26 Years
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Katya – A Charmed Life

Thursday, September 22, 2011
By Kaanchan Bhagwat

The Egyptians worshipped them and the Thai revere them. There are between 80-100 pedigreed breeds in the world today. Every Enid Blyton book has at least one in the kitchen...I’m talking about cats – perhaps the most misunderstood cohabitant of man.

We have a cat called Katya, or shall I say we cohabit with her (for one doesn’t ‘own’ a cat, she chooses to live with you!). We’ve been together for the past five years. She is pitch black with emerald green eyes. And she has exhausted most of the proverbial nine lives that cats are supposed to have.

She was probably only a few weeks old when we found her stuck in the window of a building in Russia. After extricating her from her rather precarious perch (that’s life #one exhausted), I put her on the ground to make her way back to her mother, and turned around to go home myself. Imagine my surprise when I reached my building to find this little fur ball with the greenest eyes mewing most plaintively near my feet!

The thought that this little being had followed me across two busy streets and a children’s park made up my mind for me (that’s life #two). And that’s the day Katya came home to live with us.

A few days into her stay in our home, she fell down the garbage chute all the way down from the seventh floor (that’s life #three). The remainder of our stay in Russia was rather uneventful. All our attempts at finding her a good home in her native country proved to be disasters.

We changed five houses in as many years, across three cities in India and Katya has shifted houses with us. Our sojourns in Delhi and Mumbai accounted for lives nos. four, five and six being used up – she was clobbered to near extinction in a real life ‘cat fight’ with a bigger, older cat when she was seven-months-old (the opposition was seven-years-old!); she fell from the eighth floor balcony of a multi-storied building in Mumbai and survived with a fractured pelvis and a few broken ribs and recovered within a week of that fall. She barely escaped falling again from one of the parapets of the same eighth floor where she had parked herself to get a better view of the world below, maybe, only to be dive-bombed by crows and kites, and was rescued by the Mumbai Fire Brigade.

We recently shifted from Mumbai to Visakhapatnam with Katya in tow, of course. And this journey made for her most dramatic escapade by far. We boarded the Air India flight at Terminal 1A in Mumbai, after handing Katya (in a securely locked pet case) to the Airlines on May 29. Katya was to be stowed in the cargo hold as per regulations. Just minutes before the cargo hold was to be sealed, an AI rep came  to inform us that our cat had run away onto the tarmac! My husband de-planed immediately, while I continued onward to Vizag with our kids. The Airport authorities did all they could to locate Katya, but to no avail and my husband, rather dejected, joined us in Vizag the following day. On the 30th, he got word from Air India that Katya had been found and would be on the next flight out of Mumbai. True to their word, we received Katya at Vizag Airport on the 31st. On speaking with the Duty Managers at Mumbai Airport, we learnt that she was found in the Arrivals lounge in Terminal 1B by the GVK animal-catching squad, who’d been on the job for the past 48 hours. I can’t describe in words the emotions that swept over my family and me as we got our Katya back! She had lost all the claws on her feet, which were bleeding, and was completely dispirited at having lost her family. My guess is that she tried to get out of the box in order to look for us, and after having made it past all the people and buses and tractors and aircraft inside the apron area, she ran to what to her feline mind appeared to be that last place she’d seen us. This was most definitely exhausting life #seven, and probably eight as well!

Now we live on the first floor of a two-storied block of flats and Katya has tried to explore her new environs, much to my despair. One night at 9 pm, I discovered her missing. A two-hour long cat hunt yielded no results and I practically gave up when I heard a SOS–type meow from above my kitchen window. I stuck my head out of the rear balcony only to find Katya looking down at me from the corresponding 2nd floor balcony, in readiness to jump into my balcony. One wrong move would have meant that she’d have made easy pickings for the horde of street dogs. I had to keep talking to her in my most reassuring tone in order to keep her where she was and then bring her home!

We train dogs to become an extension of our personalities, while cats maintain their ‘self’ and yet can connect with the human world.  And all said and done, the poise and elegance of a cat can never compare to your goofy, slobbery dog.
After all, cattitude is everything!

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