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writing about cats

I grew up with a dislike for cats. Maybe even fear. Cats were not common in my neighborhood as a child in hinterland India, and everyone considered the few that were, pests at best and at worst, evil omens. Feral dogs, strays, were common. I remember my parents feeding them. Never cats.

By the time I reached college, I stayed at a hostel where cats had the free run of the dining room, and the staff thought that giving the cats first turn at the plates made their cleaning jobs easier. There was much caterwauling in the winters, and during stretches where I was one of the few who stayed back during the holidays, this could make for a very eerie wake up call right around 2 am.

Moving out of India into Malaysia, and of course, getting on social media, was my first introduction to people’s love for cats. I discovered that they can be gorgeous; they have attitudes; they have Instagram accounts. Cats, not people. From main coons to tabby cats, I watched them all over my timeline along with heart emojis, and wondered what the fuss was about. Since then, I’ve had cat-loving friends and been to dinners to their places where the cats navigated their way around wineglasses on coffee tables, and have grown somewhat used to them.

I now photograph cats in my neighborhood in Singapore, and sometimes even put them on Instagram. Needless to say, they receive more comments than any book posts, and rightly so. A cat cannot be added to the to-be-read pile. Unlike a book, it is not a reminder of things as yet undone. No cat ever looks like it cares about things to be done, unless while actively hunting, or maybe insinuating that she needs to be fed.

Graduating from not being terrified of cats to photographing them while maintaining a respectful distance as they strike dramatic poses has been quite the progress. I’ll never go physically pick one up though (other than tiny kittens), nope thank you, but I no longer pause when I see one, or look for alternative escape routes. 

So the day I saw this cat at a graveyard, I waited for it to approach me. Graveyard, you ask? Well, I can take a longish walk and reach the Japanese Cemetery Park which contains nearly 1,000 graves of Japanese civilians in Singapore and soldiers mostly from the early 20th century, during and after the time of the Japanese occupation of this country.

Founded by three Japanese brothel-keepers, the cemetery was built in 1891 as a burial ground for karayuki-san, or Japanese women brought here for prostitution, many of whom died poor and destitute.

Over the years, other Japanese were buried there. The Japanese Association of Singapore oversees its upkeep. It is one of the only places I can find relative solitude, as well as some closeness to nature during the current covid surge that has sent Singaporeans out of gyms and into parks, on morning walks.

So there I was, strolling in the graveyard, minding my own business, when I saw a cat (I wouldn’t venture to name the breed–bobtail, maybe, but you can tell me in the comments if you recognize it from the pictures?) stroll up to me, mewling. I snapped a few pictures, but turns out she wasn’t just a fashion aspirant. She rubbed herself all over my shoes, did some begging (I had no food on me, but that didn’t seem to dampen her enthusiasm one bit). She kept me company as I took in the morning air, washing herself, laying flat belly up to be petted, and calling for attention when I pointed my phone at anything other than her.

I posted pictures of her on my Instagram, and my DMs have seen modeling offers from cat food and cat jewelry/ clothes brands (apparently this is a thing), but I haven’t the heart to tell them that this was just a friendly graveyard cat–and they should read post captions before wasting their time.

On my way out, I saw a visitor set out fresh food offerings and frankincense at one of the graves, and my affectionate guide took off like a shot, headed towards better breakfast prospects. She’s stayed with me beyond that morning walk, and now here I am, writing about her.

I liked that she gave me her time and attention, but also stopped the minute something more attractive came up. Her lack of niceties, of a proper goodbye, and her complete presence in the moment–reminded me of people I’ve known and loved. The next time I head out into the cemetery park for a morning walk, I’ll keep an eye out for her.

Are you owned by a cat (since no one can own one) ? What have been your experiences around cats? Do you follow cat social media accounts? What cat has made an impression on you, and why?

Are you owned by a cat (since no one can own one) ? What have been your experiences around cats? Do you follow cat social media accounts? What cat has made an impression on you, and why?

My debut literary crime novel,”You Beneath Your Skin,” published by the fab team at Simon and Schuster IN is optioned to be a TV series by Endemol Shine.

