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Everyone should have a cat

I might be the only one ever to have had a cat thrown at him to stop him from snoring. My wife did it. In her defence, she was taking heavy medication at the time and was befuddled with sleep. However, that was of not much comfort to Sheretz, our large black tabby, as he went flying across the room to land heavily between my shoulder blades.

Cat-lovers may enjoy this post. Those wanting incisive commentary on the state of our society or the like should look elsewhere.

Maybe it’s a sign of premature old age, but I’ve become obsessed about our three cats, named (in order of acquisition) Sheretz, Nadger and Pearla. “Sheretz” is a Biblical Hebrew term denoting creepy crawlies of one type or another. He was named on an impulse when filling in a form at the vet. The middle cat is Nadger, so called because (against the vet’s advice) we decided to let him keep his kitten-makers. Being quite under-sized, he continually gets a mauling from the other cats – rivals for the ladies’ attentions, most probably – and limps home with torn ears and bare, bleeding patches on his neck and head. Within a day or two, though, he’s off again.

Because of her shape, the third cat was named Pearla (denoting pear rather than pearl-shaped). Actually Bronte, short for brontosaurus, would have been more apt — head dwarfed by an enormous body sort of thing. She’s been struggling to get through the security gates, so we’ve cut back a bit on her food. The way she now capers and prances every time you go near her empty bowl is quite heart-rending.

The reason we insisted on a female when we went to Kitty and Puppy Haven to get another cat earlier this year was because we feared for a male newcomer’s safety in the face of Sheretz’s inevitable objections to his territory being encroached on. To us, he seemed large and fierce, and our wretched ex-lizard population, which he had so thoroughly obliterated soon after his arrival would no doubt have agreed.

Female or not, we still had real fears that this plump, benign addition to the household would be a sitting duck for our baleful, glowering old Mephistopheles and resolved to keep a careful watch on them. Funny how wrong one can be. Within a fortnight, she had all but run him off the property. Now, he skulks around on the fringes with a hang-cat look, never daring to enter the bedrooms and always being the one to back down and retreat whenever he and Pearla run into each other. A real Wuss Puss he turned out to be.

There is something altogether very South African about the way our three cats interact with one another. You’d think that over time occupying the same property under conditions of equality would foster a sense of community, even affection. Instead, the relationship is one of wariness, mutual suspicion and resentment, occasionally erupting into outright hostility.

Despite having been in our home from kittenhood onwards, Nadger has been increasingly absent of late. He can be gone for a week or more, and then, just as we start wondering whether he’s been dispatched to the Great Sandbox in the sky, turns up unexpectedly mewing insistently for food and milk. If we’re lucky, he’ll remain for a day or so before disappearing again. Last time, he just gobbled and left, without letting me give him the usual cuddle. Feral little brute.


  • David Saks

    David Saks has worked for the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) since April 1997, and is currently its associate director. Over the years, he has written extensively on aspects of South African history, Judaism and the Middle East for local and international newspapers and journals. David has an MA in history from Rhodes University. Prior to joining the SAJBD, he was curator -- history at MuseumAfrica in Johannesburg. He is editor of the journal Jewish Affairs, appears regularly on local radio discussing Jewish and Middle East subjects and is a contributor to various Jewish publications.