When a black cat lies in the sun, and his fur turns brownish, it's called rusting.
There are three different kinds of cat personalities: the Alpha, the Beta and the Gamma.
You can take the measure of a man (or a woman), by how they approach your feline, whether they extend the fist in a friendly greeting, or grab with open palm or simply shrink away into one corner of their chair when your cat enters the room, his tail aloft and his nose in the air.
When I turned 25, homesick and lonely in Bombay, a new city I had just moved to after spending my entire life in Delhi, I decided to acquire a cat. I won't say "adopt a kitten" because this was still 2007, and we didn't have access to all the weird and wonderful animal activist Facebook forums back then. People had pets, but they had pets silently. There was none of this brandishing of "rescue animal" and I certainly couldn't identify which of my friends liked pets from the ones who didn't, because we didn't have social media albums full of our love.
I could've Googled "cat care" but in the manner of 25-year-olds everywhere, I thought, "How hard can it be?" I asked a friend who asked a friend who had kittens, and off we went with a pink picnic basket under my arm to collect the cat who would wind up becoming my companion, friend and roommate for the next eight years.
In my twenties, TC was my secret indulgence. Cats are not the social animals dogs are, and it's quite easy to forget your friend has a pet when you never see it. I was trying to be young, independent and glamorous, an image that didn't exactly go with cleaning cat poop off the floor when I got lazy about doing the litter box. Still, in my own flawed way, I loved him: took him to the vet when he needed it, made sure he always had fresh water and enough food, and love when he asked for it (and sometimes when he didn't.) TC moved cities and homes with me, he stood by me (reluctantly, cat-like) through a few bad men, and was open to the idea of my partner moving in with us, even when my partner did insulting things like hold him hostage and rub his belly--a great indignity. I was a Cat Lady, but not quite Crazy yet. I told myself all great writers had cats, like their muses, and made it about my writing rather than my general love for that species.
In my thirties, as in everyone's thirties, I began to get more comfortable with the parts of me that I had always swept under the carpet. It began with a sudden overwhelming love for my body--not a fit body, not a fat body, just a regular human body that I was used to gazing in the mirror at, dissatisfied. This extended into embracing the curly hair I had spent my whole life denying, even getting a new haircut that made it stand out around my face in the very same haircut I wept about when I was twelve. Slowly, I started to confront my personality--I was okay with things, I liked being me, I sunk into my skin like a person kicking off high heels to wear house slippers at the end of a very long night, I could almost feel my soul saying, "Ahhh." And in all this, my distinctly uncool, not fitting with my glamour image, love for animals just decided to come out and party.
It's always been my dream to live in a house with lots of pets. I wanted two donkeys, several cats, a goat, a pig, an African Grey parrot, monkeys, I wanted them all, but of course, I always wanted to be rich enough to hire someone to deal with the shit and the feeding and to babysit while I was travelling. My ambitions tugged at each other--I had to reconcile this home for strays and waifs and things that needed love and care with this life of being familiar with all the international airports, and sleeping with my passport on the bedside. When I settled comfortably into my thirties, it occurred to me I could have one part of that life at least--a home with many cats--and work on making enough money for the rest of it. We brought home another kitten, and then a third, and then one died, so we brought in a fourth, and for a while, it was three cats, two humans. My beloved TC died of a long disease too--it was a heartbreaking year for cats in my life--but then we discovered the transient joys of "foster animals," kittens and cats you just hold on to for a little while until they find a permanent home. That lasted for exactly two kittens, and our third foster cat also found a permanent home with us. My life is so catty, I'm sure my friends roll their eyes when they see yet another cat photo on Instagram, when I meet them in person and they ask what's up, I have to bite my tongue to keep from giving them cat updates. I just want to share how Olga has learned to open doors by herself! And Bruno is growing so fat, is that normal? And Squishy is learning to play with the other two, and oh my goodness, he is adorable, do you want to see a photo? Sadly, no one wants to hear about our cats unless they are cat people themselves. I can live with this.
Funnily, the more cats we get, the more both sides of my life are being played out in full. We travel all the time, and when my Instagram isn't cat pictures, it's photos in new places. We're not rich, but we have a babysitter who likes animals. Still our suitcases sit on the floor, still my best clothes are rubbed up with loving layers of cat hair, and still I clean vomit off the carpet. It's not the glamorous life I imagined for myself long ago and without any felines, but it's a good life. I love it.