A three year old has just moved in with me. Her name is Rosie. She has orange hair, a spicy attitude and startling gold eyes. Rosie is a ginger cat with a healthy suspicion of people – unsurprising, given her difficult beginnings in this world. She was rescued from Mombasa two years ago after some nasty people broke her hind legs and left her for dead. She has had to get surgery and lots of physio-therapy to restore her legs to full function. She can now walk and run at surprising speed across my living room as she chases after a foil ball. With a little effort, she hops on the couch so she can burrow under the blanket and sleep.
Rosie can often be found sunning herself at the balcony, as she keeps a close eye on the birds flitting among trees and gulping down any mosquitoes that have the audacity to fly too close to her. She loves to get head scratches, but only up to a point, before she tires of being touched and bites you. Lightly at first, in warning. God help you should you continue to touch her after that.
She demands her breakfast promptly at 6 a.m. every day without fail by meowing outside my bedroom door, after which she will want a few minutes of play before settling down for her first of many naps of the day. She shows her approval by hopping onto my lap to be pet, and her disapproval by swiping at me in irritation then walking away in disdain, pretending that she doesn’t even know her own name.
I have always been a cat person. I grew up with a giant tabby who used to terrorise all neighbouring dogs and gave birth to litter after litter of kittens that would eventually find their way into the homes of neighbours. After a while I think all the cats in our village could trace their ancestry to her. Her name was Puss 😅.
As a teenager, and many years after Puss died, I adopted a tiny newborn kitten when the stray cat that used to frequent my mom’s restaurant at the time gave birth. I named her Jennifur, and would feed her milk with a teaspoon because she was too young to eat on her own yet. Jennifur grew to be the biggest cat you ever saw, and also it turned out that she was in fact, male, an inconvenient fact that my brothers would not stop gleefully rubbing in my face.
“How did you not see that this cat has balls?” they’d ask.
But his name remained Jennifur because he simply would not answer to anything else. He disappeared one day, aged around four years old, and that was the last we ever saw of him. I like to think that he found a new family and lived to a grand old age before dying peacefully in his sleep.
After that there was Mouse, who I spent a few happy months with in 2017 before she died from a short and aggressive illness. Then came Mint, the charmer. I adopted Mint at the height of the COVID19 pandemic in 2020. She was the sweetest cat and loved to cuddle. She’d lift her front paws up to ask you to pick her up, the same way human babies hold their arms up to you. Think how much money I could have made by creating TikTok videos of her little eccentricities. It is still difficult to think and write about Mint, whom I loved with the intensity of a thousand suns, and whose death still stings fresh as the day it happened in 2022. From apparent poisoning. I suppose some things take a long time to get over.
Anyway, now there’s Rosie. Spirited, spicy Rosie, who teaches me important things every day, like boundaries and consent and occupying space and just plain audacity. Every time she jumps on my lap it feels like a reward. I read somewhere once that cats do not indulge in useless self-pitying human emotions like imposter syndrome or uncertainty. They move through this world with the unshakeable assurance that they are the most excellent cat to ever exist. Their cat-ness is never in question. In other words, they are never the problem, you are.
Perhaps that is why we cat lovers fall over ourselves to please them, because we are so enchanted by these self-assured creatures that are so unlike us. They have none of our insecurities or uncertainties, they know they can never fail. Imagine moving through the world with the knowledge that you could never fail. Imagine the things you could do, the life you could live, the magic you could create.
I am privileged to have been in the presence of cats for most of my life. I don’t get lots of things right but loving cats is something I do well. I hope that one of these days their audacity rubs off on me.
If you have been thinking about being owned by a cat, talk to the good people at the Kenya Society for the Protection & Care of Animals (KSCPA) and they will match you with a cat that suits your personality and lifestyle. They have lots of cats up for adoption (and dogs, too, if you are so inclined), and they are in dire need of people to take them in, as they are running out of space at their shelter. KSPCA charges a modest fee per animal that covers vaccinations, neutering, deworming and micro-chipping. Don’t buy your pet from the unethical breeders and sellers hawking puppies and kittens by the side of the road. Adopt, don’t shop.