Friday, October 1, 2010

Cat O'Nine Tales - Rusty


"Cats sleep anywhere, any table any chair!" T.S. Eliot had
probably never met a cat like Rusty - one who prowls about
all night, making weird mewing sounds that run up and down
the scale, from a shrill soprano to a sinister bass. It is
even more weird when he pounces on inert sleeping bodies,
and scares them out of their skins.
When my daughter moved to Dubai and into a flat of her own,
her ever concerned friends landed up on her doorstep with
this adorable honey and white colored kitten, with the most
beautiful eyes possible. They also presented her with a
little cage and a litter box, which Rusty as he was
christened, took to with surprising ease.
Today Rusty is monarch of all he surveys, as he clambers up
the kichen slab, tears up bits of paper or, most irritating
of all, opens out his mistress' wardrobe and pulls her
carefully folded clothes down onto the floor. He pounces at
anything that moves, be it a billowing piece of cloth or a
pair of quick moving ankles.
The day another kitten came a-visiting,Rusty was all over
it, sniffing at it and generally trying to boss over the
terrified creature. it was as though he was saying with a
twist of his whiskers,"This is my home and my space! Don't
intrude!"
One of his favourite pastimes is watching people eat. With
those unblinking green brown eyes, he stares at every morsel
of food as it travels from plate to mouth, even though he
has a special diet of cat food that he digs into with
relish. He also loves little snacks that he is offered on
occasions.
Rusty is known for the exasperating habit of curling up on
his favurite cushion and sleeping during the day, and
turning into an insomnniac at night. There are days when he
makes mewling sounds which sound eerie in the dark,
especially when accompanied by a pair of glowing yellow eyes
shining like headlamps on a moonless night!
The first time we took Rusty for a drive to my sister's
house, he was in his little cage, producing the most raucous
sounds possible, as he rattled around every time the car
braked. The moment we opened the cage door, all we saw was a
streak of greased lightning as Rusty ran out as though his
tail were on fire.
The day my daughter put up a bold orange and black poster
of Barack Obama, her hero, Rusty decided that he was a real
person and gazed at him, making conversation with him as he
mewed for all he was worth. There were occasions when he
would climb up the mantelpiece and stare intently at the
Ganesh idol on top, remaining surprisingly calm for that
length of time. Of course very soon he would be imitating
greased lightning again, pulling down stuffed toys, sinking
his sharp claws into them, and jumping up to pull open
curtain ropes.
Rusty has his own toys... a stuffed grey mouse, four balls
with bells in them and a little yellow rat. But as in the
case of babies, he prefers to poke his nose into areas that
are more exciting... the kitchen and the bathroom, for
instance. It is clear that the proverb 'Curiosity kills a
cat' must have originated after an encounter with a cat like
Rusty!
One very amusing sight is Rusty sparring with his own
reflection. He glares into the mirror, seeing a rival cat
within, and arches his back, even as he stands on the tips
of his claws and pounces furiously on his reflection. His
other achievement has been learning to open the bathroom
door by springing up at the knob and turning it, after which
he sidles in to explore the dark unfathomed caves inside.
Most times when I am sitting at the computer or lying down
reading, I suddenly find Rusty staring unblinkingly at me,
and it is then I realise how much I will miss him when I go
back home to India. And all his little idiosyncracies,
whether it is scraping his paws after using his litter box,
or the quivery quavery sounds he makes as he watches birds
flying outside his window, and especially the endearing
manner in which he curls up on my lap and dozes off. And to
cap it all, Rusty is an exception to the rule that cats are
basically selfish vain creatures, for in his own little way,
he gives us unconditional love, even though he does use his
claws on us while doing so!


Published in the City Journal, Thrissur
Photo Credits: Priyanka Menon

3 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Welcome to the feline world... and some very observant piece of writing ! :)

    But the whole prowling 'insomniac' routine is something that independant predators however down the line they may be in the cat family display... which is the natural order of the real jungle than the virtual one he lives in. This begs the question... how does a caged self obssessed urbane cat ever come to terms with the world he really belongs to ? If you read or already have read Joy Adamson's "Born/Living/Forever Free" trilogy also made into movies in the 70's... you will get a semblance of the point i'm trying to make..!

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  3. Hi Keshav,
    Thanks for the pertinent observation!
    However, this cat was thrust upon Priyanka by her friends and if she had let it loose, it would probably have come under the wheels of a speeding car and reached the Pearly Gates before his time...get my point?
    As a matter of fact, he is as happy as he can be under the circumstances...
    Born Free was about a lioness, not a teeny weeny little kitten who has no idea what the real jungle looks like...

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