COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
Living in the city, I see more stray cats than domesticated ones. But I guess in a Third World country like ours, stray cats and stray dogs like street children are a common sight. In the country sides however, cats and dogs normally have owners and rarely do you see any without a house to go home to.
From where I stay where houses stood close to each other, a few cats would pass by my backyard and laze on the ground or on top of the concrete fence. There was a time before when I’d give left-over food to any of these roving animals, three at the most, but stopped when the feeding area became messy with untouched food open to the flies.
But a few months ago, a white one with golden spots that is a frequent sight in the yard was pregnant, so I felt the need to feed just this one, even only once each day to help her sustain her pregnancy. Then for a while she was gone, and must have given birth somewhere for when she came back she looked old and scrawny. So I had to give her little food again to let her get back to her old shape, for she must be nursing her young.
Several weeks later, I saw romping at the terrace of my neighbor’s house two little kittens, and these must be the cat’s young ones. One kitten has spots like her mother while the other one has shades of brown and gray on its skin. The terrace has a wide area, about twenty five square meters with railings, and the two little kittens have found a big nice place to play.
For a while, the two kittens were a sight of joy as I watched them from my room at the upper floor of the house. One window looks out to my backyard and to my neighbor’s terrace, and while sitting on my desk reading or writing, I’d occasion to watch the two in gay frolic. At times I’d gasp while looking at one move to the edge of the terrace, for it might fall and it is still nine feet below to the ground. One kitten really had this knack for passing through the railings and huddle at the edge of that concrete flooring, and look down below at the stones and grass and flowers in my yard.
Then came a time when the two little kittens were able to climb down to the ground and join their mother. Here at my yard they move—take a little shade under the fortune plant, climb up the malunggay tree to catch an insect, laze with abandon under the sun, or play wildly on the ground. The spinach stalks that grow freely at one portion of the yard now lie trampled with their rough gambol. And they are fascinated with the birds perching on the trees that their heads move simultaneously as they watch the birds fly above them.
Finally from out of nowhere a third kitten joined them, a smaller one and rather slow in motion. Eventually, this small one tries to catch up with the two and the three manage to stay together; sucking milk from their mother, sleeping huddled close to each other, and eating food from the same container. But when the mother cat and the two kittens rest on top of the concrete fence, the small one is left alone on the ground. Maybe this smallest kitten cannot still climb up to the fence even if the trees serve as good ladders.
The three little kittens are still not considered as my house pets for they are not allowed inside the house although they sleep on the rug outside my backdoor to keep away from the rain. To own them is to take responsibility over them and provide them food and space among other things. I try to feed them once each day to appease hunger, but I cannot afford to take them as my own in our country’s worsening state of human survival.