A purrfect challenge – what I learned from writing cat haiku

This is how this essay starts – I don’t have a cat. I never had one. In fact, I wasn’t even allowed near cats.

Featured feline: Thomasina

Growing up, I was let to believe that cats are problematic, unfriendly and difficult to take care of. Giving a cat any attention was frowned upon. I was told once – “A cat is a beast”. Whenever I asked why we couldn’t have a cat as a pet, the answer was – “One of my colleagues has a cat and her arms are always scratched.” Cats were evil. They were out there to attack me and claw my eyes out. Cats were a problem. Think about all the hairs! Cats were loud and unpleasant. Can’t you hear this awful meowing! Our neighbour’s cat once came into the garden and my sister couldn’t resist but give her a stroke. She was found out and there was trouble for her.

Yes, my youth was denied the wonders and pleasures of having a cat. “A cat is a beast”.

Thankfully, all these old, THOROUGHLY WRONG beliefs are no longer my views and opinions on what cats are. Today I consider them a wonder of nature, a gift to us to remind us what grace, playfulness and comfort their unique softness and purr could add to our lives.

Cats are slowly becoming an integral part of my work, an inspiration, and learning about them – my favourite pastime. Doing this challenge helped me discover new feline “characteristics”.

Cats are graceful – from their morning stretch to the way they tiptoe around to how they could fit through impossibly narrow places, cats do everything with grace. Not sure if they have any self-awareness of it, but they certainly look like they value it. Back in February, my friend Naty and I were at a cat cafe and their cats must have had at least some idea that they were adored. All the grown-ups gave a magnificent performance strutting around. Their elegance, along with trademark cat aloofness is what makes them mysterious and irresistible.

Featured feline: Rio

Cats are elusive – they indeed are, and they’re not worried what you think about it. One second you could be perfectly cuddled with your furry friend, the next they would lift their head, eyes fixed at something in the distance, ears sharpened to pick up sounds beyond our ability, they leave quickly and may not come back tonight. One of my friends told me about a time where their beloved cat Lolo really concerned him when he randomly left and didn’t come home at his usual time. They waited and waited but Lolo had his own views on where he should spend his evening. After a very long, painful wait and search through the surroundings, Lolo just strolled in and nonchalantly meowed for his supper. Sadly, sometimes cats pay a very high price for it. I’ll never forget how my friend’s wife had to talk to me because he was in tears, finding out that his neighbour’s cat – which actually frequented their home – was found dead on the road near them. It made me incredibly sad, thinking how Cotton would still be alive, if only he’s decided to stay in that night. But such is the cat nature. They play by their own rules.

Cats are curious – and perhaps their thirst for adventures and the unknown is what makes them disappear from time to time. But it’s not only the outdoors that they have to explore. If they decide, they would become part of your work life, too. As I was collecting cat pictures from various people, I saw cats “read”, “sew”, “drink coffee”, “fit into handbags”, “jumping on people’s backs” (no joke!). And all of them had the face that says “Whatever you’re doing, I can make it better”. Maybe humans are just as fascinating to them as they are to us.

Cats are photogenic – and whatever I say on this point, would be an understatement. It’s almost unfair that unlike us, they have one outfit for life and don’t even have to pose to look flawless. And we want to watch them ALL the time. A few of my colleagues have cats or have been cat owners at some stage and I was surprised to find out how many photos they have of them – it truly amazed me because sometimes they had to stop working to take that perfect shot. And it’s worth every time! But one of the most astounding moments for me was when I asked a friend about a cat picture. “I don’t have a cat”, she said “But let me ask a friend”. Within a minute she delivered a freshly taken picture from a third person. There was a very big lazy kitten that had hardly bothered to open his eyes… and it was beautiful! I really want to say “Less is more” with cats but they have it all anyway.

