Friday, September 14, 2007

Black Cats

My personal account of what led up to my choosing a black cat, a kitten with a funny, forked tail.

I’ve always loved black cats.

It started when I read a book as a child about a black cat belonging to a witch.

When I was living in Tokyo, Japan, I decided that it was high time I had a cat of my own. I wasn’t thinking of a black cat, necessarily. It just so happened that an American friend of mine happened to see an ad in the English Daily Yomiuri.

“You should check it out,” she said. “They’re giving away baby cats, coal black kittens. The ad says that every single kitty in the litter is black.”

When I called the number she gave me, I got a recording. I heard a coterie of caterwauling kittens. That should’ve been a red flag, but I didn’t see it at the time.

I asked a Japanese friend to accompany me to pick up the kitten. One of the cat books suggested that you should always take someone along whenever you go on a cat viewing expedition.

When we arrived at the tiny studio where the American couple lived with, the mother cat – the cat that got herself knocked up before her guardians had a chance to spay her – greeted us at the door.

One look at her, and I instantly understood why my mother always warned me that lack of discretion in mate selection meant that you could end up saddled for the rest of your life with kids who looked exactly like dad. Not good if you end up hating dear dad.

Although no one knew whom the opportunistic tomcat, the father of the litter was, it was clear that he must’ve been a black cat. Mom cat herself wasn’t the least bit black. She was a tortoiseshell, a dainty, innocent-looking feline. Who could’ve predicted that she’d act like a feral cat, a wild cat out sniffing for extracurricular liaisons. As I always say, appearances can be deceptive.

Deceptive or not, at least I remember mom cat’s appearance. That’s more than I can say about the American couple, the cat’s guardians. I vaguely recall that they were of medium build and wore jeans. They told me they’d consider keeping the entire litter, but they couldn’t because they were returning to the States in a few weeks. They were definitely taking mom cat with them and one of the two kittens that were left, probably the girl because she had a funny sort of tail that would not appeal to most people.

“We want to make sure that she has a nice home,” they explained. “But we’re also willing to give her to anyone who wants her. We figure if we want more cats, we can always adopt them from the humane shelter”

I decided I’d take the boy because he had a long, straight, normal tail, whereas the girl had a foreshortened, bifurcated tail. She wasn’t an ugly cat, I suppose you could classify her as a cute cat, but really what I was looking for was a cat that looked completely normal.

As it turned out, God – or rather, the kittens – had other plans.

After all, they're black cats.

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