Rattling the cat


Johan van Zyl, Gordon’s Bay

Reading about our editor’s various animal escapades in Bolander last week probably led many of us to rethink the role God’s creatures of the domesticated kind are able to play in our lives.

Do many of us still merely tolerate them (be they dogs or cats) because they help keep the kids occupied, or are they truly appreciated as little lives in their own right that contribute to the essence of family living?

Perhaps the worth of these “lowly” creatures can best be seen in the way they are able to make themselves the companion of aged pensioners living alone, alleviating as just they know how the hours of solitude. In this regard the French novelist Gautier once wrote (as I recall) about his cat “… looking at me with eyes so caressing and so human, that I find it impossible to believe a soul is not there.”

In my own family cats have afforded us much mirth and pleasure. My eldest daughter adopted a beautiful tabby going by the name of Pixie.

In due course Pixie’s sedentary lifestyle and unrestrained feeding regimen in a Tamboerskloof flat resulted in her girth becoming quite impressive.

When visiting our daughter, we good-humouredly tease both mistress and moggie for allowing the kilos to accumulate. We then melodramatically address the cat as “Your Greatness” and suggest that she purringly permit a name-change to – wait for it – Megapixel! She sometimes gives us a disapproving look, as if to say, “I am in shape. Round is a shape.”

Our son has also come a long way with felines. It started early.

Many years ago, when he was still a teenager in the house, he “owned” a ginger cat we unimaginatively called Gemmer. As a “teen” himself at this stage, this cat and his master shared countless pleasurable hours together, affording one another grand companionship.

When a minor infection set in in Gemmer’s left eye, our son decided to do more than merely apply medication. He fashioned an eye patch of thin black leather and lightly fastened it around the patient’s head, a la General Moshe Dayan of Six Day War fame. When we came upon the scene, our son was parading Gemmer around the house, crooning to the cat as he went: “Is your eye sore then, hey? What a shame! Don’t worry hey, we’ll have you up and about in no time.” On the photo that we took of this little drama, it looked as if Gemmer had assumed an appropriate pathetic look on his little face, which perfectly suited the occasion.

We still get a laugh every time we page through the cat album. It was a sight for sore eyes (no pun intended).

When Gemmer’s eye returned to normal within days, the pair were able to resume their boisterous play. One of the things our son loved to do to Gemmer was to grip him around the shoulders and shake him gently but vigorously. We called it, “Rattling the Cat”.

Throughout Gemmer’s years with us he seemed to relish being played with, and never gave any sign that our mischievous boy ever caused him any annoyance. He lived to a ripe old age.