Kitty - A Childhood Memory


Before easy access to cameras, I relied on drawing my pets.

There was a cat under the car. I couldn’t quite see it in the darkness, and no amount of coaxing would persuade it to come closer to me, so I gave up. I was seven years old, and little did I know that the simple act of peering past a car tyre would become repeated throughout my life, always with the intention of meeting the sharp gaze of a cat.

“I saw a cat under the car,” I told Mama that night as we ate dinner, and this sparked a few exclamations down the table as others agreed that they had seen her too. Of course, the cat wasn’t always under the car after that, but more often than not, I would find her there.

Then one night, she came into the house.

I wasn’t there to see her actual entrance – I was upstairs at the time, watching the television with my Atuk. I can imagine it though; the dainty paw-steps past the door frame, the wary darting of her eyes and the lowered tail. Maybe she was looking for food.

Maybe she was looking for a place to call home.

Mama was the one who carried her up the stairs, and I ran over to look at her. Cradled in Mama’s arms, she was tawny coloured and much smaller than I initially thought. I reached out and stroked the fur between her ears while she regarded me suspiciously. “She’s just a kitten,” Mama said, placing her into my own arms. She was warm and squirmy, leaving fine orange hairs on my pajamas.

I named her Kitty. Creative name choice from a seven year old, eh? Simple and to the point. I thought it was a stroke of genius at the time, and so she was the very first cat I ever named.

We kept Kitty in the house, and I think she was pleased with the attention she received, though the abundance of cat biscuits and fish we gave her was probably the real icing on the cake. Our evenings were spent playing in the garden, and she was a regular sight sunning herself on the back porch or strutting about the trees.

The Kitty family tree. Father to her kittens: Unknown.

While I was still kid-sized, she grew up and became a mother. She was one of our more fertile cats; Kitty had at least six kittens throughout her lifetime with us: Archie, Curvy, Quick-Quack, Ginger … just to name a few. If it weren’t for Kitty’s kittens, I wouldn’t know half of the things I know today about cat habits. Not just Kitty’s kittens, but her kitten’s kittens! Yup, she was a cool grandmother cat, spry and lively the whole time I had the privilege of knowing her.

When we moved house, we brought Kitty with us, along with her troop of kittens and older offspring. We finally got her spayed after her second litter, but that didn’t stop her from adventuring off by herself around the neighbourhood, the cat of the street. Cycling around the housing area in the evenings, I found her streets away from home, perfectly happy to greet me. I stopped the bike and patted her fondly on the head. “Nak balik tak? Do you want to come home?” After some gentle coaxing on my side, I got back onto my bike and moved away slowly, keeping an eye on her as I went. She sat and watched me go, content to stay where she was.

Just a few of Kitty's kin.

The longest Kitty would be gone is two or three days, then she’d come home to rest, eat and say hello to her grown babies before heading off on her next trip. She outlived quite a few of her sons and daughters in this way – then one day, she just didn’t come home.

Her departure from our lives was as quiet as her arrival. We waited two days, three days … then a week, then a month. I cycled around hoping to see the familiar shade of her pelt strutting confidently along a drain, but she had vanished. Even though she was never really always home to begin with, we all felt the loss.

That was about five years after we first met.

Looking back on it now, a decade since I last saw her, she always had more street in her than many of our other house cats – I guess in her own way, she was always a kucing jalanan (she sure loved to jalan-jalan!). Being the age before digital cameras, I never got around to taking a photo of her, which is why all I have of her now is a scribbly child’s drawing, accompanying a carefully worded essay titled “My Kitten”. It was a great five years while it lasted, and I’m glad that she chose to call us her home.



Sara Ikmal

Newly graduated and working in advertising, I come from a family of cat-lovers. We've had cats throughout my entire life. Between us, we have five cats: Pebbles, Spyro, Lola, Shiro and Eevee. Other than my love for cats, I'm a bookworm who enjoys rock-climbing on the weekends.

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