You don’t know what love is, until you’ve loved a cat

It was the summer of 2015, and I remember so clearly, I was waiting at the Bangkok airport, frantically trying to connect to Wi-Fi. My neighbour had found a litter of kittens in his backyard and one of them was terribly injured.

It was the only time I wished I hadn’t been on vacation.

We knew we had to save this charming little fellow, and after back and forth texts, he went on to consult three different vets, before settling for one in Mahalaxmi.

W was diagnosed with a weak immune system, making him susceptible to developing life-threatening illnesses. He was also partially, blind.

It gave me goose bumps, hearing this from the neighbour. I feared for little W, it choked to even think about how things would turn out for him, here on.

I was leaning on the basin in a bathroom in an Airbnb in Bangkok, on a much needed vacation, desperately praying for time to go by faster.

All, so I could return home as soon as possible. As if that would make everything alright.

Helplessness brings with it a lot of pain. It takes you off balance, and creates a situation where you’re surrounded by acceptance, or challenge.

That’s where I was. Exhausted with thought and drained by inaction.

W never gave up. He fought with everything he had. He fought to walk, to learn to use his sense of smell to guide him, to fight us when it came to ‘medicine time’. He was the bravest kitty I knew, we were all so happy with his progress. He was getting better and better.

When one evening I came home to find out that he had run out of the building and on to the road.

Traffic has never known to be kind. Loss was apparent.

It hit me when we had to pack away his tray of medicines, when I looked into his siblings’ eyes. It hits me every time I see a stray baby ginger about his size anywhere.

His siblings disbanded for a couple of days after. One of them is still missing.

Did they hold me responsible for this? Not really. Was it no longer safe for cats to live in and around my building? Probably.

However, the other two from the litter, Brown Tail and Sirius are still around and as playful!

They run to me every time I go to and come back from work, and there have been times when I’ve been late to work simply because I couldn’t deny the ‘please scratch my tummy’ faces.

W will always be a part of me. Losing a cat is well, it’s devastating. But there will always be five more cats that will come and jump on to your lap, purring and cooing, and you realise that it’s all going to be okay.

I wanted to always feel Okay, and never experience a sense of helplessness, especially around cats. This inspired Project Meow, an initiative to vaccinate and neuter stray cats in the city. With generous donations from friends and family, we have vaccinated and neutered 50 cats so far. We work with Save Our Strays, IDA and YODA and hope to really make a difference to these cats’ lives.

“I want more kitties to have a chance at life and aren’t playing a losing game from the start.”

Losses are definitely impactful, but they’re recoverable.

At times you can anticipate them, and take action, almost immediately to protect yourself for the long-term. But what happens when you can’t? You can’t call it quits and just retire to your situation.

All the TED Talks videos you watch, the graduation speeches, the award acceptance speeches; most tell you same thing. Don’t give up, keep trying, and get out of your comfort zone, and so on.

And as much as it is inspiring in the moment, that’s not where the answer lies.

A loss is a personal experience. Losing Rs. 20 was a big deal when I was younger. I was afraid to go home, tell mom, what would she say? But it’s still a loss. A loss of trust maybe, a loss of belief in my ability to save and maintain, a loss to the shopkeeper whom I would’ve bought a crunchy packet of chips from.

You have to learn to stand above this. Because inspiration comes with realisation, and realisation is what drives you to go for it!

You don’t know what loss is till you’ve lost a cattoo. But you also don’t know what love is, till you’ve loved a cattoo.

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