Sri Lanka: Meow Meow & Tiger Cat
I first discovered Meow Meow, or Mama as she came to be known, last year while wandering
around the tropical gardens that surround our home. Partially hidden amongst the trees, her busted nose and broken teeth an unusual setting for her piercing green eyes and a stark contrast to her impending
pregnancy. I fed her from our stash of chorizo and anchovies while blackface monkeys
watched greedily from the coconut palms above. One by one three kittens emerged from
When I arrive this year I am surprised to find that Mama Cat has moved into our little house.
The previous set of kittens had been replaced by a bouncy ginger one that we name Tiger
Tiger sleeps in a basket in our bedroom. Every night he attempts the arduous climb up the
mosquito net to our bed. We rescue him as he swings helplessly, his claws embedded in the
Mama is still nursing Tiger and looks exhausted, her belly swollen and breasts sagging under
the weight of her recent pregnancy.
Their litter is an old baking tray filled with sand from the workshop and we feed them dry
food and sardines. This is a luxury as most cats here survive on a diet of rice and curry.
Tiger is still nursing but we are eager to get Mama spayed. She has had four pregnancies in
the last year and Tiger is the only survivor.
We woke this morning to find Tiger playing silently on our pillow. He has finally mastered
the mosquito net, scaling it like a rope ladder, then launching himself onto the mattress.
We are starting to get worried that Mama’s cat is pregnant again. I phone the vet who says
to bring them in on Monday and not to worry, he can still spay Mama even if she is
We pack Mama and Tiger into a basket and drive to the local vet. Not used to being caged
Mama starts to meow, clawing at the side of the carrier. Her beautiful green eyes, black and
glassy with fear.
The surgery is outdoors and consists of a fridge, a concrete slab that is waist high, and some
shelves. The vet appears barefoot and flashes us a warm smile.
I lift Mama onto the slab holding her tight, worried she will flee and disappear into the
surrounding jungle. The vet is shocked to see how pregnant she is and says she is too far
gone to spay. We must come back after the kittens are born.
Mama no longer tolerates Tiger anywhere near her to feed or play. But Tiger can't resist
mum’s swishing tail and this results in horrible fights. Mama angrily pins Tiger down, her
paw on his tiny neck. Tiger is bereft at this loss of intimacy and waits until Mama is sleeping,
before lying down beside her and gently resting a paw on her back.
Tiger pounces on anything that moves, like a tiny ninja he bursts out of nowhere, looking
wild, all bristled fur and outstretched paws. His favourite target, our ankles or Mama’s tail.
This irritates Mama no end. Sensing his presence she issues a guttural hiss that roots a
terrified Tiger to the spot.
Mama is increasingly pregnant and resembles a boa constrictor that has swallowed a goat.
She has slowed down considerably and Tiger, is taking full advantage venturing further away
from the front door everyday. Monkeys, lizards and snakes are just some of the dangers he
will have to contend with in this tropical paradise. As well as the huge road that passes in
front of our house.
Last night after weeks of fighting Tiger off, Mama welcomed him back into the fold, licking
his face and body and calling for him when he wandered out of sight. Tiger is ecstatic and
responds by flinging his paws around her neck and nuzzling her fur.
Mama is searching for a place to give birth and I hope she chooses to do so inside with us,
rather than outside as she has done with previous litters.
Loud squeals lead me to the laundry basket where I find Mama panting while Tiger sleeps
beside her. Labour is starting and I try to remove Tiger but Mama objects. When
contractions start, Tiger disappears and within 30 minutes the first kitten is born. Mama
licks baby clean and bites through the cord, devouring the placenta. The new kitten latches
onto a nipple just as contractions start again. Another four are born in 10 minute intervals.
Today is Mother's Day .
Mama takes good care of her brood. Cleaning and feeding them before feeding herself and
playing with a Tiger.
We have booked an appointment for Mama to be spayed. This will be her last pregnancy so
she can finally get some rest.