Puss In Box
December 02, 2011

The following article was published in The Star on March 11, 2012.

In case I haven't tweeted about it enough, we adopted a cat a few months back.

His name is Zalo, he's a male tabby, he's coming up to a year old now, and his favorite food is my socks.

(My wife gave him that name. Don't ask me how. It's one of the few things in the world only she finds amusing.)

I was a bit uncertain actually, when we first saw Zalo in a box while having breakfast at the neighborhood mamak stall. A bit nervous, maybe, as I never had a pet before.

Well there was this pair of rabbits my grandmother gave us when I was 8. They were such adorable fluffy little bunnies who couldn't stop eating. After realizing that 40% of our household income went to buying their food, my father decided that we had to return them back. It would be 20 years until fate brought me to foster another pet -- one with a more manageable appetite.

Before the image of the bunny rabbits could fade from my memory, my wife was already holding the then-unnamed kitten in her arms; walking urgently to our car in case I change my mind, as if I have a choice. It was part persuasion and part empathy. She has been talking about adopting a cat since our wedding earlier in the year. And for someone who would have to live with my jokes for the rest of her life, it was a fair request.

We drove home with Zalo meowing incessantly. In fear perhaps, on his first car ride. Little that he knew, the guy on the wheel was just as afraid of him.

He did what any cat would expectedly do when we first brought him into the house -- sniff every inch of the area. Like a strict health inspector, he didn't miss a spot. The little guy seemed quite particular about the new place he was settling at. For a move from a Ribena cardboard box to a double-storey terrace though, I reckon he thought it was probably not too shabby.

And so began my journey into the world of pet-owning, under the guidance of the veterinary expert that is my wife. At the nearby supermarket, I ventured into a territory I never bothered to swing by before: the pet aisle. I was baffled, to say the least, by the range of cat food, litter, shampoo, toy and tuxedo available in the market. Suffice to say, the only product that possibly hasn't already been designed (yet) for pets is a pet-owning guidebook.

But choosing the right stuff for Zalo wasn't all that difficult. It wasn't long before we realized that Zalo wasn't all that fussy of a feline after all. He ate anything we fed him, including our food. I mean, especially our food. He jumps from the floor onto the dining table like a Bugatti Veyron speedometer would from 0 to 100. And he dives into the grocery bag faster than Juan Veron before his flop move to Manchester United. The only things that he eats and we don't are Friskies and -- behind our back -- cockroaches. (Zalo, not Veron.) Nevertheless, that's the pest control budget going into our savings right there.

It wasn't hard to fall in love with Zalo. Yet it was pretty awkward during the first few days. I was worried that he would leave his mark around the house, in the form of his bodily waste. A bit like having one of my friends over for the night. So I was wary of his whereabouts, and mine. I kept a distance from the little creature and hid my guitars deep in their cases, only to find him conveniently hiding in there as well. It was a tough period. Until after a while, I learned that Zalo was naturally hygienic and needed no potty training. He knew when to go to his designated area when nature calls -- even better than my friends, at times.

I warmed up to him before long. To see our four-legged friend running around in excitement whenever we come home from work is a bit too heartwarming for a man of my caliber to take. The herculean man among men charisma in me crumbled into the honey-scented charm of a Teletubby. Not to mention the times when I wake up to the little furball sleeping on my chest; unperturbed by the volume of my snoring. Plus we have a few things in common. We're shy when it comes to strangers and we're both afraid of my wife's hairbrush.

Having Zalo as a part of our small family has changed me as a person. I can now see why people adopt pets. They bring out another side of you that you never knew existed. In my case, a calmer and a more sensible version of myself. I curse less, at least. Unless when I'm watching football or driving. I have also probably softened up a bit, to the amusement of my friends. Only to become the butt of their jokes. But that's a small price to pay for the gratification that I get from taking care of and growing up together with the little fellow.

So if you have the capacity to adopt a pet, do give it a try. While it's no mean feat, it's not a walk in the park either. There is a certain amount of time and money that needs to be devoted but it's all part of building your character and responsibility. Somehow, I think pets do know when you're feeling down or blue. Zalo does hang around near me after a bad day at the office, or when he's hungry... more of the latter. Whatever it is, it does give me a certain level of comfort to ease the pain.

They don't ask for much anyway. Just tender loving care, and a pair of socks to chew.


Thanks for writing in. Zalo is a little cutie! Meow from all of us: Au, Target and Guido.

Thanks for swinging by and regards to all. :-)

socko ape cite doh? pet-oriented!!!

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Photography by Azalia Suhaimi

  • Asrif, b. 1983
  • Subang Jaya, Malaysia
  • asrifomar[@]gmail[.]com
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