Tumi

I lost my phone on Saturday, or it was stolen. The entire Sunday, I read a book on Marxism in the Philippines edited by Abinales. I finished reading the book in half a day, all because there was nothing to distract me from reading. Except for one–Tumi’s wailing.

My poor cat kept going back to his litter box, scratching the walls of the pink, square plastic container which I lined with shredded paper bags from 7eleven. A follower on Instagram told me that it’s good to replace the usual cat litter sand with paper as paper won’t be too painful for the cat to claw repetitively when he attempts to poop following a major operation. (Last week, he underwent an operation to remove his ruptured anal sac and to clean the surrounding area covered with pus and abscess.)

Seeing Tumi in pain, neither eating nor drinking, unable to excrete the waste inside his body for four days, and looking at me with so much dependency one doesn’t normally see in a cat was disheartening. He would climb to the bed, clumsily carrying his heavy body to sit next to me. After getting tired of looking at me, he would inch closer and lean his head on my arm while my other hand held the book I was reading. Then he succumbed to sleep, to forget if only for a few minutes the pain and discomfort he might be feeling. Seconds later, his small head was held by my palm; he curled his body like a croissant, but it’s not the cute kind of cat croissant one sees on Instagram. He looked like a baby, and I think among the four cats, it was Tumi who didn’t grow up like a normal cat. It’s as if he’s suspended in animated kittenhood. And for this I feel that he, among my four cats, needed me the most.

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I didn’t want to document his suffering. It isn’t my object whenever I take pictures of him sleeping or yawning or walking in the room without any clear direction where he’s heading. In fact, I question the need for Tumi to go through pain in order for me to keep him by my side.

I asked his veterinarian what our options are. The most radical is to open him up again to remove the hardened stool in his large intestine which is a result of his inability to normally evacuate his excretion from his digestive tract.

I said no. I didn’t want him to go through surgery again for my sake. Owning a pet can be a rather selfish thing to do. It’s keeping an animal in a small place, letting him wait for his owner until he finishes his day job, come home to him, feed him and play with him for fifteen minutes, then feel good about providing the animal his basic needs and what little time the owner has left after toiling the whole day, and himself being a version of a pet by someone who’s more powerful, better connected, more moneyed. It’s a little too cynical, but it is.

While at the vet last night, I observed the comings and goings of pet owners who were holding their animals, all dogs, close to their chests, imitating those Renaissance paintings of the Madonna and her child. It’s almost grotesque. The cat owners were different. The cats were caged, the owners aware of the fact that what they have is a semi-wild animal who would not think twice of using their sharp claws in the event they felt their safety is compromised. The cats were as sick as the dogs, but the felines based on how they stared at me knew that they had to be respected, their honor to stay intact in spite of the presence of IV tubes attached to their arms. When the nurse brought Tumi out, I saw an infant looking helpless, meowing to me as if he’s telling me that he needed to be held, that he missed holding my arms while I embrace him tightly.

It was a difficult scene to look at. I do not know what I have done to render Tumi dishonored, to forget that he’s a cat, that he is supposed to be independent of me.

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My cats

Juanma has told me many times that I can empathize better with animals than with humans, that I care more for the welfare of my cats than for any of the people I know. I don’t agree with him, but there must be some truth to this observation.

I know when my cats are sick or are sad. I don’t merely anthropomorphize them because through years of raising them I can sense the slight changes in their meows, the drooping of their ears, or the abnormal shedding of their fur as indicators that something is wrong. My four cats are so dear to me that they figure prominently in most of the plans I have for the future.

I’m thinking of getting my third and a bigger condominium unit because I want to accommodate them and take them away from my ex who currently houses them. I think that they’re becoming too much of a burden to him. (Being with four cats while trying to begin a new life after a time with someone can be very difficult. How can he explain to the guys he’s dating the four felines that sit quietly while they talk about what each looks for in a partner? And for this I am most thankful to him for agreeing to provide a home for our cats) Sure, I see them regularly during the week to deliver their food, buy them the best cat food I can afford, take them to the vet for their vaccines and emergency health needs, but I want to see them every day, play with them, and make sure they have the best life I can provide. The condo I currently have does not allow pets and is too small for four cats.

I do not know when I started to be enamored with cats, but it should be when I was still young. Growing up, we never had a pet in the family because our house was practically open and any neighbors’ dog or cat could enter whenever they feel like it. But cats, they have smitten me with their proud demeanor and elegant gait. They look needy but are never.

I had wanted to have a cat but one cannot own a cat. Leave your door open and the next thing they’ll do is escape and find their happiness somewhere.

