By Elizabeth Henzell
For The Bali Times
UBUD ~ Could it have some wonderfully significant meaning? This question I texted in jest to my good friend Janet De Neefe, the founder and director of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival.
For 2009 was heralded in in a most auspicious way, with my three kittens delivering a New Year’s gift of a one-meter-long black snake to my room. Perhaps not quite that long but certainly black, and a snake.
The workmen at Second Honeymoon Guesthouse, where I live, just stared at me flouncing around on my marble-floored veranda in my black negligee and waving a salmon-pink sarong. Bloody hell! Help!
Back in my room I found yet another use for a sarong. Once covered, I quickly scooped up the snake and ran with it from my room. The workmen by this stage were standing at the bottom of the steps, not actually ready to help, I would suggest, just to observe my antics at this early hour on New Year’s Day.
I handed them the wriggling sarong and asked in my very best Indonesian if they would throw it over into the ricefield next door. Obviously my very best Indonesian wasn’t quite what I had hoped, as the sarong was delivered of its contents not 20 meters from my room.
My darling kittens will soon be cats as they will all turn one in March. Mango, Tango and Yoko Ono are the lucky ones. Their lives took a turn for the better just by sheer luck. That is to say, they were all in the right place at the right time.
Janet and her two daughters, Dewi and Laksmi, and I were out on one of our early morning walks in early April last year and just at that split-second when you catch something out of the corner of your eye and you know that whatever it was, it was not supposed to be in the drain on Jl. Suweta, not far from the Ubud Palace. They were beautiful.
Catching these two tiny kittens was another thing and I didn’t fancy what might be in the drain as I held my hand in trying to coax them out with the help of the liver treats and that ever-ready sarong. However, we caught them without too much fuss.
My intention was to take them to the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA), where I knew they would be immunized and then hopefully quickly adopted out.
But I hadn’t counted on Dewi and Laksmi’s relentless, “Why can’t we? … But we’ve always wanted … of course we’d look after them.” But Janet stood firm. Janet, who is a cat-lover and would have gladly said yes, but who knew only too well that their dogs, two of my favorite in Ubud, Felix and Oscar – because they are totally relentless in their adoration of me, because, of course, I give them liver treats – would kill them as soon as look at them. “No, and that is final,” Janet said.
“But you can have them at your place, Elizabeth. There aren’t any dogs there,” Janet gave in.
“What – where?” I couldn’t believe my ears. Janet named them and they took up residence at Second Honeymoon Guesthouse.
Mango and Tango were joined about three weeks later by Yoko Ono. I arrived home one evening around 7pm to hear the faint, stressed meows of a very tiny kitten. For the next two hours I chased it from one end of the guesthouse to the other. Completely frustrated and with cuts and scraped knees from falling over in the dark, I called on the help of Yoko, one of the guesthouse staff. Yoko Ono was thus caught and named, mistakenly as it turns out. She’s a boy.
Bali cats, like Bali dogs, are beautiful, loving and my three are complete with personalities that have the guests at Second Honeymoon Guesthouse entertained. No need for foreign breeds in Bali for cat lovers.
I am reminded when hearing the comments about my kittens that one person’s average is often another person’s unusual.
One delightful American guest drawled, “Why are these Bali cats so damned skinny?” No insult intended and none taken, I explained that whilst Mango and Tango were definitely skinny, possibly with a bit of Siamese, Yoko Ono, the little tabby cat was always being accused of being pregnant. Gundut is the word the Balinese give him when I explain that he is not pregnant, just a little chubby. Right, not hamil, just gundut. Not fair when your brother and sister are sleek and beautiful.
Of course, my three kittens have all been immunized, wormed and sterilized. And one last thing: they all go to bed – that is locked away – at 6pm every night, to help save the Bali wildlife. Cats are hunters at night and difficult as it is to enforce – but, I know in Australia now they are trying to make it law that your cat must be locked in at night – it is necessary to protect the native wildlife.
Bali cats deserve a good life, too. So join me in celebrating these beautiful animals. Come to BAWA soon – they have some of the most beautiful kittens you could imagine just waiting for adoption.