Over time my family has come to be responsible for the care and feeding of about nine stray cats, three of which live in our house and six of which hang out regularly in our driveway. The numbers change over time depending on which cat wanders into the neighbourhood and gives birth (my parents sterilize as many as they can but some slip through the cracks) or which cat meets with tragic death.
Mandy was a orange tortoiseshell kitten who, when carried, would snuggle blissfully in our arms, look up adoringly at us and beg to be carried again once we put her down. We loved her, and were in the process of slowly cleaning her up for life indoors with us. On the same day Alec took me to Sultan Shoal to propose to me, back at home my mother gave Mandy a bath, let her scamper around on our carpet until she dried off, and then put her outside to play. Shortly after, she wandered into our neighbour’s driveway and their dogs mauled her to death.
My family ran over when they heard the commotion but it was too late. My mum tried to carry Mandy out from under their car, where she’d crawled, but Mandy was in terrible pain and bit my mum deeply in the hand. My sister then took over while my mum attended to her gushing thumb and carried our dying kitten back to our driveway. Her body fit perfectly into a small shoebox.
Not wanting to spoil what they already knew would be a joyful weekend for me, my family didn’t tell me what had happened until I returned the next day with a ring on my finger. At mass that evening, I knew I was meant to be happy, thanking the Lord for the wonderful blessing of having Alec in my life, for the rest of my life. But I couldn’t stop thinking of Mandy.
I didn’t write about her here at the time either, because I was trying to focus on being happy about what had just happened in my life, and to share that with all of you. Since then my family’s fallen in love with two black and white tom kittens, adopted into our home in anguish after their brother got killed by a car and we couldn’t bear the thought of them meeting the same fate. So we’ve gotten over Mandy, as well we should, because like it or not, these things happen to strays, and we can’t give all of them homes. But that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten her. I don’t think I ever will.
I don’t have a picture of her to show you, but I take pictures of the orange tortoiseshell strays I see, because they remind me of her. Here are two of my most recent ones:
I know the hawker centre cat looks a bit sullen here but he was actually very friendly and got lots of pats from people passing by on their way through the hawker centre. When an aunty at the popiah stall saw me taking photos of him, she came over excitedly and asked if I could help take some for her on her camphone, which she didn’t know how to use. “Can you put the cat as my wallpaper?” she asked (in Chinese), “My husband’s photo is there now but I want the cat instead.”
There isn’t really a point to this post, it just struck me that it’s been nearly a year since Mandy died, and I haven’t written about her, plus with the new camera I’ve been photographing lots of cats lately. Be kind to strays, it’s a hard (and often very short) life for them.