He was just a wee little thing when we found him waltzing into a fast food joint. He didn’t have a mum and the waiters urged us to take him home, for they had seen too many cats being run over in their car park. He was such a an adorable creature that it didn’t take much to persuade the girls. I, on the other hand, was hesitant – I remembered being devastated at six when my own pet kitten died and I didn’t want my girls to go through such grief. Just a year earlier, Marz had taken a liking to a stray cat and fed it. When it died suddenly, she cried for days.

Still, I couldn’t ignore the fact that this little kitten was too young to be wandering around. His scruffy and emaciated appearance clearly showed that he was on his own. We would take him in as an act of kindness, but we would not get too sentimental, I decided. We bundled him into the car and took him home.

When we arrived home, the girls’ grand-uncle warned that the neighbourhood cats would terrorize him, so we took him to the upstairs terrace where he would be safe from the larger neighbourhood strays. We gave him milk and bedded him down for the night. That was enough, I said. I didn’t want everyone getting too emotionally attached. However, a storm was brewing and the little mite, horribly terrified by the sounds of thunder, began to mew piteously.

“The poor thing is frightened. We must comfort him,” the Dad Man tsked.

The girls agreed, “He is just a little baby, isn’t he?”

The little orphan we named Rocket had clearly enveigled his way into our hearts and so, received complete attachment parenting treatment from his new mums, Mars and Bear.

We bathed Rocket the next day and after gently drying him with a hair-dryer and fluffing out his fur, found that he was quite a good-looking cat ma shaa Allah. He had a cheeky little face, a wickedly long tail and well-proportioned ears. Rocket was so little that initially, he had difficulty drinking from his dish. So the girls and the Dad Man fed him with a bottle…

The Dad Man helped the girls feed Rocket. He was a feisty thing and gained weight shortly after living with us. We continued to keep him upstairs after a relative warned us about how the territorial strays in the neighbourhood would finish him off.

Rocket was even lullabied to sleep by his little mummies :)

The girls had Rocket duty every day – they fed him and played with him, without fuss or complaint. They even cleaned up his messes with good humour. Rocket had a few unusual tendencies – he would walk to heel, greet us at the gate whenever we returned from an outing and stand on his hind legs to put put his paws on our thighs when we sat down by him… He even frequently followed us when we walked to the market and park. It was a running joke that we actually had a dog trapped in a cat’s body!

He was quite a cheeky little thing and often mewed for the girls to come out and play with him.

The little charmer was eventually big enough for the big wide world. He took up residence in the compound and had a bed at the porch. Initially, Rocket had a hard time dealing with the neighbourhood cats. They were much older – there is one so enormous we call him “The Beast” – and very territorial. Young Rocket would emerge from their altercations with numerous injuries. That winter, we had to let him in the house many times to recover. However, he soon grew into a large and sleek cat and became quite a force to be reckoned with.

Rocket lying on the Dad Man’s lap while he worked on the laptop.
He had beautifully thick and long fur – Mars is convinced he has a bit of Somali in him.

It was obvious that my plan for us not to be emotionally attached had backfired. It is hard to toughen yourself against a cat who comes over and sits on your lap or who bounds over to you with delight when you return home. The girls spoiled him silly with toys and affection; Anees would save him bones and leftover meat and even Dadi, who claimed to dislike cats, bought Rocket a cushion for his bed. Rocket was evidently a precious member of the family.

One morning, some three months ago, the girls called out in the morning, “Rocket! Foodie!”, but he didn’t come running over like he normally would. We weren’t all too alarmed at first – he would sometimes roam around the estate and skip breakfast to return for an early lunch. Days passed though and he was still missing. It just about broke my heart to hear the girls calling out everyday plaintively, “Rocket… Rooockeet! Foodie! Rocket…”

We have cleared out his bed from the porch. but the girls are convinced that he will return one day. I let them go on hoping, because I know how much they cared for him and I don’t want to see them shattered. Deep in my heart, though, I know that he won’t come back. It has been too long for a cat so loving and loyal to have stayed away.

I hadn’t wanted to love Rocket, but he had given my kids a great deal of joy. He taught them about the importance of responsibility, kindness and patience. I miss seeing him lying on his bed and looking in on us by the porch window. I think I’ll always remember him as the mischievous, spritely creature that tore about the place wreaking havoc.

We miss you, boy. Be well, wherever you are.