Two cats were in residence when we first took the lease on Pondok Anggrek: a timid calico girl, and a pure black cat with a twisted tail that we immediately named Pak Jack Black. He had been left behind to fend for himself by the previous tenants and was well-socialised and affectionate. At the time, the nearest vet surgery was over an hour away by car but he accepted that he needed to be vaccinated and sterilised and made the journey without fuss. He was a clear favourite with Bapak, who anxiously enquired after him: ‘Di mana kucing hitam?’ (Where is the black cat?), if he couldn’t be seen.
All went well until our first longish trip back to Australia. Jack must have felt abandoned again (even though he was being cared for) and took off. He would make the odd foray back into the garden, would accept food and a bit of a cuddle, but clearly had found better quarters. All we could tell Bapak was that we had, or hadn’t, seen him recently.
The better quarters turned out to be a restaurant on the main road, not far away, as we discovered when walking one evening. There he was, still sleek and fat; he had clearly found more satisfaction in the restaurant scraps than anything we could offer. Our garden remained his territory though, as we could hear him scrapping with intruders on moonlit nights.
Other cats came and went. The calico girl had kittens before we could get her sterilised. She and one kitten disappeared not long after we curbed her fertility. Sibling kittens we adopted from Villa Kitty succumbed to the terrible disease FIP a few months later. In the meantime the far-away vet had opened an Ubud branch just around the corner (did they know we would be regular clients?). We again adopted a kitten* from Villa Kitty and held our breath. Another death would be devastating. Now we were two, as one of Calico’s kittens had decided to hang around. Laki didn’t have much to offer, but he would deign to be fed and allowed us to vaccinate and snip. Two became three, when a tiny black-and-white bundle was thrust at us in the street when we commented how cute she was. Dora is twisted in tail, just like Jack, who was now making very occasional appearances, probably just to let us know he was ok. No sign of illness in any, and all three having a solid and playful working relationship.
Perhaps Jack was having regrets that he was not really part of the Pondok Anggrek cat action any more. A few weeks ago he began renegotiating his part-time status by turning up at our bedroom door around 3am bearing a gift. For five consecutive nights we were woken by his loud hunting meow as he brought us a fat, juicy rat. Thankfully already dead, and from the restaurant rubbish we felt sure, not ours. We tried telling him it wasn’t necessary, but he kept them coming. Big ones, baby ones, but all very dead ones.
Once he had inveigled his way back in to permanency, no more rats were required. He sat on the couch with me to watch Roger defeat Rafa and fell asleep at the end of the bed each night. Didn’t taunt the other three. Was on his very best behaviour until four days ago when we noticed a fight wound turning nasty. Trip to the vet. Antibiotic injection and tablets to follow. Thanks, but no thanks to the tablets. He was off again.
Until last night. 3am rat meow. Pak Jack is back bearing gifts. The wound is healing. We’ll talk about the tablets later. When the gifts stop.
*Vadim and his sister were two of thousands of kittens that are thrown out each year like rubbish. Fortunately some make it to Villa Kitty. The sister died, but Vadim has turned into a most handsome, affectionate, placid cat. We are lucky to have him. Dora is a naughty sweetie and Laki is still aloof and declined to be photographed.