Urban Jungle

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 December, 2008, 12:00am

This week: In memory of Fa Meow

Today I am going to relate a very personal story, a short biography of my cat Fa Meow, which I hope will help readers understand why I love animals so much and how complex and rewarding relationships with them are. I am also writing this as her obituary. She was part of my life for 10 years and she departed it as suddenly as she entered it - and way too soon.

Fa Meow translates to 'flowery cat'. I gave her this name because of her unique colouration. She was a tricolour female, but unlike tricolours whose orange, black and white fur comes in separate patches, Fa Meow's colours were blended perfectly. She had a beautiful snow-white mane and a grey and white albino tiger-striped head. Each of her paws was also tipped in white. She looked as if she belonged in a snowy landscape, with white furry snow boots. Her colours could easily have blended into the Siberian wilderness.

Like her wilderness cousins, she had a wild streak and was always in charge. She was the one that decided who could or could not pet her. If she disagreed with the way you were petting her, she would leave you with a scar from a lightning scratch. She was a poser and loved to prance in front of visitors, luring them to pet her - and often leaving them with a scar as a reminder of their audience with her majesty.

Physically there was a lot about Fa Meow that was stunning, but her tail was irresistible. Besides that beautifully blended tricolour fur, it was extremely thick and bushy, with a diameter comparable to the girdle of her slim waist. It was like a serpent. One look at her tail and a person with any experience with cats would be able to tell her mood. Its whole length would sway from side to side like an angry serpent when she was upset; if she wanted your attention, she would just wave the tip.

I first met Fa Meow in a hospital ward for strays. I was the vet on duty that day and noted a new arrival needed attention. A miniature version of her older self, Fa Meow was four months old and even cuter than her adult self. I was very surprised to find such a beautiful cat in a stray-animal ward.

It turned out Fa Meow's previous owners had left a window open and the curious cat leapt out and plummeted seven floors, spending one of her nine lives. She was lame, and I guess that was the reason she was dumped. This irresponsible act resulted in 10 years of pure pleasure for me. X-rays showed Fa Meow had a fractured pelvis, which was easy to fix, and I adopted her on the spot.

I think the fracture site caused her some discomfort in old age, and she was always sensitive when touched on the rump.

Fa Meow's feisty nature often caused a little drama. During her older years I often took her to the clinic with me, where she could be looked after better. Being a personable cat, she enjoyed the attention of all the visitors. She would leap on to the laps of clients in the waiting room and start purring. We were often worried, because some clients were a little rough with their petting and risked getting scratched. We were always warning people about her. But clients loved her all the same, and those who suffered a scratch shrugged and forgave her. Sometimes I would call out for the next client to come into the consultation room, and all I'd get was a whimper. I would pop my head out to see Fa Meow holding the client hostage. She simply wouldn't leave the client's lap. It was funny. She turned out to be a great little mascot for the clinic.

Occasionally celebrity clients would bring their animals to see me. I recall one time when Steven Fung, a Hong Kong movie and music personality, and his girlfriend at the time, Karen Mok, came in with their two cats. Being cat people, they instantly noted my cat grooming herself on top of the fish tank and went to pet her. The receptionist warned them of the imminent danger of a scratch because Fa Meow hated being interrupted when grooming herself.

Just like most gung-ho cat lovers, Steven ignored this excellent piece of advice and went closer. It was like a kung fu movie. Fa Meow lashed out with the quickest swipe of her claws you could imagine. The paw was just a blur. And then she studiously continued with her grooming - while on Steven's face blood started dripping from both ends of a scratch delivered in the blink of an eye. I was very relieved it was Steven and not Karen. They were quite cool about it and Fa Meow got a scolding - which of course she ignored.

There is a lot more I could write about Fa Meow, but there isn't enough room. She died on Saturday from chronic renal failure due to kidney stones. Like the beauty of a rose, an intrinsic part of that beauty is knowing that it is not forever - and that sums up what it is like owning a pet.