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In The Company of Cats

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

the undergrowth.

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The previous set of kittens had been replaced by a bouncy ginger one that we name Tiger


Week 1

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.

Week 2

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


Week 3

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.

Week 4

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.

Week 5

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.

Week 6

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.

Week 7

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.

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