Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I once mentioned that I care a lot about cats. Here, I am about to give you reasons and evidence of this.

This is me at 4 years old, the first time I lived in Riyadh. This picture was taken back in 1993.

I like to show this picture of me because it pretty much describes what I was as a kid. I was a chubby little girl who loved cats. Not much has changed since then!

That cute kitten in the picture is Stripes, one of my best friends in the entire world. I miss her every single day of my life and I have never missed anyone or anything that much since. She travelled with us until my years in Mauritius. In order to get Stripes to live in Mauritius, the government declared that she would have to live in quarantine for 6 months.

Stripes was a territorial desert cat who lived mostly outdoors. Dealing with the knowledge that she had to sit in a little cage on a plane whenever we moved used to be too much for me to handle. She would not have survived for 6 months, and neither would I.

There was a lot of crap that went on after that, but to cut a long story short I will tell you only what was important to me. The family issues we were having and the individuals who fought amongst each other were not important. But, that Stripes was no longer with me and she lived with someone else in the U.S. - that was the horrible and important part of the whole ordeal.

I saw her once in her new home and to be honest, I don't want to remember it. Her new owners treated her well, and they were fond of her, but I still cannot bear to deal with the fact that she was so far away for such a long time. Whenever I prayed, I thought of her and hoped she'd be happy and that she wouldn't be sad and remember her past life too much.

She remembered me, though. She purred and meowed and let us pet her and rolled over to let us stroke her belly like she used to. I know I thought about lying down and having her lie back to back with me, like we did so many times when I was little.

Here's the two of us when we lived in Oman; I was about 9 years old. She liked it when we lived there:

It hurt and dug right into my heart, the fact that we couldn't see her every day. Sometimes, I wish she didn't remember us at all. But then again, she lived a long life, and she was so beautiful til the end. My lovely silver Bastet died of cancer, from what I understand. I think it was liver cancer, and I think I remember that my Dad would joke about my little Stripes being an alcoholic. She sure was badass enough, I guess.

I don't think it was easy for my Mom to tell me that Stripes died - we were still living in Mauritius, then. I only remember that my sister and mother didn't seem as moved by it as I was, so I left the room and dealt with it on my own. Like with most things, I don't really like grieving with other people anyway.

I know that for the rest of my life, I will always have something of a soft spot for cats. I have no sympathy or kind words for people who do not understand this. However, this brings out a weakness in me that still, at 21, I do not know how to deal with. Cats bring me a lot of joy, but also a strong depression at the same time. Mostly, it is because I miss Stripes. I don't know what else it is. Maybe it is because I lost one of the strongest bonds I have ever had at a young age and I lost it due to something beyond my control.

You probably think I am being really dramatic over here, with my talk of Stripes and my loss. But honestly, I have felt no other loss, even with the life I have had, which is full of the loss of friends and places to call home. I have moved several times in my life, losing people who I cared about along the way - but I moved on. I made new friends and acquaintances and I dealt with it.

Did I do it right? Was I supposed to care more that I was leaving? I think I was, but even as a little kid I was pretty stoic. Then again, my memories may be fading. I don't remember ever begging my Dad to let us stay. I don't even remember crying with friends about us parting ways. I know that I packed my things, put them in cardboard boxes, and eventually got my stuff back in the next country. I also know that when my Dad suggested to me that I ask my friends if they wanted to adopt Stripes, I screamed at him. I ran up the yellow stairs in our Omani home and found her sitting in her favourite spot. It was a corner where she would curl into a ball or lie upside down in a silly position, like this:

I remember crying and I remember her scratching me. She always did that when I cried. I used to think it was because she was trying to get me to snap out of it, or that it was her way to make me stop. I used to think that it was her way of being my friend.

Every move, I got Stripes back...until we had to leave Oman in 1999/2000. That was a difficult time in my life so I don't really remember the year too well. I think giving Stripes away to relatives hit two out of the five members of my family the hardest: my Dad, and me. It is my father who really felt the same immense pain and anger that came with losing her. Up to this day, if one of us mentions Stripes, the other goes silent. We just cannot do it - to us, she was precious.

I don't connect with my Dad on many things. Sometimes, it seems like he is on another planet and that I am on mine. However, we connect on this one extremely depressing thing; this very real pain regarding Stripes, and any other cat we have become close to. And I have lost more after Stripes.

Legolas (orange) and Gimli (brown), in Mauritius:

Sorry for that terrible picture.
Grosbebe (white and orange) and Chibebe (dark fur; AKA Gollum) also in Mauritius:

Each of my cats has their own special story. I loved them all very, very much. I was very moved and upset by losing each and every one of them. However, losing Stripes, the first cat and my first real friend, was probably the worst and hardest to deal with. I never saw her during her last moments.

To add something happier, I do have a cat that is alive and well in Mauritius. She is being taken care of by the same people who are presently living in my Mauritian house. I am always glad to hear news of her and I miss her. To add to this picture-heavy entry:

Sillabub (AKA Fifi, or Mauvais depending on the day):

I have several dozen pictures of her, and it took me a lot longer than I'd like to admit to choose this one, where she is climbing up her most hated (loved?) chair. She treated that chair like it was her greatest enemy, biting and chewing and ripping the straw out constantly. It was damn hilarious.

I'm still that chubby girl who loves cats. But I am more than that, now that I think of it: I am a chubby girl who loves cats and treats them more like friends. My Fifi is my furry little friend back in Mauritius who lived with me for some years. Stripes is my best friend who passed away some years ago (again, I cannot remember the date and I don't think it is that important anyway).

These cats and memories surrounding them are extremely important to me as they have shaped and changed my life - not unlike my human friends. I am extremely grateful for the positive influence they have had on me. But, I also do regret the hold it has on me whenever I lose them. It is all too real and all too painful. Any animal lover would understand.

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