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AN  EPITAPH  FOR  MIAO-JU
(For cat lovers only)

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          After having kept Miao-Ju for almost fourteen years, the emptiness is greatly felt when she went away forever. My only fervent wish is she has a quick and graceful passing. She knew her time was up so she made a quiet exit from my life. I remembered giving her, her meal which she barely touched that Friday night. She went missing the next day and I could not locate her anywhere. All her favourite hiding places and haunts turned up nought. It slowly dawned on me that she will not come back again so that the memory of her living will be with me forever. She knew only too well that to see her die would grieve me deeply and also it would not make her look dignified. Everyone in the family would burst out crying to see her pass away. Fortunately mum and sis were overseas. I will have to slowly break the news to them.

          Miao-Ju first came into my life back in my hometown, Ipoh when I paid a visit to my college mate's house. The date was 29th October 1980. His cat has just given birth and he offered one of her offsprings to me claiming it is a male. I agreed and was amused to see him climbing up to the attic to retrieve one for me. The mother loves climbing up to high places," he explained. The kitten I took back would soon inherit it's mother's habit of high places only it is a 'she' and not a 'he' which I found out later back home.

          Dad and sis did not take an immediate liking to her and always kept out of her way. Mum complained about me keeping a pet and expecting all the feeding to be done by her. Anyway, she enjoyed feeding her. We did not think of a name for her and as kittens always 'miao' a lot, we just conveniently yelled 'miao-ju' whenever we called her. I think 'ju' means kiddy or baby in mandarin. Anyway, the name stuck and she would answer to it. Miao-Ju is a Japanese bob-tail. She has large blue eyes, a very pink nose, white fur with beautiful grey patches and the cutest little bob-tail. I like playing with her tail although she felt the opposite way.

          Life during her early years was very hectic and exciting. We were then staying upstairs in shoplot houses so Miao-Ju was never allowed to venture outside. The door is always locked so that she wouldn't run out and get knocked down by the heavy traffic outside. She has access to the balcony at the back of the house but only when we were around. Whenever we go out, we would keep her inside the house. She is very clean and would always do her potty business inside a plastic tub which we trained her to use. Since then, the tub has been with her until her last day.

          One of Miao-Ju's favourite past time is chasing the birds on the balcony and the extinction of rats in the house. An incident which I will always remember (and I suspect as a result makes her a bit cranky) is when she was chasing a rat in the house. The floor was slippery and when the rat suddenly made a left turn after coming up against a wall, Miao-Ju could not stop in time and crashed head on into the wall. The rat escaped but Miao-Ju was a bit dazed. Being very well fed, Miao-Ju never eats whatever she catches. She would instead hide her trophies under my bed much to my mum's horror when she cleans the room.

          As Miao-Ju gets accustomed to us she began to become very mischievous. She would hide under tables, chairs, beds or corners and whenever any of us passes by, she would sprang out grasping one of our leg with her two front paws. Then she would let go and run off to hide again. That's why I say she is a bit cranky. We play a lot of hide and seek together and one of her favourite hiding place is beneath the blanket. The cranky fella always thinks no one would know she is hiding under the blanket if she keeps very still and quiet. She doesn't realise the big lump on the blanket always gave her away. In times like this we would play along by pretending we do not know she is there and would kept calling for her. I bet she gets a kick into thinking how smart she is hiding so well from us. Then we would surprised her by suddenly lifting up the blanket scaring her out of her wits. She would get annoyed and starts to chase us. She considers her revenge done by catching our legs with her front paws and giving us a soft bite.

          Although mischievous and playful, Miao-Ju is very shy with complete strangers. Whenever friends dropped by for a visit, she would hide away and no amount of coaxing would bring her out until the visitors had left.

          Miao-Ju has many favourite sleeping places besides the box we gave her to sleep in. She would sometimes sleep on top of the television or the refrigerator (High places, remember?). But after dad warmed up to her, she would spent a lot of nights sleeping on the bed right below dad's feet. Her sleeping habit is sometimes very obscene. She would lie on her back and go to sleep spread eagle. When the family gathers in front of the television, she would join us and sat there quietly. Only once have I caught her going at the television screen during a soccer game. She was trying to catch the figures running around on the field.

          Miao-Ju has very sharp ears. She began to recognise our family car's sound so much so that whenever the car is approaching the house, she would rush to the door to eagerly wait for mum and dad back. Soon, sis got accustomed to her too and took turns to bath and feed her. One incident showing how much sis has grown to like her is when a neighbour's house down our block caught fire. Upon being informed, sis rushed back from her office and instead of other important things, grabbed hold of a terrified Miao-Ju and rushed out of the house. Fortunately, the fire was controlled and it did not spread to our house. Mum had a good laugh saying the neighbours were amused to see sis rushing out with a cat instead of her belongings.

          Miao-Ju has expensive taste. She would never eat overnight food and unfresh fish. Mum would normally steam or fried her fish, mix it with warm rice and feed Miao-Ju twice a day. In between she would demand a bit of whatever she catches us eating. This includes fried prawns and chicken meat. Every morning and night, dad would prepare a dish of condensed milk for her to drink. She would sometimes get to drink some chicken essense (a health tonic drink) too.

