I am not an animal person. I don’t like cats. I don’t like dogs . The only pets I have ever had,were my gold-fish, Hassan and Hussein and you remember how THAT turned out but for a period of time, I become the relunctant unofficial owner of five….. FIVE!!!!!!! cats.
February 2017. Someone moved away from our apartment and left their cat behind. A grey stripped cat with the saddest eyes. I remember how it always approached me with those sad eyes looking for solace or comfort and I would shoo it away because I am a big chicken who has been indoctrinated by my culture that cats are dangerous (Even though I do not believe in it , cats are usually associated with witches).
I was more afraid of being scratched though. (Watched too many episodes of ‘When good pets go bad). I saw the cat grow from a sad eyed cat, to having hard world-weary eyes and I felt a bit guilty. It generally got fed by the swedish ladies on the first floor and took to sleeping on their door step.
My family stays in the basement floor of the apartment complex and under the stairwell, there were some abandoned sofas, which was down the hall from our apartment. In May, I noticed that the cat preferred to seclude itself in the sofas under the stairwell. I thought it might have gotten ill. Then one day, on my way to work, I saw that it had given birth to a litter. I was so livid. First of all, I didn’t know its gender and I was angry that it allowed itself to get into this situation. It was barely struggling on its own. How irresponsible of it to get pregnant and have more mouths to feed. (i know i was attributing human tendencies to an animal but that’s how i felt at that time)
Fast forward to June, It was Ramadan, I was unemployed and my baby had travelled to Nigeria to start school. I was incredibly lonely and the little kittens were venturing out of their shells. I noticed that the water left out for the kittens by the neighbours was far and in between and the mother was having difficulty venturing out to get food to sustain herself while feeding four hungry kittens. One day at the supermarket, I stumbled upon cat baby food and bought some. As I took the food there, they all ran away to hide under the chair and really that worked for me. I could feed them without worrying about interaction. Boy. WAS I WRONG!!!
So, for the next three weeks, I did massive research of cats and kittens. I spent a lot and I mean A LOT of money on cat food, ranging from canned meat, chicken, mixed veggies and fish. My Kittens only ate the expensive stuff. They flatly refused left over and didn’t like the cheaper cat snacks. It was exasperating and fascinating how snobbish and picky these animals I had unoffficially adopted, were. Every morning, after Iftaar, as I took out the trash. I always took their food out there with water and we established a routine.
However, it was not a pleasant experience. Cats are very stinky. (I did not know that) I found myself having to clean up their eating area every day before the neighbours lodge a complaint. Then the cats got familiar. They would rush me when I stepped out of the house. Even though my rational self knew they could not hurt me, I just didn’t want the contact. I would always shoo them away but they stopped being scared of me , so I had to carry a long broom every time i stepped out with food. It was a balancing nightmare trying to carry trash, cat food and a ‘weapon’. Then they started camping outside my door. You could hear the meows all the time. There were several occasions where I had to step out the house and saw all of them trying to get in. I started keeping a broom by the door.
My husband didn’t understand why the cats were ‘harrassing’ us. He didnt know of my feeding them (he still doesn’t) and has on three occasions cussed out the “idiot” that kept feeding them . (it is a good thing he does not read my blog) . I did approach him once on the idea of adopting one or two of the kittens and he was like nahh. I knew I could not keep this up any longer. I was getting bankrupt and my cats liked to eat like princes. I made calls to two cats agencies in Qatar who basically said they were full and didnt have room to take in five cats.
One day, the sofas were removed, and the cats were no longer able to stay there. Honestly, it was a mixture of relief and worry. I didn’t know where my cats were and was really worried. I knew that there were still in the apartment but I didnt know where they stayed. I still left food by the stairs so that they can stumble on them when they roam around. I feel a measure of guilt that I didnt take them in. I probably would have, if it were just me. Maybe.
Present day. I see only two of my cats now. The mum and two kittens are no longer around. I do hope they are alive somewhere. The cats no longer live in the compound but can be seen hovering around the trash bin, their innocent eyes already jaded with the harsh realities of life. I sometimes console myself that I gave them the best month of their lives where they get to eat and not worry about their next meal. I wish I had gotten over myself and given them some much-needed affection as well. Sigh. We live and learn.