An article by guest writer Agnes Chew. Refer to “About the Writer” at the end of the post. Introduction The idea of a lovable domesticated house cat is often an amusing oxymoronic statement to many people who have never had the joy of living with and “owning” a house cat. There are plenty of references to dogs as “man’s best friend”, but these same references often also snidely refer to cats as only a “cat’s best friend.” This is often in reference to the ambivalence that cats seem to show to the humans around them. To many non-cat owning humans, cats seem to behave in a completely independent manner to the humans around them. This could be because of the appearance that cats appear to sleep when their humans are awake and then are wide awake and active whenever their human companions only want to sleep. Yet those of us who have had the privilege of living with these fuzzy balls of joy, know that cats can be very social and loving members of your family. Before I share my own experiences of living with cats, I would first like to share a very brief historical perspective of our human society’s love-hate relationship with cats over the years. History Many historians have traced the origin of cats in our lives to the transition of human society from a hunter-gatherer society to an agrarian society. Historians believe that dogs were domesticated first as they were useful to hunters for the identification and tracking of prey at a distance. However cats became useful only when society began to grow crops and grains and store them in central locations (grain silos). The existence of grain silos became focal points for pests such as rats and other rodents that ate the excess grain. The theory goes on to find that feral or wild cats were drawn to human settlements because of the high density of rodents for them to catch at the grain silos. The humans at the settlements welcomed the presence of natural pest controllers that did not themselves eat the precious grain. This symbiotic relationship led to the eventual domestication of feral cats through the selection of cats with more “gentle or friendly” personalities. Cats’ usefulness to humans culminated in their depiction as creatures representative of the Gods in ancient Egyptian society. In ancient Egyptian society killing a cat was a crime punishable by death. Unfortunately for our fuzzy and cute friends, Egyptian societal regard for cats likely represented the high point of human’s societal regard for cats. In the middle ages, especially in Europe, cats became unfortunately linked to witches and witchcraft and ended up killed by the thousands during the persecution of people (mainly women) who were deemed too deviant to society. During the same period, cats were also unfortunately associated with uncleanliness and even illness and disease, and were often chased away or killed. The irony of this was that the eradication of cats in medieval European society was often attributed to the faster spreading of the bubonic plague (black death), as rat populations in crowded cities grew unchecked. The resuscitation of cats place in human society happened in the late renaissance period and has culminated in cats today holding a central place of affection in many families’ lives. In the last 20 years, there have been multiple popular comics and shows where the cat is the central character (e.g. Garfield, Felix the cat, Puss in Boots). In the US today, it is believed that over 30 percent of households have a pet cat slinking around the house. It would be unbelievable to many non-cat owners that in a country like the US, where the pet dog appears to be the most popular domesticated house pet, that there are significantly more households with cats than those with dogs! In 2015, the image of the cat has been burnished even further, with Californian SPCA even awarding the award of “Hero Dog” to a little brown tabby cat named Tara who saved his mildly autistic boy owner from a vicious dog attack. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3132268/Breaking-Meow-ndaries-Cat-saved-six-year-old-autistic-boy-attacking-canine-feline-Hero-Dog-award.html) With this brief history of cats in mind, I am now happy to introduce you to my two fur balls who have been my loyal companions for almost a decade. My Relationships with Cats
- Meowy, the brown and white tabby DSH (domestic shorthair)
I began my relationship with my cats when a cute little brown and white tabby kitten walked into my backyard about 10 years ago. This hungry skinny kitten meowed and meowed asking for food. At the time, the only food I had suitable happened to be a hard-boiled egg that I had as part of a soup I was having. So I broke up the egg and put it on a plate for him. As he was very hungry, the little guy gingerly came over and first smelled the egg before eating it vociferously! Within a moment, the egg was gone and the little kitten retreated a bit and started meowing at me again. After serving him another two eggs that I hurriedly boiled and cooled in water, the little guy seemed satisfied and ran off. The next night and every night thereafter, the little guy returned, and I fed him. After a few nights, he became so trusting that I was able to pick him up and play with him. Soon enough he began to show up every morning for breakfast too! This was how my relationship with a brown and white noisy tabby kitten who my future husband (Mark) and I named Meowy (for all that meowing) started. Safe to say, Mr Meowy cat is not a skinny little kitten anymore. More updated photos of Meowy cat below.
- Munchy the blue classic tabby munchkin
Within one year of adopting Meowy, it became clear to me that Meowy was a bit deprived of attention and that a second cat might be necessary to keep him company. A number of incidents led to my conclusion. During the first year of having Meowy, as I left the house early in the morning and only returned home late at night after work, Meowy would be there at the door greeting me every night. Meowy has a very dog like character, and would in fact follow me around everywhere I went and would also demand attention like a dog, meowing constantly until he got his stroking and play. Whenever I was unable to fully meet his need for attention or stroking or play, he would end up following me around and biting my ankles to get my attention! My ankles got a bit raw after a while, due to all the playful biting from Meowy! After a while, I decided that perhaps the solution would be to find another cat for Meowy to play with. Mark and I searched high and low at multiple pet shops and also made many visits to the SPCA and animal welfare societies, but was unable to find a kitten that we felt we could connect with. Then one day I came across an advertisement from a breeder advertising a breed of cats called munchkin. I inquired and discovered that these cats naturally developed very short legs, kind of like the cat equivalent of the Corgi or other short-legged dog breeds. Intrigued, Mark and I went to find this breeder who was located in another far corner of Singapore. As we walked into the breeder’s house, a little blue/grey strip cut across our path. We both fell in love with this adorable little guy instantly, and Mark got him as a gift for me,. In hindsight, this was probably the best decision and money spent of our life so far. The breeder had already named this blue/grey fuzzy ball Munchy, and we decided to keep the name as it was suitable and cute and also rhymed with his “elder brother”’s name. Some early day and current photos of Munchy
Meowy & Munchy – Lots of work but endless joy Living with these fur kids comes with a fair amount of work – litter box or rather out of the box accidents, hairballs and broken furniture. Going away on vacation or work has become more difficult as we need to get friends or relatives who could help us look after these fur kids. (They are extremely shy of any new environment so we avoid sending them to a pet hotel which would totally freak them out.) Nonetheless, the joy of seeing them every morning when we wake up, waiting at the door everytime we come home, and always by our side or on our laps when we are working, watching TV, etc in the house, far outweighs any amount of work or inconvenience. About the writer Agnes has been in the Finance industry for the last 10 years, but still hopes to one day fulfill her childhood dream of working full-time with little animals and help make their lives better.