As a child I didn’t like cats. Or perhaps, I had no special likeness for them. My then neighbour and friend’s family, were the only ones I knew as cat owners. I used to watch the cat from a distance in the evenings whenever my friend’s dad returned from work and fed the cat some fish. It used to be roast fish. I always watched with admiration but it would end there. I listened when it mewed at times and watched the way it walked with its body swaying from side to side. To me, the cat was highly independent. As I never discussed cats with anyone and as a result, I didn’t realize all these things. I didn’t know I watched the cat, I didn’t know I studied its movement; I just knew the cat was a cat. Lol.
When I was about erm…. maybe 12 or 11 and was a new student at a night madrasah, someone at the house where the madrasah used to hold found a stray cat🍂. The house was more like a family house and as a result, the cat belonged to the entire house, not just to the one who discovered it.
As a new student, I didn’t used to move around. I just stayed in the class with my friend when there was nothing to do and would listen to her conversations with the other colleagues. I was one of the shortest and was pretty much tongue tied. So I practically didn’t have friends. I just used to look around. I used to see the cat walk by a couple of times and soon, I realized that all the children at the madrasah knew it. It was named “Uche” and so each time it walked by the students cry “Uche Uche Uche!!!”.
After some while Uche was delivered of babies. Kittens! As at that time, I wasn’t lowkey anymore. I knew a lot of students and vis-à-vis, hence I played like them and with them. Uche’s kittens were like four in number and they used to walk in between the legs of students during classes. At first, the students would scream and the kittens would get scared and flee. But soon, a new practice was in vogue.
Anytime a kitten walked in between a person’s leg, the person would pick it up and throw the kitten off. Uno like a tennis ball or something. To be honest, I think I was scared of cats. So I just would glare at whoever threw a kitten because I thought the throw would hurt it. Sometimes, I would try to say something but would be cut off so I just pitied the poor things without saying a word. Then I became a brayvo! I was timid and wouldn’t want to stand against those throwing the kittens for they used to given an excuse that the kittens were the first to ask for trouble. What I did was simply to choose a different way to stand by the kittens.
The fact that I was scared of the cats’ claws made it seem like a big deal to make friends with the kittens but the way the students used to throw them made it seem less of a deal. I picked one up one day and placed it on my lap but my heart was racing. Lol. Uno when you are scared of something but still hold it tight. After that day, I would pick up a kitten from time to time and drop it off when I got jumpy. After some while, I wasn’t scared anymore. Anytime I saw a kitten walking towards the students, I quickly picked it up and played with it.
There claws weren’t particularly harmful so I let them stay on my laps for as much as they wanted. My friends used to get scared. Whenever they catch sight of a cat on my leg they would shout out “ Ahh Aisha!!!” and run off but I would giggle. To me, they were just unnecessarily scared of the harmless cuties.
So…. As time went on sha, anytime they found a kitten between their legs (feet) they would toss it at me and so, I became the “ilekewu mom” to those olongbo .
Gradually, I got the nickname Umm Hurayrah from some girls but I didn’t like the name. I just liked the cats. And so my love for cats grew till this day 😟🙊🙊