A delightful guest post about a boy and his kitten. Who says men don’t love cats?
I love the runts of the kitty litter. During childhood I discovered my affection for the tiny runts of the litter, at about 6 years old I chose a cat from a neighbours kittens and my father said, “That’s the runt, why not go for that one,” and he pointed to a bigger, more beautiful kitten. The little guy I wanted looked a bit lost and disgruntled, he wasn’t getting to suckle on the mother’s teat much and other kittens had been using him for a pillow occasionally.
But to my young eyes, this little guy looked like he may be more fun, less stuck up, than the others and I was looking for a little companion after all. I wanted a kitten who would love playing with me, one that would chat with me and always be there after school, eagerly waiting to play. I kind of knew that size didn’t matter after all a runt will still grow large and healthy given a good diet and a comfy life. And it seemed to me that the small downtrodden critters of the litter might cherish the opportunity to be adopted a bit more than the beautiful prancing studs and queens.
So I told my dad I’d take him and picked him up, he was immediately relaxed in my hands and struggled to crane his neck to look up at my face. “We’re going to have nonstop fun and loads of adventures,” I said to him and he did a slow blink, then let out a silent Meow, the kind where the mouth moves but no sound comes out. He came home that day, and I made him a house in my bedroom, well actually it was one of my wardrobe drawers pulled half open with a towel in it. And he took to it straight away. I’ll never forget how amazing it was to go to bed at night with little Rattles to play with, (he was ginger, so I called him Carrot which turned into Rattles).
We’d stay awake and play in the dark, I had a flash light, so it wasn’t completely dark, it was like camping out with a new best buddy. And Rattles loved it too, I’d never had my own pet before and he was all I ever dreamed of, really friends from the get go. Most nights he’d sleep on my pillow with me and occasionally I’d wake up, and he’d be snug in his little drawer house.
I missed him when I went to school and couldn’t wait to get back home. I used to take him out on adventures in the woods. I had a small back pack, it was too deep for him to be able to see out of so I stuffed a jumper in there and then he could reach his head out the top and enjoy the view. It wasn’t long before he climbed out and up onto my shoulders where he’d cling on and enjoy the ride. We’d walk around like that, Rattles on my shoulder, and I’d leave the backpack at home.
So in adulthood I was truly aware of the fun we can have with cats, how loving and playful they are. I knew if the right bond is formed during kitten hood you can really take them anywhere and not worry about them causing havoc or disappearing. And I suppose I always remembered Rattles who was the runt of the litter and grew up to be a handsome, gentle cat with kind, wise eyes. And I continued to choose the runts. As years went by, other members of my family had their own cats too and I saw how proud and demanding they often were, that’s OK too. But my little guys seemed full of gratitude and joy in comparison.
I came home from school one day at about 17 years old and my parents had brought in 2 cats, the house sat on the side of a steep hill and that was the garden, there was a lot of land albeit steep and jungle-like, this was Hong Kong. They’d decided the cats would be in & and outdoor pets. By the time the next school holidays arrived, they’d made a bundle of cute kittens and I chose mine.
The tiniest little guy was always last to the nipple, a bit dumb and lost looking while the others seemed quite savvy already within their limited scope, dealing with life, still blind. But some would clearly dominate, some were beautiful, some ugly ducklings, you as cat lovers know about all this of course. And honestly my heart went out to each and every one of them but I’d just zoom in on the one who needed a leg up, a bit of help to become the amazing friend they could be.
This little guy I named Zaggles, he had a zig zaggy nature to his coat markings. When he was ready to leave his mother, he came and lived in my bedroom and of course was allowed to run free outside with his brothers and sisters whenever he liked. I stayed up later drawing, sketching and painting while listening to music with headphones on and baby Zaggles would sit on my desk watching my pencils and charcoal mark the paper. He’d potter about the room at night and when we went to sleep he’d actually imitate me by having his tiny body under the covers and his little head propped up on a pillow. As he grew up this habit never changed, and I really loved it.
Over the months a couple of the other kittens wanted to come in and join us for sleepy times and funny enough they followed suit and took to sleeping under the sheets with their heads on pillows. A few mornings I awoke to three little cats lined up beside me all sleeping like humans do, such a joy. But only Zaggles stayed every night and as time went on, he’d venture out to try hunting on the hill side with his family. He never had much luck, while some of the others came back with a catch, typically a small bird or mouse, Zaggles returned empty handed looking a bit glum, but nothing a sneaky feast from my parents fridge wouldn’t cheer up.
As they do, Zaggles grew up very fast and became a fine figure of a cat, very loyal, very much a friend. My bedroom had an en-suite bathroom and one day an uninvited visitor arrived and had twirled himself into a large coil in the shower. He was a Cobra and a big one at that. There were plenty of Cobras around our house and once we’d had to call a snake catcher to come and take one out of the garden, worried it would kill our pets as we also had a bunch of dogs.
Well on this day I woke up to Zaggles hissing loudly and ran into the bathroom to see what the fuss was about. The snake was trying to make its way into my bedroom but Zaggles was guarding the door to keep the big guy trapped in the bathroom while I slept. Cats can be incredibly brave and I wonder if they really know what they’re up against when it comes to things like large snakes. Nonetheless, there he was striking back at the snake with lightning fast paws keeping it contained. He’d come in through a drain in the shower and could easily have slithered right into my bedroom if it wasn’t for my little runt, my adorable little loyal friend.
Very sadly the day came for me to leave my family home and make my own way. I packed my suitcase and Zaggles watched, I looked at him and felt awful, I petted him and kissed him and told him I loved him but I couldn’t possibly afford to take him with, the expense of a pet friendly apartment wasn’t on the cards. He’d have a happy healthy life if he stayed. I cuddled him and I swear he knew I was leaving even before my bags were fully packed. And when I finally picked up my suitcase and walked out the door, through the front garden towards the gates Zaggy followed and meowed loudly. I turned and told him not to worry, that I’d be back to visit. I told him he was now big and strong and he had his brothers and sisters. Then he jumped up onto my suitcase and clung on. But he couldn’t come with.
A sad ending, a sad day. But of course I did visit often and it was always a joy to see my cat, a year later he’d made some kittens of his own and enjoyed lazing in a hammock I’d made for him out on the porch. He was fine. I’ll always remember my little runt Zaggles, and I often find myself telling friends about choosing cats. If you’re like me and you want a friend then go for the little downtrodden ones because somehow they seem to be truly up for finding a buddy and their little characters shine so bright.