Sunday, August 1, 2010

Frankie the Cat and Other Animal Friends

Frankie the cat is a large Siamese who lives with my neighbor, Jenny. Few Zambians keep pets, although there are dogs and cats that seem to find ways to take care of themselves living outdoors. But Frankie is a house cat, and quite a character. I care for him when Jenny is out of town.

Frankie was rescued a few years ago by the person who lived at that time in the house where I live now. He was a skinny, injured, frightened kitten. He still has a crooked leg as a result of some abuse or accident. But he was nursed to health and loved into good behavior. His personality emerged. It became evident that he saw himself as royalty, and he clearly has a mind of his own. He expects to be fed twice a day. He possesses the capability some dogs also have, of giving a look that suggests that he has not eaten in days and is about to perish from hunger—so sometimes her manages to get three meals a day, two from Jenny and one from me. Once we noticed how fat he was becoming, we coordinated our feeding schedules and he is back to two meals. Still, he purrs as he eats, which is quite a trick, I think.

One evening when I was caring for Frankie, and we were alone in the house, I heard a noise and a splash from the bathroom. Puzzled, I went in, and there was Frankie, shaking water from his fur and looking grumpy. He had fallen into the tub, which nearly always has several inches of cold water in it. (My faucet leaks, and we have times without water, so I keep water in the tub and dip it out for washing dishes or watering the garden.) I knew he sometimes climbed up on the ledge of the tub, but I never thought he would fall in.

A peculiar habit of Frankie’s is the way he gets a drink. He either puts his paws on the rim and dips his head into the big emergency water supply bucket in the kitchen, or he climbs up and laps his drink when water is flowing from the tap while I am brushing my teeth. I’ve never seen him use the water bowl next to his food dish.

Another day, when Frankie misbehaved at home, Jenny scooted him out the door against his will. He gave her an aloof look, and proceeded with great dignity to enter the termite mound next to the house, which had a cave-like opening. I believe he thought he was hiding, but the tip of his tail stuck out so we knew where he was.

The other animal interactions I have are with insects. Zambia has many beautiful butterflies: tiny bright yellow ones, black and white spotted ones, and a multitude of other colors and patterns. I enjoy watching them every day in my garden and on my walks. The ants are another story. I do not know how they detect it, but within moments of spilling something with fat content, hundreds of tiny ants appear. One evening after entertaining guests, I noticed that about a teaspoon of guacamole had fallen on the floor under the table, and an army of ants was surrounding it. I decided to go to bed and clean it up in the morning. No need. The ants had done as good a job as our dog used to do. The floor was clean. They appear within moments of the spill, and hundreds at once. Then they disappear again. I wonder where they live…

It’s been a busy week with new class preparations as the semester just began. The textbooks donated by ASU faculty are being well used, so thanks, again, my friends.

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