Time slipped by very fast and I have just realised that I had been feeding stray cats at the temple over a year. I went to this old temple by the river called Wat Yannawa to have a walk and take photos of the sunset. Then, I met a very nice stray cat looking very skinny so I had to go back with some cat food. From feeding one cat, two kittens turned up after their mother disappeared somewhere. Gradually, more cats came running towards the spot where I was feeding these three cats.
The number of stray cats kept growing: one to five, six, to ten cats. I ran out of cat food one day so I had to switch to bigger bag of seven kilos with wet food for smaller kittens. The temple is quite a distance from my place so I couldn’t afford the time and expenses to visit the temple everyday. But I had grown attached to some stray cats that had become my friends. I tried to visit the temple twice a week. Fortunately, a monk was looking after some stray cats around the temple.
I noticed there were new stray cats turning up at the temple from time to time. One old staff told me that some people brought their unwanted cats and kittens inside the temple in the evening and abandoned them there. So, newly arrived cats and kittens had a hard time adjusting to the new surroundings. Luckily there’s enough space with hiding places; these cats just had to establish their territory. The older cats around the monk’s lodging wouldn’t allow these new stranger cats come near the food tray placed in front of the monk’s lodging. That’s why these cats looked very thin and hungry most of the time.
Recently I saw a motorcyclist feeding some stray cats under the tall tree by the benches. He probably worked in a nearby restaurant as he had some left over fish for these hungry cats. Very few visitors to the temple brought cat food for stray cats though they often stopped to play with some cats. Another staff told me that an elderly Chinese lady would feed three stray cats that had hiding places near the riverfront. I was quite relieved to know that these cats won’t starve to death though they would never get fat!
I had donated bags of cat food to the small thin monk a few times and got my rich old friend to donate large amount of cat food and money to this monk. He had told me that he had to bring several cats to the vet and his budget was running short. So, I had started to put ivermectin in cat food for those cats suffering from a bad flu. My experiments had worked out nicely so far. I gave these cats ivermectin twice a week with good results. The vet was making too much money from sick stray cats. I was quite glad these cats allowed me to handle then and put small pieces of ivermectin inside their mouths. They were good cat patients!
Stray cats’ lives could be quite tough as some kittens were ran over by cars and one of my favourite cats was badly bitten by stray dog. I thought she was dead as she disappeared for two weeks. When she came back, she could hardly walk; her left hind leg had two big holes. She couldn’t stand up and I had to feed her lying down on the ground. I did make the effort of visiting her everyday that week so as to feed her so that she could get her strength back. That was the first time I saw that cat couldn’t even jump a small gap. I wished I could have brought her to my farmhouse.
I tried very hard not to get too close to these stray cats. But some cats were just too trusting and loving. Some cats expressed emotions through their eyes. I knew two cats wanted to follow me home; I could hear the inaudible message in the cat’s mind. This special cat just looked quietly at my face for a few minutes. He was talking to me in his mind; that was the first time I had a cat sitting still and looking at me for a while. From then on he would sit on my foot and try to be physically close to me. I called him “Hung-Juk” (Tail in a bundle) or Short-tail.
During the past two weeks I couldn’t find Short-tail anywhere in the temple. I asked his younger brother about him, whether he was hit by a car ax he liked to hide in the car park. There’s some sad vibes among stray cats. They weren’t as lively as usual. Short-tail was very popular among very young kittens as he looked after them. I missed his gentle and kind nature; he would allow all the kittens stole his food. I kept hoping that he would suddenly turn up to surprise me. But I had a bad feeling about this. I seemed to have my favourite cats taken away me like a lightning. I tried not to get too attached to any cats as losing them could be very painful.
Some stray cats were quite wild and it took a few months to tame them. Nowadays, I could touch and carry most of the stray cats in the temple. Some young kittens tended to be very aggressive and would slap the older cats when they came too close to the food tray. This would create a commotion among cats and the food tray would be kicked upside down. I had to stop their fight and told them that there’s enough food for everyone. Some young novices wanted to play with these cute cats but they only frightened them away.
I had to teach young novices, some were under ten years old, how to approach these cats gently and let them come nearer by themselves. I was amazed that parents would allow young children to become novices and live far away from home. Kids and youngsters who got ordained were must from very poor families in the countryside. The temple would give them shelters, food and education. Most monks, once they got their diplomas they would disrobe to become laypeople. They could get a job and live an ordinary lifestyle. But stray cats in the temple have to remain there according to their natural lifecycle.
However, Buddhists believe that cats have a very good chance of being reincarnated as human beings in the future. So, I hope that these temple cats would live a more spiritual’ lifestyle, with less quarrels and more contemplation, so that they would have a good chance to become human beings in their next lives. During my next visit to the temple, I would have to search for an answer concerning the missing cat, my lovely Short-tail. I hope and pray for his good health and safety.
Wishing you peace, good health and prosperity.
Stay strong and cheerful.