I believe my four cats will do the same. Sometimes, I intentionally keep the main door of the unit and screen door open to see what they will do. Didi, the youngest among the four doesn’t think twice of zooming out, Mimi hesitates, Priya observes, and Tumi will squeal, but all of them run out just the same.

I know, however, that they will have a difficult time surviving in the street. I’m imagining Tumi meowing at the top of his lungs waiting for me to scoop him up and take him home.

I understand that these four cats are a lifetime responsibility.

They’re the closest I can have to feeling unconditional love. I care for them because I hold myself accountable for them. The relationship I have with my ex has undergone drastic changes, but my relationship with my four cats will never change. I wish for them to stay healthy, happy, and hopefully one day figure out that the reason they still see me bringing a sack of dry food and cans of wet food to their place even though I do not live with them anymore is because I love them.

Dear Cats,

There are days when I wish you both gone. You’ve given me endless sneezes since yesterday, you scratched me, Mimi, while I so gently clipped your hind claws, you, Tumi always occupy the whole bed and cover it with your fur, you both scream and attempt to manslaughter me every month whenever I give you warm bath. You, Mimi, has achieved that rare expertise of finding my jugular veins and clawing them, always unsuccessfully, but one of these days, once you’re bigger and more experienced, you’ll be successful in the attempt, I’m imagining myself rotting for weeks on the floor of the bathroom surrounded by dried-up blood while you and Tumi escape through the window and use the elevator from the 21st floor to the ground floor, getting your freedom at last. If that happens, Mimi, please take care of fat Tumi. He will not survive outside, unlike you who’s independent and strong.

In spite of all these, I know that what I have for you two boys is the closest I can go to what they call unconditional love.

Your human,

John

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The two kitties trying to escape.

A painting of cats

Two weeks ago, I began doing something I used to do when I was younger but had to drop without much regret for not looking back because there were things in life that I thought needed more of my attention and finite source of energy. I stopped drawing sketches on pieces of paper and declared I am no artist and felt nauseated pretending to be one.

But there was a blank wall waiting to be filled with something, anything that would make it look less empty and white. Well it wasn’t exactly blank as there was the beige metal cover of the box that contains the main switch of the condominium unit. This metal box does not lend the unit that de regueur industrial feel, something that interior designers of late, those wanting to hop on the bandwagon of coolness have been utilizing in all their projects, unknowingly transforming all cafes and places catering to yuppies into endless permutation of that industrial aesthetic I am beginning to abhor.

I bought a 20X20 canvas board, some tubes of primary colors acrylic, and paintbrushes. Color palettes were out of stock in the two National Bookstore branches I had checked, so I had to improvise by using the plastic case of the acrylic tubes to mix my pigments (how pretentious this word sounds).

My cats had to be exiled to the bedroom as I painted them from a photo I took of them a month back. And below is the result of that weekend project that now makes the wall of the living room less bare and my cats curious about the two figures that bear little semblance to them.

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tumi and mimi

 

 

 

Cat

I look forward to coming home every night because I know my cat patiently waits for me.

Upon turning the knob to open the door, I will always see her without fail doing something that seems very important, pretending she doesn’t see me. Sometimes I suspect that she purposely hides under the couch whenever she hears my footstep approaching so I will see only her face peeking from the bottom of the sofa, her face giving me the cutest face of nonchalance I know.

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I will put my heavy back pack on the couch and call her. “Mimi, Mimi!” “Come to me, Mimi.” I’m always exhausted after spending 13 hours or more out working, but I forget how very tired I am when I see her or hear her purr. She ignores me at first, makes me feel I am but a rogue, dark rock aimlessly floating in her vast galaxy of stars. As soon as I begin to feign doing other things, like taking off my shirt and pants to shower in order to remove all the grimes I collected on my way home, she surreptitiously brushes her cheeks against my leg and lightly engulfs a narrow patch of my skin within the fullness of her small but gaping mouth until I can feel her fangs exerting enough pressure to make me notice her.

Without warning, she’ll mercilessly bite me. But owing to the smallness of her milk teeth, Mimi is only able to successfully do nothing but tickle me with that attempt at recovering her wildness she and all the other domesticated cats have relinquished thousands of years ago in exchange for access to grain silos that housed those delicious and protein-rich mice that competed with man for agricultural surplus.

I will hold her two front limbs, carry her toward my face and declare with so much love in my voice the extent of her evilness. I wonder how it will be when Mimi becomes bigger, when those canines can already do enough damage, when she’s gone too big and strong to be able to stage a committed resistance against me whenever I drag her to the shower. I guess this is the same fear parents have while staring with love at the infant they hold in their hands.

She had her first visit to her vet last weekend and took her deworming meds and vitamins on the same day. This Friday Mimi will have her first antirabies shot. I’m still thinking whether she will be spayed or not. My life has changed since Mimi came.

