Portrait of a cat 5
November 11, 2006
I have had pangs of guilty conscience for not including in the portraits our fifth cat, who died last year, and who for reasons too complicated to explain, I will just call O. O, who looked like Saddam’s twin brother, arrived when there was a strict ban in force on new cats. For a while he hung hopefully around the house eating any food that was left outside but denied an entry permit. Then one day he sneaked into the house when my attention was distracted and climbed up onto my chest where he lay with a pathetically appealing look in his eye. I realised the poor fellow was not well so shipped him off to the vet and a week later he was back with his extradition order rescinded. One of the mitigating factors in his favour was the remark of the vet that O was one of the friendliest cats he had ever treated. O would always make friends with visitors but if anyone appeared near the house that he didn’t know he would growl threateningly. He was the most playful cat we’ve had, he would make anything into a game, chase anything and if anybody so much as touched a piece of string or paper he would appear from nowhere and demand to play with it. His true talent, however, was for football. He would practise with a ping pong ball for hours, shooting expertly against the furniture and catching the rebound. He and Saddam would often enjoy a game together, with Saddam keeping goal and O taking the penalties.He got on well with Saddam and if they weren’t playing together they would be nestling up to each other on a bed somewhere. But O had a stormy relationship with Miou, on whom he doted. Miou’s affections were placed firmly on Saddam and O’s constant attentions simply irritated her and aroused O to jealous frustration.But they always patched it up after a brief squabble and Miou would occasionally condsecend to give O a cursory lick. O’s favourite tactic when playing was to hide on or behind my feet and I have permanently scarred toes as Saddam, making a wild leap for O, would use my feet as a landing pad and sink his sharp claws into the flesh to bring himself to a halt. This practice also, on one occasion led to a potentially more serious injury. I had bought O a fluffy pink ball on a piece of elastic which he would leap acrobatically to catch. I had just had a shower and was only wearing a sarong when O decided he wanted to play with the fluffy ball. One of his leaps took him under my sarong, whereupon he looked up and saw what he concluded to be his toy dangling a few feet above his head. Never one to resist a challenge, he leaped up and sank eight razor sharp claws into a rather sensitive part of the male anatomy. The fluffy ball was kept hidden in a drawer for while after that. He was always getting into scrapes- once he got a huge fish bone stuck across his mouth, another occasion he jumped on the back of a motorbike just as it was speeding off and twice we locked him in the car by mistake overnight. Although O had a restless energy he was the one cat who would lie absolutely still in your arms when you picked him up. Unlike the others, he would also lie motionless when he was allowed to sleep on my bed, normally snuggled up against my stomach. He appeared always in a cheerful mood, never sulked or resisted attention and was never ill until one day we noticed he was having difficulty peeing. We took him to the vet but it didn’t clear up, so we took him to another and it still didn’t clear up. We took him back to the first vet who kept him in his clinic but told us the infection was gaining ground. I paid O a couple of visits when he would stagger to his feet and rub himself affectionately against me before sinking down again. One evening the vet called and said he was much worse and when I went to see him he was barely conscious. He died the following day and we buried him in the garden with his favourite ping pong ball. That day, someone trying to cheer me up with a joke said I must have kicked him too hard in the bed one night. That was one occasion when I did not appreciate Thai humour. Still, she later told me that she had shed more tears at the death of her pet dog than for her father so I forgave her.