April 6, 2012

A house of cats

I live in a two-bedroom bungalow with twelve cats. Upon entering the door, a tall bookshelf stands on your left and on the right next to the front window is another book shelf the height of a console containing more books, DVDs and memorabilia. Further to the right is the television with a DVD player, and a magazine stand. A framed poster of Krzysztof Kiewslowski's Red hangs on the wall. There is no sofa. On occasions, like movie marathon evenings, a rug is laid on the floor with large throw pillows.  

A four-seater dining table occupies much of the dining space next to a small, grey refrigerator. Opposite the table a framed photo of my ancestor Datu Namli adorns the wall next to a certificate. Then there is the modest kitchen with well-stacked cabinets, a microwave oven, electric stove and other essentials. The toilet and bath is positioned at the rear of the house, with litter boxes lining up to the back door. 

I converted one bedroom into a home office. A calendar featuring hundreds of cats welcomes you to the room. An iMac sits on a white table together with external hard drives, a mug containing pens, markers, scissors and a ruler, a notebook, a stack of scratch paper and half ream of copier paper. Adjacent to the table, a printer sits on a sturdy box containing documents. A brown sofa bed takes up the opposite side of the room next to a cabinet and plastic boxes holding production equipment. The second bedroom is literally the "bedroom." 

The cats are strictly indoor cats. They freely roam the house, except for the office which I keep closed at all times. Now and then I allow a cat or two to observe me at work provided they do not saunter on the table, lie down on the keyboard, or pounce on the monitor. 

On mornings the house is covered with a thin film of cat hair. I bought a vacuum cleaner a while back so that things would be a lot easier but the cats hate the sound of it. They go nuts whenever I use it. So I am content with the old traditional method. Damp rug soaked in a vinegar, baking soda and water solution. That way I keep my cats' sanity intact. 

Visitors would always remark, "Andami niyong pusa (You have lots of cats)." My sister and friend Ally even suggested that I keep them in cages. Que barbaridad! "Hikain ka (You're asthmatic)." "The hair is everywhere." "It smells pee in here." They contended. To placate them, all meals are done in the garden. "No hair here," I would argue. "Would you like a cat?" I asked Ally. Two nights later, he brought home one of my black cats and named him Damian.

When I decided that I wanted a cat, I already psyched myself for the daily Brownian movement of hair in house. Second, no furniture is safe despite the scratch boxes at each corner of the house. The sofa bed has been surgically dissected. A large throw pillow, my mother's gift to me when I was ten years old, has been pulverized. The cats have scratched off the paint atop the shelf next to the front window. The male cats have taken turns to peeing on it to demonstrate, "This view is mine and mine alone." And for reasons that still escape me, they have peed on one of the iron plates of my stove. Is this their way of saying, "The kibbles is starting to bore us"? 

But who is complaining? I signed up for this. I even named my production company Reckless Natarajan Pictures in honor of my first cat. So in the next couple of years I will have to contend with cat hair, the smell of pee, the regular and expensive visits to the vet, getting scratched by Basmati and Chino during bath time, and my cats making a playground of the house in the middle of the night. 

Aslan curled up on my grandmother's brass heirloom.

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