I need to say goodbye to my cat Latte, so if you don’t care for cats or understand why some people are crazy about their pets, you can stop reading now 🙂
Our coffee cats came to our lives when Mama Kitty went up the elevator with us to our 15th floor apartment in Thana City, Thailand. She followed us inside and we fed her with a can of tuna. Soon enough this became a habit, with her waiting by the elevator. After a few weeks she decided to stay in the apartment “for good.” We realized then that she was pregnant.
The kitties were born on my mother’s birthday, Dec. 19, and the day before our departure for a winter holiday in the Philippines. Brian was so excited he kept peeking in the box to count how many kittens have come out. There were four: three boys and a girl. Based on their color we named them Cream, Mocha, Latte, and Cappuccino.
They were uniquely different not only in appearance, but also in personality. Cream was clearly the alpha male. He was the first to venture out of the box, the first to do everything while others followed his example. Mocha – who was a spitting image of his mother — was his partner in crime. Whenever things got knocked down it was because the two have been chasing each other. The two were daredevils. Latte was like his father it seems only in appearances – his father was a “skirt-chaser” and bore many scars from beating his rivals. Latte, on the other hand, was a cat of leisure, neither a lover nor a fighter. But he played with his brothers nonetheless. The three boys picked on their little sister, who seemed to be the runt of the litter. But Cappuccino learned to fight back, or simply maintain her distance to avoid these bullies.
Once they were weaned Mama Kitty didn’t want to have anything to do with them. We became their parents. And we became a family. Brian doted on them. He brought them to the vet for all their shots, and gave them their vitamins or medicines. Every afternoon he’d take them down to a grassy area so they can play and explore. I knew then he’d made a wonderful caring father. The cats all adored him, and were always fighting to get on his lap.
When it was time to leave Thailand we couldn’t bear to separate them so we brought them with us to Pakistan in 2005. At first we were happy that they finally have a big yard to explore. Our two-story house in Islamabad seemed perfect for four active and playful kitties.
But with this new-found freedom also came more risks and danger. Someone or something hit Mocha and broke his jaw. Luckily the vet was able to wire them back and Mocha was fine for a while. Then Cream got sick and paralyzed the following year. After we put him to sleep things changed, but not for the better. Mocha and Latte began to squabble. Mocha started spraying on every piece of furniture and spot around the house. Cappuccino preferred Mocha over Latte, so he became alienated. Latte started digging his claws in the furniture. He also stopped grooming himself.
When Mocha was poisoned in 2007 we were left with two cats who couldn’t get along or stand each other. Latte displayed a mean streak borne out of jealousy towards Cappuccino. When James was born later than year Latte became an outcast. He was no longer allowed inside the house. He spent his days hanging around the yard, under the shade. Sometimes he would lie outside my window. But he always stood up to greet us when we came home or when James went outside to play. Latte was jealous of James at first but eventually let James pull his tail. Yesterday he let James playfully sit on his belly.
Poor Latte. He knew he was special and different, and not just because he had blue eyes and the elegant looks of a pure-bred Siamese. Although he was not as active or adventurous as the others he was better in many other ways. He had their strengths: he had Cream’s lightning reflex, Mocha’s brute strength, and Cappuccino’s graceful balance. He always came out on top whenever they wrestled. When a bird flew in our apartment he caught it by jumping straight up. He became our carpet expert – he reacted to wool like it was catnip, and would roll around a wool rug or carpet. Like most Siamese he was vain, prissy, and picky. He seemed to think he was special. He stayed indoors most of the time, as if afraid to soil his fur. Every time the other cats huddled together he would groom them as well.
He was affectionate and sensitive. Every time we take out the suitcases for a trip he would lie inside, as if he wanted to come, too. Whenever we came back he refused to be touched, to show his displeasure at being left behind. Are cats really that aware and intelligent? I once told him that he was a decorative cat, something meant to be admired. The next day he brought me a mouse, signifying he was more than a pretty face.
He claimed me, and would lie next to me in the living room during the day and the bedroom at night. I had a special song for every cat, and I sang Latte’s song every time we cuddled together — “I love my Latte yes I do …” When James was born I began to sing that song to him, replacing Latte’s name with James’. I sang that song to Latte the day before he died, after I scooped him in my arms and told him how much I love him and how much I’m going to miss him.
A week from today we would have turned him over to a new owner, a vet, who will take him and Cappuccino to a big house in Lahore.
Poor Latte. Of all the cats, you craved attention most. You were always meowing and demanding to be fed, to have your coat brushed, to be petted, to be cuddled. I prayed that we would find an owner for you who will spoil you again. We wanted a new home for you, where you would be the center of attention, and not have to compete with other pets or babies. Because you were right, you were special and you deserved better. I thought our prayers have been answered.
I’ll never understand why you crossed the street that night when the lights were out. I’m afraid to imagine that you knew we were leaving you behind for good, and that you chose to leave than live with strangers. I can only hope that as I cradled you in my arms — body still warm but eyes glazed and heartbeat getting fainter — that you heard me say goodbye even though I didn’t want you to leave that way. You really deserved better.