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • jlennidorner says:

    I have always loved cats. 😻 I’m sure if you ask around, you’ll find that young males in the United States are not supposed to like cats. (At least in the 80s and 90s.) So there was more than one physical altercation over my liking cats. (Whatever. They wanted to fight. Cats were just an excuse for that day.)

    I’m commenting on an older post because you don’t have one for today, but I wanted to say hello.
    I was under the weather earlier this week (not the CπŸ‘Ύvid, don’t worry), but I’m much improved now.
    I’ve been scheduling debut author interviews at Operation Awesome. If you know one, please tell them to reach out to me.
    Over at the a-to-z challenge, plans are hatching for April 2022, including a big event this month (starts Feb 4).
    Plus, WEP has the “All You Need is Love” flash fiction challenge on February 16 – 18.
    Quote for February: β€œYou have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” -John Bunyan

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by–and I love that you fought over liking cats!

      Good to know you’re doing well, and thanks so much for filling up my Daishik form and offering to read and review! I’m very grateful.

      Thanks for all the updates on the events, let’s see what I can come up with!

  • marianallen says:

    I share the house with two cats: Chickie (black and white female, inherited from my late husband), and Tipper (white male). Each cat I’ve had was a separate personality, except Katya (a female Russian Blue), who I’m convinced was a reincarnation of my Tiffany (a calico). Same character, same likes and dislikes, even liked the same places and perches in the house. I’ve loved them all, but I think my favorites were Amidala (female calico) and Munchkin (male marmalade). I took them in when their human passed away. They were 17 and 19 respectively, and I only had them for a couple of years before they passed, but we bonded tightly. The only cat I follow on social media is Princess Honeybelle on Instagram, because she cooks. πŸ™‚

  • JoAnna says:

    Your new friend is very beautiful and so friendly! After years of feeding feral cats at my church, I finally brought Mama Cat home a year ago as she was the only one left and all our dogs have passed away. I still love dogs, but Mama Cat has become a sweet companion and tame enough to start training me to do her bidding. She has become very affectionate, and stroking her soft fur is comforting. I’ve read that the purring of a cat has healing properties.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      “stroking her soft fur is comforting. I’ve read that the purring of a cat has healing properties.”

      That’s lovely. My graveyard cat purred throughout!

  • Shilpa Gupte says:

    I too wasn’t a cat lover for the longest time but since moving to my present house, things have changed. My neighbors are owned by 28 cats and all day long I hear their meows in varied tones that express their many emotions. They are adorable but too full of themselves as I discovered when I went over to meet them- the cats, not the humans. πŸ™‚

    They are forever peeping into my kitchen and conversing with me when I talk to them and this makes for some entertainment in my least fav place in the world!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      I’m glad they get along with your bird babies–cats and birds don’t always get along!
      (28 cats? Your neighbor must have a very big place.)

      • Shilpa Gupte says:

        No, they don’t get along with my babies coz i haven’t introduced my babies to them. I fear for my babies’ life! πŸ™‚

  • I love cats. I miss my cat who passed about five years ago. I’m not sure I want to get another, though, but I’d love to visit one of those cat cafes where you can play with a cat for a while.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yes, cat cafes and cat book shops can be fun.

      (I once visited a Post Office in Edinburgh with a melty-eyed Black Lab at the counter, who hit the bell with his nose to call the post master when I walked in.)

  • DutchIl says:

    Thanks for sharing a part of your world and lovely photos!… I do not have or had a cat… I had two Jack Russell terriers who had the same mental attitude that cats do and this ole house were not big enough for everyone… I treat cats like I do all other creatures, I respect who they are and their world and they do the same with me… may have a difference of opinion from time to time,but for the most part get along famously…. πŸ™‚

    Until we meet again…
    May your day be touched
    by a bit of Irish luck,
    Brightened by a song
    in your heart,
    And warmed by the smiles
    of people you love.
    (Irish Saying)

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Cats have tons of attitude, and I’m okay with that. “I respect who they are and their world and they do the same with me”–that’s wonderful.