          I went off to further my studies in Kuala Lumpur city in 1982 but would go back home once a fortnight. During this time Miao-Ju became very much part of the family. Mum would have countless tales of her exploits in the house. It was during this period that Miao-Ju got pregnant. I was not home then and mum recounted how Miao-Ju had a litter of fine young ones. We could not keep them and they were adopted eagerly by friends and relatives. Dad then had Miao-Ju neutered to avoid later troubles and also the wailings in the night during mating season.

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          The family moved house on 13th April 1984 and thus begin Miao-Ju's next phase of experience in a new environment. She took some time to get used to the new surroundings but once she got over it, she would be running all over the house which is double-storey linked with a small patch of garden space in front. During this time Miao-Ju would sleep in my room when I was in the city. She has also grown very close with my sis and can even sleep on her lap.

          Miao-Ju soon began to put on weight and looks more like a big fat puppy than a cat. Try to imagine her with a small head but a hugh fat body. As usual, we would always find her resting on high shelves and cupboards. Dad began buying her toys to play but she would soon get bored with them after a while. Her favourite toy is a glove which she would carry around all over the house and purr. Mum thinks she is imagining the glove as her offspring and is carrying it around like a mother should.

          Miao-Ju likes a good old friendly fight with us once in a while. Mum or I would put on the glove and approach her menacingly and she would put on an attacking stance. Then she would suddenly sprang forward to attack the gloved hand. She would clasp the hand with her two front paws, sink her teeth into the glove and use her two strong hind legs to kick at the hand simultaneously. She was like a kangaroo kicking out. Then she would let go, snarled, move around and attack again. Sometimes, we would attacked her first by cupping her head with our gloved hand. She would wriggled free and pounced to counter attack. We had much fun over this game and I never failed to fight her whenever I go back home for a holiday.

          There was also once when mum suddenly encountered a cobra in the kitchen. Miao-Ju smelt the snake first and snarled at it alerting my mum. She was ready to pounce on it. Mum was more worried about Miao-Ju getting bitten that she picked her up and ran out of the house. The cobra was eventually captured by our neighbour.

          The early years in the new house was very blissful for Miao-Ju. She had everything she need with dad, mum and sis always trying to please her. She was living it up like a princess. She had never fallen sick before in her entire life except once. An injection from the vet cured that and she was her normal self soon enough.

          Sis went off overseas in 1989 and Miao-Ju was left to keep dad and mum company. 27th March 1990 was a sad day for her. Dad had a stroke and passed away. Miao-Ju seems to sense dad was no longer there and she was very quiet during that period. She would sleep on the same spot on dad's favourite chair as if dad was still there.

          Since mum is now all alone, we sold the house in Ipoh and I had her moved up to the city to stay with me. 29th April 1991 was the big day for Miao-Ju moving to the city. The journey took four hours and I had her put in a cage . She cried all the way to the city. My house here is also a double-storrey link with a larger garden. Miao-Ju was her normal self the next day and explored the whole house. Part of the furniture was from the old house which I brought down so Miao-Ju was familiar with them. In July mum went off to be with my sis for a while. Miao-Ju was still as fat as ever and friends took to her very well. She was no longer shy now with strangers and can warm up to them pretty fast. This time her favoutite hiding places were inside cupboards and shelves. The only way to lure her out is by hitting her metal food bowl. Within seconds she would be at my feet expecting to be fed. She also made friends with a neighbour's cat and once in a while she would be seen chatting with her friend and sharing her food with him.

          Miao-Ju was delighted when mum flew back in late 1992. Of course with mum back, she gets to eat more nicely cooked food. Mum flew out to be with my sis again in May 1993 and I decided to put Miao-Ju on a diet. She was already thirteen years old. Her health is important now and she cannot afford to overeat. I changed her food to Friskies and ceased the rice and fish which is bad for aging cats as it will decay the teeth and causes a lot of internal stomach problems. She soon got used to it and began to shed a lot of fat. But of course she still gets to have titbits from the dining table once in a while. I believe the change in her diet has helped to lengthen her life.

          In January 1994 I let out two rooms and Miao-Ju got very attached to a tenant who would always feed her whatever she eats. Miao-Ju also spends a lot of nights in the tenant's room. By mid 1994 Miao-Ju's health started deterioting. She eats little and began to vomit a lot losing a lot of weight. The vet broke the bad news to me saying that she has kidney failure due to old age and is not expected to live long. She was put on the drip and it was heart-breaking to see Miao-Ju filled with tubes.

          After a few days, the vet told me it would be better if she can spend her last days with me as they can't prolong her life much longer. Everything was so sudden. I was so sad everyday watching Miao-Ju eating so little of her food. I prepared her favourite food but she would only touch a little of it. She now had difficulty eating solid food as her mouth was full of ulcers. I had to slowly feed her everyday. Somehow she knows her time was nearing and would always snuggle up to me as much as possible.

          Some people say home grown cats and dogs do not die in their owner's house. They will go out and disappear so that their owners will have an everlasting memory of them without having to see them die. Miao-Ju disappeared that fateful Saturday. My tenant cried while I barely could hold my tears. Everyone was so sad. Miao-Ju went away on 18th September 1994. She was thirteen years and eleven months old.

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Farewell and rest in peace my dear Miao-Ju.
We will always love and cherish you in our memory.

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