The journey of a thousand miles starts with the inception of the idea… with your mother. “I’m getting a cat” was what I said. A stern look that breathed of “no” was how she replied. Message received. My dad automatically referred me back to my mother. No luck on that front. I had my work cut out for me.
Soon enough, I got the pet. My mom will cave in under the pressure, I figured. I entered the house with that white ball of fur in my arms. I had already decided to name her “Katniss.” And I probably hadn’t seen something cuter in my life. Katniss, however, was absolutely terrified. So the first thing she did when I stepped over the threshold was to go and hide beneath the sofa. No amount of food or trickery could get her out of there. It could have been that the house was brimming with people wanting to see what this creature was.
An hour or so later, once strangers and distant relatives in this little town got bored and left, Katniss decided to venture out into her new territory. She didn’t like me at that point but I was the only familiar face so she stuck around. Despite being minuscule, she managed to jump on the couch. The spot looked absolutely perfect for her. So she nested her head beneath her paw and slept.
“Don’t tell your mom,” my dad said as he watched TV and gently ran his hand over her white mane.
The following days were all about learning. I asked my friends who already had pets what kind of food and litter they bought. I had trouble potty-training her but she got the hang of it… eventually. And I found out she loves to eat and play in the garden outside my house even though she came back with little twigs stuck on her every time.
She started following me around the house wherever I went: to my room, to the bathroom, to the car. She used to look at me sadly as I pulled out of the drive to go to class and I couldn’t help but smile as I saw her growingly fat behind go back disappointingly inside when she found out she won’t be going anywhere with me.
Her first visit to the vet was strange to me but downright terrifying for her. As I held her in my arms while the vet readied the table where he was going to examine her, I could feel her getting more anxious. Once he gave her the vaccine and those deworming pills and that frontline for flees, she was downright shaking as I tried to comfort her that all will be okay.
Needless to say, her future visits to the vet were far less smooth as she started refusing to take the pills no matter what he does. “You have a feisty cat,” he said. I just nodded. There was nothing I could do. She was so feisty in fact that she had managed to hunt down a mouse, which she brought back home only to brag about in front of my mom. She wasn’t going to eat that, obviously.
The first hurdle came around when my mom was diagnosed with cancer and some people told her she can’t be around the cat. We started worrying about what we’d do with Katniss. No one we knew was equipped to take care of her. We tried to move her to my grandparents’ house but she kept coming back despite our efforts. It was a relieving moment when the oncologist told her mother to worry.
Once December rolled around and cats around the neighborhood started getting ready to get busy, it was time for Katniss to hit early menopause. So I took her to the vet again and several hours later, I got her back in her cage sleeping. Back home, she was so drowsy because of anesthesia and in obvious pain that my mom’s heart was almost torn out of her chest. She got all better a few days later and went back to her regular routines of eating, sleeping, playing and chasing away the cats off our porch.
On a Saturday night in April, as we had dinner with a few guests who gushed over a shaven-Katniss as she circled their feet, which she normally does, while they ate, Katniss decided to go outside, which was normal. Slightly past midnight, I decided to call it quits and went to bed. The following day, I found out from my little brother that Katniss hadn’t slept in. I wasn’t worried as she had done that before and our maid had seen her around the house early that morning.
The day starting passing, however, and Katniss didn’t come back. As we sat down for lunch, nothing was startling my aunt by bumping into her foot. There was nothing looking at my mom with pleading eyes for some human food. “She’s just around,” they all said. “She’ll come back in a bit.”
But Katniss didn’t. Not that Sunday. Not the following Monday. Not the Tuesday after that. Two scenarios were plausible: either someone stole her or one of the hunters around my town decided to test his chops by aiming at a cat who was obviously owned by someone, which is entirely possible given how hunters in this country think: it doesn’t matter what they shoot at as long as it’s an animal moving and they get to brag about it to their friends later on.
As the days passed, I realized this tiny creature that started as even tinier white ball of fur had taken up a huge place in our house. We had gotten so used to her collar’s bell ringing whenever she moved that the silence in the house felt eerie. We had gotten so used to her just being around that not stumbling by her everywhere we went made our home feel less welcoming.
“I never thought I’d love her as much,” was what my mom said as she held her food basket and called around for her name around the neighborhood, shaking the basket to draw her attention. There was a tear in her eye. “Don’t tell your little brother,” she then said. “He’ll be devastated if he knew I’m this upset.”
We were all upset. Katniss had spent slightly more than a year in our midst but we had all grown to absolutely love her, even the family members who complained about her walking around them when they ate. Now, two weeks later, I’m not hopeful that I’ll find Katniss anymore. My little cat is gone.
I don’t think I’d get another pet. This isn’t the town nor the country to own a pet and be relieved that your neighbors won’t poison it or the hunters around your town won’t be shooting it or even someone stealing it for a few quick dollars or because they don’t want to get their own.
All I have are the memories of when Katniss was mine and around, the memories of when she slept next to me in bed and looked annoyed because I changed sleeping positions and woke her up, the memories of her running after me because I was heading to the kitchen which she normally associated with eating, the memories of her chasing away the neighborhood’s cats off her turf because this was, after all, her home.
I hope it’s nice wherever you are, little one.