By Ellen Taleon
In Japan, I am now living life as a foreigner with my three increasingly Japanized children, my husband, two cats and two hamsters as part of our household ensemble. Although, it is not allowed to have pets in the apartment, we happen to have two cats and two hamsters. To our thinking, if the landlord will ask us, we can always feign ignorance and say to him that we cannot read the Japanese contract. Although on second thought, that might have worked fine five years ago, maybe it will just be a lame excuse at this time. Anyway, we will appeal to his kind heart and ask if it wouldn’t break his heart to throw away two very lovable housecats, who always look lovingly up at you especially at fixed points during the dinner time and who add warmth to your beds by snuggling with you especially during the thick of winter. This really saves us a lot of heating electricity and wanting for more pillows too.
However, after having put the issue of the landlord’s “no pets in the house rule” behind us, things are not always as smooth when you have pets and kids in the house together. Especially when it comes to explaining the feline way of socialization.
It’s kind of a tricky balancing act trying to explain the feline facts of life to young kids, as my husband found out one day much to his dismay, as he tried to explain in morally-sound ways to my young son and daughters, why our tabby tomcat with the sunny name “Sunshine” who has been studiously ignoring our female Chinchilla kitten “Trixie” during the six months prior is now pursuing her with so much passion and so much clamor that it wakes us all up in the middle of the night.
So he said in very patient and measured tones to my young son, that our young kitten “Trixie” has just become a full-grown young lady and our tom cat is courting for her hand. And that was the end of it all, he thought.
But the next day, my son exclaimed “eeeyohhh” in unmasked, plain disgust when he saw our tomcat on top of our white six-month old plus Chinchilla female, apparently doing his thing with her. After an uneasy silence, my husband again explained, that apparently “they got married overnight and are now officially man and wife” in the cat kingdom and are just enjoying their blessed honeymoon. If my son had further asked why they should get married when they are brother and sister since we are the adoptive family, then my husband may have a ready answer in that they are not biologically-related but only related by family through us.
But things became more complicated for my husband when our second young daughter asked why our tom cat was doing the same thing with a certain triple-colored female in the neighborhood. So my husband again explained that she was our tomcat’s former wife and that while we were all sound asleep…apparently our tomcat divorced her and got remarried to our white “Trixie” in the feline way.
And so that ended the story… or so we thought!! While I was on my way to work, I happened to see my tomcat getting together again with his “ex-wife” cat, while our Chinchilla female Trixie, the “second wife” was watching quite contentedly and placidly in the foreground.
I was mulling on any possible query again from my young kids. How will I answer my son or daughters then, that our tomcat has shamelessly convinced himself that he is the feline version of the Sultan in the Arabian Nights and has decided to start his own harem right in our own backyard? Shucks… parenting cats and humans together is not as easy as it seemed, I just realized then and there.
(Originally published in Alien Times Tsukuba, May 2007