determined stare. After a few seconds she will jump nimbly up and settle herself on any available bit of my anatomy. In spite of this, if you pick her up she will immedately struggle to get down. She tries to miao but most of the time there is no sound apart from the occasional squeak. She does, however, snore impressively. In spite of being the smallest and the least equipped to defend herself she is fearless- when one of the neighbouring toms comes marauding there she is in the front line with the heavy artillery (Saddam) close behind her. She will often push the others out of the way to get to the food first and regularly gives Saddam a sisterly biff. She is particularly partial to titbits from our plates and gets bored with food quite quickly, demanding a change of flavour to her cat food every week. It’s often hard to find her, not just because of her small size but because she seeks out the darkest, quietest corners to rest in.Sometimes it’s the gap behind my computer monitor, or under the sofa, behind the fridge or at the bottom of a clothes basket. If anyone comes to the house she doesn’t know she flees to the remotest corner of the sitting room. If I put on outdoor clothes, she scurries off to safety behind the TV. Her health is still not that good- after a few moments chasing after the string she has violent coughing fits and has to rest for a while. Once or twice she’s managed to climb up a tree in the garden but hasn’t yet mastered the art of climbing down. Like Saddam and Bua khao, she shows no interest in hunting, but, as befits her size, enjoys playing with ants. She seems to have frequented several houses in the neighbourhood before fixing on ours and of all the cats is the one who seems to need most contact with humans.
A tail piece on wobbles to my chair. My computer chair, which I have to periodically reclaim from Saddam, has wheels so I notice it when the cats bump into it while they’re chasing each other around. Two years ago, one Sunday morning, I was at the computer as usual and the chair started wobbling then moved a few inches. Damn those cats, I thought and looked down. No cats- they were all outside. That was the morning of the tsunami.