My Cats

51G3WT6D1NLWhen I was 11 or I do not remember exactly, my family got a cat which we named Blinky after that fat cat in the Tagalized anime titled “Ang Batang Santa Claus” on GMA7. Our Blinky was a white cat with patches of brown, yellow, and gray hair. I knew then that I’m a cat person and had been smitten by cats since.

The cat came to our home one day from nowhere looking for food. She was a juvenile cat when we had her. Perhaps her mother abandoned her as she’s too big to be breastfed. Blinky was feral turned tame after my sibling and I offered her a home.

She stayed with us for three years or so and got pregnant several times until one day we found her in the kitchen lifeless. Cats don’t live long in my hometown. They live a life on the edge, but I think it’s a life worth living. If I were a cat I’d rather live a dangerous life in complete freedom than be a neutered city kitty waiting to be fed tuna every four hours.

Every cat that our family owned after Blinky was called after her, and we referred to their kittens as Blinky’s kittens. We never bothered inventing names for them. Eventually these cats left the house when our grandmother moved in. She did not like how our cats had gone too comfortable in the house. Soon after, her discomfort was replaced with detestation, and so she waged wars against all our cats. Some time after, the cats were all gone.

I never had a liking for dogs. I hate their smell, the stupid look in their face, and how they try hard all the time to get the approval of people around them. Dogs tend to be too dependent on their masters. They want to be constantly pet and cared. I begin to lose interest the moment something becomes too dependent on me.

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Cats are different. Lest you think this blog has become fully dedicated to cats, it has not. It’s just that I have gone very fascinated with my pet cat Mimi.

Cats are very clean animals. Yes, they look down upon people, but once you get their trust, they’ll remain loyal till their dying days, save for some days when they ignore you no matter how hard you try to make them play with you.

Mimi is a kitten of a street cat. She’s a well-behaved cat who makes sure her poop is covered right after she’s done doing her thing. She can be demanding sometimes especially when she’s hungry. Bathing her and clipping her claws are my biggest challenges to date. I bathe her once every three days and clip her nails once in two weeks. She has enough play time and I vow not to make her fat and contented. If one day she decides to live her catty cat life and explore the world, she will have my blessing.

For now, I am enjoying my role as her master, equal, or however you refer to our relationship.

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The tale of our Hachiko

Hachiko is Baby’s gift to me on our third month. I must have hinted that I wanted a fish, and I must have jokingly specified I wanted a fighting fish in one of our late night conversations.

He’s a Siamese fighting fish, doomed to eternally live a solitary life.

I had six pet goldfish when I was in college who stayed with me until just before graduation.  They all perished when my landlady, whom I left them to be taken care of while I was studying in Kuala Lumpur, overfed them with those green-and-red pellets.

I named all my goldfish before so when they died because of my landlady’s over-eagerness, I felt that gaping hole of having lost loved ones. But I never blamed my landlady as fishes have naturally short lifespan, though I won’t deny that I had this urge to serve her coffee mixed with what was left of my fish’s pellets after she told me that she killed my pets.

I can’t have a dog because I move around quite often (and I never really liked dogs; they’re overly patronizing and love licking). Cats are fine because they’re intelligent, independent, scheming, and non-obtrusive, but I can’t have one unless I have a place I own.

I guess, so long as I continue living a life like this, moving from one place to another almost every six months, I can have nothing but fish as pets. I do nothing much except to feed them every morning and change the water in the bowl every weekend.

Then Hachiko arrived.  We had to eliminate other names from our long list–Curry (because that night I cooked curry for my baby, Fynn because of his beautiful fins, Peacock, Cock, Alabama, some other odd-sounding suggestions, then finally, Hachiko). He is named after that faithful Akita dog who waited 9 years for the coming of his master  in front of the Shibuya station in Japan.

My first glimpse of Hachiko was his beautiful fins fluttering in the water inside a fragile glass that was wrapped in newspaper and plastic bag under the bathroom sink. I peeked inside but acted like I did not see anything so I would not spoil my Baby’s surprise.

I had to sneak him to my unit because my condo prohibits its tenants from having pets. A week ago, while moving his tank, I accidentally broke it, so I had to temporarily place him in a plastic pail in the bathroom while I rushed to a hardware to buy a glass tank but ended up in the grocery and bought a transparent cookie jar instead.

The first thing I do in the morning before I start with my morning rush it to check my Hachiko and feed him with flakes (not anymore the green-and-red pellets) that promise to give him brilliant scales and lush fins.

Hachiko has given me something to look forward to after a tiring day. And something to remind me that he’s from somebody whom I love so much and who loves me back as much.