• Mohamad Tabbaa

Life of Cat(Man)

Updated: May 26, 2020

There's no easy way to say this, so I'm just going to blurt it out.

I have 15 cats.

There, I said it. Phew. That's a load off of my shoulders.

Now, before you get all smug and judgy, hear me out. For I didn't choose the cat life, the cat life chose me.

Well, sort of.

Ok, so it's true that I've always had a thing for cats. And it's true that I drop whatever I'm doing whenever a furry feline friend happens by. And yes, it's also true that basically every single assignment I did in primary school was titled 'Cats'.

But that's not how I ended up with 15 of the little angelic beasts on my doorstep.

No. There's a sinister story behind it all, which I'm going to share with you to elicit sympathy (and respect, because who doesn't love a cat saviour?).

So here it is. I moved into a new house about a year ago. Upon settling in, I quickly realised there was a stray cat community living in the area, with casual visitations to my backyard a regular occurrence. I did make a half-ditched attempt to pet them a few times, which they initially refused, but I didn't think much more of it. I don't have the time currently to commit to proper cat care.

Fast-forward a few months, and I'm cleaning out and rearranging my garage. I move a large cardboard box from the corner ... and right there, in all her glory, is a gorgeous mama-cat with four newborns suckling away. She stares at me with slightly alert, but trusting, beautiful green eyes (which you'll enjoy further down), and my heart naturally melts.

Picture of Kittens
First batch of four

"I have a duty to feed her, given she is suckling her young," I innocently whisper to myself.

So I do. I begin to put her food and milk regularly so that she can spend her time looking after her young rather than scavenging around for food. It's a rough neighbourhood. I'll at least see these kittens through to adolescence and then reassess, I resolve.

Silly me.

Within days, she has brought along her entire entourage. Brothers, sisters, children from previous relationships, distant cousins and local acquaintances all begin flocking to my doorstep with their pleading eyes and rumbling stomachs.

I'm in trouble...

Fast-foward again to the present moment, and suffice to say that I've accepted my calling as Custodian of the Cats. It feels like a full-time job, but I've learned some little tricks and shortcuts along the way. I buy dog food instead of cat food; there's no way I'm opening three cans per meal. I try to feed them before feeding myself so I don't feel guilty as they watch me eat through the glass door that can't be covered; I need to maintain some semblance of sanity. Two meals a day, no exceptions; I need to set some rules.

For their part, the majority of them have come round and are somewhere between stray and domesticated. About half of them now live in my backyard permanently (one has been exiled to the garage! We'll get to her), on my couch which they've gleefully destroyed with their clawing, and enjoy being petted. The Permanents run to the door as soon as they hear me come home and waste no time in working away on my guilt with their practised meows and pitiful eyes.

The non-Permanents come and go as they please, sometimes sleeping over, other times just passing through for the occasional bite. On average, I've been seeing about two new cats per month begin to claim my home as their own. They randomly appear on my doorstep one day and simply expect, as a matter of course, to be fed.

Perhaps I am but a custodian of this residence, and my role in it is to preserve its integrity for the real owners? They are my Master, and I, their (unwitting) willing servant. Maybe this is what Hegel was really referring to in his Master-Slave dialectic. Is it our subservient relationship to the master cat species that will ultimately deliver us to Freedom?) It's a noble vocation, however one looks at it.

So as an introduction to my world of cats and the first blog in this category, let me share with you this, the story of my overlords, so that you may understand my predicament and the moral dilemma of my daily existence.

While language quickly meets the limitations of its descriptive qualities under the sheer weight of cat majesty, in what follows, I will offer my humble attempt at giving each individual feline their due. This is the best we can hope to achieve until these higher beings decide that we are worthy of sharing a linguistic realm with them.

I'll introduce them one at a time, and start building the story for you of this complex community with its hierarchies and web of relations, customs, sub-cultures, quirks and personalities.

This is their story.

Name: Blackie

Nickname: Blajjie

In a Word: Queen

What you need to know:

Blajjie is the undisputed Queen of the neighbourhood. Although physically the smallest of the adults (she is in fact smaller than her own kittens), she carries herself gracefully and with poise, and commands respect from all, including her human admirers.

One cannot help but fall in love with this gentle soul, as she lovingly buries her face into your leg at every opportunity. She seeks you out to sit under your shadow, but without being that annoying cat that almost trips you up as you walk.

Blajjie is the type of cat to walk away from a full plate of food, just to give you a thank-you rub, despite knowing full well that the food will largely have disappeared upon her return.

These are the kinds of sacrifices Blajjie humbly makes without want or favour.

She is a slow, deliberate eater who does not scoff down food as you would expect a stray cat to do. In fact, I began bringing her inside to eat alone, away from the desperation of the other cats, just so she could get a full meal. On the first such occasion, she took a few bites before stopping, evidently stressed, and began meowing at the door for me to open. I couldn't understand it, but of course obeyed Master's instructions. She picked up as much food as she could carry in her little mouth, and walked over to the garage to feed her kittens.

It's ok, I cried too.

For this reason, Blajjie is the exception to all of the cat rules I've created and brutally enforced: no cats allowed on the bench as food is served - but Blajjie, please come help yourself. No cats inside after food is eaten (as there's no incentive to get them back out) - Blajjie, you have an open invitation, at all hours. No cats allowed to hit each other in my presence - Blajjie, feel free to exercise your powers as you see fit.

She has brought into this world the four kittens mentioned above, as well as a new batch of three only weeks ago. Her contribution to this planet is matched only by the likes of the inventors of tea, chocolate and ginger beer.

Blajjie, I salute thee. Long may you reign supreme.


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