Saturday, October 16, 2004
Image: Whacked Out Roof Cat
My cat is a roof cat. She spends the day light hours outside on the various layers of roof that cover our facility and for the most part keep the critters out ... sort of. Pixie is a roof kitty by default. She would probably prefer to spend the day at street level but this is not a viable option at this point in time. This is getting rather complicated – as is the cat situation in Jakarta
The cat population of Jakarta is enormous. They are everywhere. There are of course the ordinary street cats but many tend to specialize. An ever expanding pride lives on our school campus. Another makes its home at the golf driving range. Just last week they welcomed a new litter to their community, born in a large clay decorative urn just off the tees. A few weeks ago I saw one hanging out at the mall. She was stalking about in the cascading flower garden that graces the escalator area. Cats are not only tolerated but accepted and often times encouraged by the humans, who routinely come in contact with them, to remain in a particular area. The cat community of our school is often treated to a random bowl of food deliberately placed in an out of the way corner – lest one of Miss Pahls first graders gets a hankering for kitty food, even though the official policy of the school as a “cat free zone” (which shows the degree of the cat situation here – that an institution actually has a set policy concerning cats). But having a cat free zone in Jakarta is about as practical as a establishing a horse fly free zone in North Creek, New York (random reference – for those at home reading along). One mother school cat had cataracts and babies which is not a good thing to have at the same time. Our admissions director treated the mom for a bit until her eyes cleared up and several of the work staff were commandeered into feeding the babies with an eye dropper until mom was fit to get on with her mom duties. But mind you NJIS is a cat free zone. So there are cats everywhere – certainly not tame but very much a part of the urban landscape of Jakarta.
Back to Pixie the roof cat. When we moved here to Indo, Pixie came along with the house we were to occupy. Little is known about Pixie’s background. She does not have a tail, is a couple years old, and is somewhere between a strait up street cat and a tame house cat (although the latter is winning out). She spent most of her time outside on the street while we lived in our house. When we arrived home from work she would come inside and hang out with us until nightfall. At night she would return to the streets until morning when she would make an appearance to see us off to work. She likes the street but is becoming more accustomed to the luxurious life of a house cat.
When we moved this year from our house to an apartment in a different area, I was concerned that Pixie would struggle with her new neighborhood and the cats that roamed its streets. I let her out a few times on a trial basis but followed behind a few steps like a worried nanny. I wanted to allow Pixie her independence and sense of being on her own but very ready to intervene if the need arose. It was fascinating to watch how Pixie went about her explorations. It was remarkably different than Oscar our stateside cat’s methodology. Pixie proceeded outside slowly and very aware of her surroundings. She was particularly methodical, making mental kitty notes as she slinked about just in case she needed to beat a hasty retreat back to the safe zone of our apartment. She paid special attention to the area around our door insuring that she cold recognize it upon return. Slowly she crept forward, crouched low, ears twitching like radar antennas. In the states, Oscar our Chicago city apartment cat, got out once and bolted strait away. He had no idea where he was going or how to get back. No agenda, completely unaware, definitely not a 3d world street/house cat. I found Oscar about 45 minutes after his bolt into oblivion terrified and crouched in a corner crawl space of our apartment building. He hadn’t a clue how to get home and was only about 50 feet from our apartment ... Back to Jakarta ... So I followed Pixie around, making sure to stay far enough behind as to not impose on her sense of freedom and allow her to look cool and independent and stuff just in case she came across one of the members of the school pride. Eventually the inevitable happened. Pixie slinked around a corner and came face to face with a juvenile of the school gang. The school kitty nonchalantly sat back on its haunches, cocked its head and stared curiously at Pixie. It looked like all she wanted to do was make friends and play – kind of had that anxious look that a kid gets when they meet another kid on the playground and all they want to do is play but need to get through the preliminaries of initial contact. Pixie did not want to play. She immediately went into street cat survival mode, got bristly, crouched even lower, offered forth some primordial guttural growl, turned and made a beeline directly for our apartment door and the safe zone.
So for the time being, until Pixie gets accustomed to the new surroundings, her daytime prowls are limited to the roof (actually it is a complex system of layers and nooks and crannies and cooling systems and all sorts of places to hide and peer out and do other cat stuff – minus the other cats). She seems content with this arrangement. In the morning she approaches the window meowing and we let her out. When we get home I open the window and whistle a bit and yell her name a few times and wait. The sound of her footsteps pattering on the noisy roof shingles always announce her arrival as she comes scurrying towards the window, meowing, excited about an evening meal and lounging about on soft cushions in air conditioned comfort. Such is the life of Pixie the Jakarta roof kitty.