Thursday, 27 April 2006

A Cat Named Cleo

There is a cat that's quite fond of my corner of the neighbourhood. I'd take pictures, but since I'm too much of a tightwad to invest in a cheap digital camera, I'll write about it instead.

I have no clue as to the animal's gender. There's no trace of a nut sack, or any indication that it's been fixed. Therefore, being the sexist creature that I am, I'm going to assume it's a female and call it Cleo for the sake of this narrative.

Cleo was part of a litter born of a neighbour's cat. She and a feisty ginger-coloured kitten were left after her other siblings were given away. Unlike many pet owners in the country, this neighbour didn't believe in caging cats, so they were left to wander all over the place, though not too far away from their home. As time went by, only Cleo was left. I never knew what happened to the other one.

For a cat her age (about one year old), Cleo is small and scrawny. She's mostly black; there's a patch of white at the base of her throat. Her green eyes has a piercing gaze and there are times her claws never fully retract. She distinguished herself by sleeping in the most unusual places in our front yard: the empty shrine where the previous house owners burnt joss-sticks and left offerings, the narrow space between the front grill and sliding glass doors, and on top of either gate-post where there would be stone lions if we ever believed in feng shui.

Being a good tenant, she tries to pay the rent. Problem is, cats utilise a different kind of currency, which usually takes the form of dismembered body parts of small animals. On several occasions we've found half-eaten mice, geckoes and lizards on our front yard, which really freaks my younger sisters out. Sister #1 is scared of rats; Sister #2 has gecko phobia. Their unfortunate brother (me) has to assume the role of undertaker when Cleo brings home the bacon (which we respectfully decline).

Once, in broad daylight, we caught Cleo in the process of butchering an iguana-like lizard, thus confirming the identity of our mystery rent-payer. Nature-lover that I am, I knew that she has the right to kill anything she comes across - it's her nature. But nobody commits murder while I'm around, so I chased her away and grabbed the lizard, snake-wrangler style, and deposited it in some vegetation. I didn't think it would make it; a patch of red on one side showed that Cleo had already done some damage.

For weeks afterward, there were no body parts. I'm pretty sure I pissed Cleo off for spoiling her fun. But cats aren't dogs; they don't learn. Upon returning home yesterday, there was a dead lizard, a mouse with a missing midsection and the top half of a gecko.

And she still sleeps in the shrine (proof that cats are condescending to the point of demanding worship), or on either gate post. I don't know about the worship thing, but if it ever came to warding off evil forces, my money's on Cleo. No expensive, overcrafted paperweight endorsed by Lillian Too could ever match Cleo when it comes to personality, attitude and the lethal killing arts.

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