Cat-Free in Doha

A few weeks ago, as I was driving my car into the entrance of my apartment building, I noticed a small cat huddled on the front steps. After parking my car, I approached the grey tabby. Hey, kitty! It didn’t flee and allowed me to pet it. 

Up close, I noticed that the cat was small. Maybe it was still young, maybe it was malnourished and underdeveloped, or maybe it was both young and malnourished. After petting the cat for a few minutes, I stood up and headed into my building. 

The cat sadly meowed at me.

At the time, I was inured to its cries because I was tired and planning to take an evening nap. The sad mews silenced after the entrance door closed behind me. 

After waking from my nap a couple hours later, I found myself thinking about the cat.  I was preparing my dinner when I noticed that I had two cans of tuna fish in my cupboard. Maybe I could give the cat a can of tuna fish? I’m sure that it would appreciate the extravagant meal.

So, I headed back to the ground level with a can of tuna fish and a can opener prepared to offer the cat probably the best meal of its life, so far. When I arrived at the spot where I had seen the cat earlier, the area was dark, and the cat was nowhere to be seen.

I walked around my apartment building looking for the cat, but no luck. Then when I completed my cycle of the building, I noticed the teenage daughter of a neighbor sitting at the stairs petting something. As I got closer, I saw that she was petting the small cat.

Perfect. I sat down near her and the cat and opened the can of tuna fish. The cat immediately smelled the wafts of fish as I cut into the tin. When I placed the can on the ground, the cat ravenously started to devour the tuna fish. Every so often, the cat would pause from eating and cough. I also noticed that it had gunk collecting underneath its eyes. I’m not an animal expert, but I could tell that it was sick.

No matter. I left the cat to finish its food and headed back to my apartment.

That night, I thought about the cat, about taking it to a vet, about the prospects of getting it adopted, about the possibility of adopting the cat myself.

I am, however, not someone who is generally interested in pet ownership.

Growing up, after my parents got divorced, my youngest brother convinced my mother to allow us to adopt a kitten from a neighbor. I grew attached to that cat. That cat was then hit by a car and needed to be put asleep. I was devastated.

Years later, my mom was attracted to a cat that she spotted while stopping by a farm for some pumpkins. She brought the cat home, but it was a long-haired cat, and its fur coated everything in the house. I liked this cat but didn’t like cat hair on all of my clothing. 

Much later, when my boys were little, their mother decided that she wanted to have a cat. I wasn’t keen to the idea because, one, cats were an expense, and our household was treading water financially. Two, I didn’t want a cat scratching up the furniture. Still, because my relationship was on a descent, I relented. My ex ended up taking in not just one but three cats! Then we learned that our township required licenses for every cat in a household. The licenses cost $75 per cat. Guess who paid for those licenses?

As much as I like cats, I don’t want to become attached to one; I don’t want one getting fur all over my house and scratching up my shit; and I don’t want the expense of owning a pet.

My house is filled with plants. I like plants. I have even taken in plants that people couldn’t keep because their cats were destroying them or would be sickened if they ate them. 

Also, I have been feeding birds that make the journey to my balcony on the 19th floor. My first bird visitors were mynas. Now doves have been stopping by to nibble on the snacks that I leave. I prefer this arrangement with the local animal life. Come and go as you please—not dependency on me.  

I like my cat-free existence. I don’t have to worry about boarding the cat when I want to travel. I don’t have to worry about transporting the cat if or when I need to depart from Doha. Not having a cat averts needless complications from my life.

Still, the next day, after coming home from work, I walked to the front of my building to see if the cat was around. If it was still there, maybe I would at least take it to a vet to be treated for its respiratory infection. 

The cat wasn’t there. Neither was the can of tuna fish that I stashed in the bushes for the cat.

Maybe a building worker had shooed the cat from the property. Maybe a kindly resident of the building had taken the cat in. Or, maybe the cat had succumbed to its illnesses.

Regardless, fate seemed to want me to be cat-free for a bit longer during my days in Doha.  

Photo by Hulki Okan Tabak on Unsplash

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