Featured feline: Thomas (and his pet Liz :p)

Cats are loved and loving – yes, every single cat owner I spoke to, had an overflowing amount of love for their pet. Despite the scratches, the random disappearings and the worries around their health, every one of the cat owners I know would go above and beyond for their feline. And some of the proudest and most joyful conversations I’ve had with them have been on the topic of cats. It’s a topic that I never get tired of and neither does anyone else. I’m also happy that I found proof against a cat stereotype that they’re cold creatures. “I’ve had cats that were very affectionate”, told me a colleague of mine. And as my best friend was showering me with pictures of cats to support my project, she showed me the sweetest picture of two cats that always cuddle when they sleep. I featured it on Valentine’s Day just because! But also – it fitted my theme of the day: “neko no koi” or “cats in love”. And while it’s true they’re not there to pleasure you all the time, they create enough space to keep you eager for the next time. Would you love them if they were any different? ♥

Featured feline: Cheni

Cats are omnipresent – I love seeing them adjusting to every environment. I love seeing a cat tail disappear round a corner or soft paws randomly pitter-pattering on your patio. A cat appears sometimes quite unexpectedly and leaves you feeling somewhat softer inside. They are not the shy type, either. Once I had a sleepover at a friend who owns two dogs. The neighbours’ cat visited in the morning, quietly demanding her right to have breakfast with us. I find that I’ve become very sensitive to cats’s presence nowadays, especially since I started the challenge. Before the lockdown, I visited my friend Aaron who lives in another town, and dragged him on a “cat hunting” adventure. I desperately needed more pics for the blog entries! He warned me it won’t be easy. “This is not your stereotypical vision of England where cats jump out of London alleys”. And he was right – after about 2 hours of roaming around and probably looking suspicious, I managed to take only one picture of a wooden cat figure on somebody’s window seal.

Featured feline: George

Cats are divine – now how do I explain it? I really can’t. You have to be a cat lover to feel how special they are with their soft fur and sharp claws; inviting purr and nonchalant eyes; easily wrapping around your legs and just as easily walking away. Cats could be confusing but maybe they’re meant to be this way – a puzzle that you’ll never solve because you marvel the wonderful disarray that it is.

At this point, I have obsessed about cats so much, that everyone is picking up on it. From the cat calendar I received for Christmas to the “Crazy Cat Lady” birthday card I received recently, friends and family are only helping it deepen.

Even the books that I read are sometimes touched by cat whiskers. Pretty much everything by Japanese author Haruki Murakami has cat presence in it and another one of my Christmas presents – a book called “100 Things Japanese” – revealed that Japan is pretty much a cat country.

It shouldn’t be surprising that investing so much love in cats, we’re left devastated when the inevitable happens. A few celebs this year have lost cats and spoke about it with a lot of pain, love and nostalgia for the best moments spent with their fur balls. Among them are Russell Brand and Ricky Gervais who paid a lot of tribute to their cats. But the one that I would like to spotlight comes from one of my favourite YouTubers, “The Cinema Snob”. To see somebody who can comment with a lot sense of humour, wit and sarcasm even to the most dire of films, brought to tears after he lost his Siamese Chloe was really devastating to me. Fortunately, his other feline friend – Lloyd – is still alive and healthy.

Full rights belong to : Stoned Gremlin Productions

At my job, when the occasion allows it, I get to find cat related stories and that’s by far my favourite task. A colleague of mine got to interview and expert on Leonardo Da Vinci once and I asked her to verify for me whether a quote attributed to him is authentic. According to the internet, Leonardo says: “The Smallest feline is a masterpiece”. The expert, sadly, said the quote is most likely not Leonardo’s but that still didn’t disappoint me. Whoever said it, was right. And that’s a quote any cat lover would gladly adopt.

So what did my journey teach me? Being a cat is about having sharp wit and sharp nails; being patient but also staying true to your desires; being fierce and yet incredibly delicate.

Cats own you. You live in their house, make their wishes come true and adore them without much rhyme or reason. They will claim only the best and not settle for less. One cat will live in all the houses in the neighbourhood and will be welcome on every sofa. Cats are not what you would typically describe as loyal but they WILL make you feel special. They are near and yet far. Accessible and unattainable. They are a mystery and a delight. They are the little thing that – for short or a long time – makes a huge difference to our lives.


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