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'Birdwatching' feline that walked out of my life

Highlights

One fine morning, Billi came to the backdoor and politely asked for food, meowing softly.

One fine morning, Billi came to the backdoor and politely asked for food, meowing softly. She looked like a little tigress with kohl-lined emerald eyes.

I fed her some biscuits which she seemed to relish. After this, she would come to the backdoor every day for breakfast and lunch, sometimes bringing her brother, Billa.

Since she stayed out of the house and was always very polite, the rest of the family, including my mother-in-law who dislikes cats, soon took to her. She received fish heads and scraps from our table.

Billi had three kittens every year with monotonous regularity. Once she delivered in our jeep.

She placed the kittens next to the foot pedals. My husband got the shock of his life when he sat at the wheel the next day and his foot felt something soft! We removed the kittens to a cardboard box in the attic.

She immediately went to the attic and brought down the kittens one by one placing them back in the jeep!

Out of all her kittens, she was fondest of a velvety black male whom we imaginatively named Kaala. In fact, she loved him so much that she would let him suckle her even after he had grown to adulthood and become bigger than her!

When she had her next litter, he would unashamedly suckle alongside his new siblings. He was a good older brother, though.

When Billi left to stretch her legs or to go hunting, she would leave Kaala in charge of the little ones. He baby-sat them well, letting them play with his tail.

Billi was not like other cats. Though she rubbed herself against our legs, she didn't like sitting in our laps and disliked being stroked or petted.

She would submit to petting sometimes but with a resigned expression on her face. She liked to be with me and would follow me whenever I went into the garden.

When I stopped to pick flowers, she had a trick of sitting on my feet. When I walked about the surrounding wooded area birdwatching, she came with me, walking alongside.

She was probably the only birdwatching cat in existence. If I was down in the dumps and sitting in the garden by myself, Billi would come and sit next to me.

She wouldn't touch me but would sit close enough for me to feel her soft warm presence. She seemed to be saying: "Don't feel bad. I am with you."

One night, I found her in my room when I came to retire. Since she was an outdoor cat, I was surprised to see her inside the house.

When I sat reading in my armchair, she sat quietly next to me, not touching. When I finally went to bed, she made herself comfortable in the chair and dozed off.

At dawn, I was awakened by her soft meows asking to be let out. I opened the door for her and she went out. I never saw her again. She left my life as silently and as imperceptibly as she had entered it.

Pragati Nayak

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