  • cleemckenzie says:

    Cats have a way of insinuating themselves into my life and sticking around for their nine lives. Love your pictures.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      I haven’t seen your cats on your blog–maybe I’ll check out your Instagram? πŸ™‚

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – cats are ‘people to themselves’ … I love their independence – albeit they also depend on us. We always had cats … black and white ones … I haven’t owned a cat since I left home … but if I had a family I would have had a cat … and probably a dog. My brother and family have a cat and dogs … Graveyard Cat looks a delight … she reminds me of ‘Orlando (The Marmalade Cat) the fictional eponymous hero of the series (of the same name) of 19 illustrated children’s books’. So pleased to read you’re friends with her … cheers Hilary

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Hilary, i hope you do get to have a cat. I love the idea of a black and white cat πŸ™‚

  • jowensauthor says:

    I have been owned by cats since I was a kid, but not currently. My black cat, Shadow, passed a few years ago and I haven’t gotten a new one yet. I also have many friends on social media who are cat owners. I am glad you are getting over your fear of cats, because they are great animlas. It sems appropriate to me for a cat to be in a Japanese graveyard, too, since they are considered good luck in Japan.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      So sorry for your loss of Shadow, Jeanne. You’re right about the Japanese and cats–they have cat figurines everywhere in Tokyo, and of course, the famous Maneki-neko.

  • Pam Lazos says:

    Like the Ancient Egyptians, I think cats have a direct line to the ethers and are regular travelers between the material and spirit worlds. I think they bring messages back and forth, too. I adore cats — although not on the kitchen table or anywhere near where we cook — and yes, if you want adoration, you need a dog (which we also have), but if you want someone to tell it to you straight, get a cat!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Pam, that sounds fascinating. How do you prevent them from getting where you don’t want them, though? I don’t need adoration, but I do need at least some form of playing by the rules. Cats are not fans of rules, from what I hear πŸ™‚

  • Jeff says:

    We are currently owned by four cats. And no two of them are alike. Such diverse temperaments!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      This is a truth I’ve discovered. Cats can be just as diverse as people–seldom are two absolutely alike.

  • Mick Canning says:

    Yup. Owned by a couple of cats (They treat us well, though).

  • Now there’s a well fed cat. πŸ™‚ My experience with cats in Singapore was not positive. We had a Siamese cat for a while and it would catch and eat wall lizards and had a constant struggle with tapeworms as a consequence. It was also mean and liked to shred our curtains and lounge sets. So we were glad to send it on its way.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      She was definitely well fed. Sorry you had a bad experience with your Siamese. Unlike dogs, I imagine it is hard to tell cats what not to do.

  • I’m a cat lover who does not live with a cat as my husband is not a fan.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Ah. You must miss having one. I’m a fan of dogs but don’t have one. Some day.

  • I am a lover of cats and have almost always been owned by at least one. My partner grew up in a family which didn’t like or trust them. The cats have converted him.
    I don’t play FB or instagram though.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      That’s good to know about your partner being converted! I’m a convert myself, but haven’t lived with a cat yet. That might change some day.

  • Yes i am.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      πŸ™‚ Cats always bring so much joy to the households they live in.

  • Debbie D. says:

    Cute cat! Her attitude is typical, I’d say. They are so independent and only seek affection on their terms. This one doesn’t look wild. Maybe she was just out for a stroll? As a dog person, I haven’t paid that much attention to cats personally, but I used to care for them in their homes when the owners were away.

  • John Holton says:

    In the last 44 years, Mary and I have been staff to 36 (more or less) cats. There were times when there were a lot of them resident here. We’re down to our last, for a while: when she goes, the nest will be empty for at least a year, at least those are the plans. In preparation, I’ve subscribed to many feline instagram accounts, which provide me with plenty to look at and none to clean up after. Being crippled, the care of our last remaining cat (and of all the cats we had after my stroke) has fallen to Mary, who is very happy that we only have one left….

  • She is beautiful and looks well cared for, despite being maybe feral? There is a story to this cat.

  • So sweet. πŸ™‚ I always tend to attract cats. Most of them tend to be black. All of the cats I’ve owned have been either black strays or rescues. And they have all been very sweet … except for when they are very naughty. And my current cat companion has a very naughty streak. LoL …