Cat Culture in the Tropics

[First posted 19 October 2009,  Revised 6 December 2011]

Several weeks ago  my cat Binty died.  She was nearly 14, which is an exceptionally good age to reach here in the tropics, where diseases and climates take heavy tolls on both animals and people.  She died of complications of a kidney infection, for which no proper medications can be found in Burundi.

Two other cats also came with me from Kenya, and they have died (aged 11 and 12) within the last couple of years, also of disease complications that could not be properly treated due to lack of medications here in central Africa.

Here is a little blog about them.

Binty, which means 'my girl' in Arabic

Binty, which means ‘my girl’ in Arabic

Binty, with a white moustach

Binty, a Kenyan Burmese, who grew a white mustache as she aged

First, however, a quote about cats that I recently came across in a late 19th Century book on Domesticated Animals, whose author was clearly not a cat-fancier – a fact I find rather surprising for the colonial period:

Among the curious features connected with the association of the cat with man, we may note that it is the only animal which has been tolerated, esteemed, and at times worshiped, without having a single distinctly valuable  quality.

It is, in a small way, serviceable in keeping down the excessive development of small rodents, which from the beginning have been the self-invited guests of man. As it is in a certain indifferent way sympathetic, and by its caresses appears to indicate affection, it has awakened a measure of  sympathy which it hardly deserves.

I have been unable to  find any authentic instances which go to show the existence  in cats of any real love for their masters.

Shaler - Domesticated Animals – Their Relation to Man and to His Advancement in Civilization. 1895

Mr. Shaler apparently did not consider cats as contributing to man’s ‘Advancement in Civilization’ – which was  a favorite colonial preoccupation.

Binty was given to me along with her brother ‘Boy-boy’, by a dear friend in Kenya, and the two cats were inseparable:

This was not posed - but was how the two liked to rest.

This was not posed – but was how the two liked to rest.

Boy-boy was huge – about twice as large as Binty, and very lazy.

Boy-boy posing with his huge claws spread

Boy-boy posing with his huge paws spread

Boy loved two things: sleeping and eating (ok, most cats do, but he really did little else).  He seemed to have managed to combine the two, as when sleeping he occasionally would chomp-chomp while licking his chops.

Boy loved two things: sleeping and eating (ok, most cats do, but he really did little else). He seemed to have managed to combine the two, as when sleeping he occasionally would chomp-chomp while licking his chops.

But my favorite cat was Lulu, who died 1st. January of 2009 (he always liked to do things in style).  Very intelligent – more like a dog, due to being 50% East African Wild Cat.

'Wildcat' pose

‘Wildcat’ pose

…When less than a year old, in Kenya, he managed to find a way to escape his cage when taking him to the vet – and was lost for a couple of weeks.

This poster brought results; Lulu was mewing up a tree. I gave a nice baked cake to the person who reported him, as a reward

I called him ‘Lulu’ because lu’lu’ is arabic for ‘pearls’ – and he had little grey pearls on his tummy, which you can see above.  The stree names, above, are primarily in masaai language of the Massai.

Balancing along the round curtain rods - a favorite game

Balancing along the round curtain rods – a favorite game

A few more Lulu-antics:

climbing up the poster bed

climbing up the poster bed

Climing out the window after climing up the bookcase, ladder-style

Climbing out the window after climbing up the bookcase, ladder-style

Balancing along another curtain rod

Bed

Relaxing in bed

Favorate computer-assistance pose

Favorite computer-assistance pose

"Food!"

“Food!”

Hot weather napping

Hot weather napping

Oriental pose

Oriental pose

Well, more than enough of Lulu!  What a wonderful cat he was…

A few yeas ago I was given another cat by a friend here, and named it ‘Bébé’ because he was terribly small and malnourished.  However, he grew with good feeding, and soon began to terrorize Binty and Lulu.

Bébé on a teke elephant

Bébé on an elephant

Computer-assistance spot, shared with Lulu

Computer-assistance spot, shared with Lulu

Sun bathing location

Sun bathing location

Alternate position

Alternate position

Favored sunbathing position

Favored sunbathing position

Bébé giving the new Belgian Shephard pup a lesson in how NOT to play

Bébé giving Hamdy, the new Belgian Shepherd pup, a lesson in how NOT to play

How the cats liked to sleep when the temperature falls below 75 in the tropics

How the cats liked to sleep when the temperature fell below 75 – cold for the tropics

That is enough about cats.  Another time, dogs – and perhaps also about the donkeys, horses, goats, birds, lizards, snakes, monkeys, bats, owls, and other strange creatures that we’ve had and-or cared for over the years. Living in central Africa brings delightful experiences, if you are fond of animals.

This blog was written in 2009 – since then I have several more cats as well as other creatures – see the following:

Dogs and Animal Health Care in the Tropics

New Housemates along Lake Tanganyika

New Housemates along Lake Tanganyika – Sequel

 

About diana buja

Picture from a recent training of veterinarians and vet technicians upcountry. I discuss in French with some Kirundi and have also a Kirundi translator to help with technical aspects ... Blog entries are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general, reflecting over 30 years of work and study in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
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4 Responses to Cat Culture in the Tropics

  1. Karen says:

    Poor Mr. Shaler. He must have somewhere in his mind realized the truth of the quote ‘Cats were put into the world to disprove the dogma that all things were created to serve man.’:)

    Like this

  2. dianabuja says:

    Thanks, Karen – they have been very special companions throughout the war years here, in spite of what Mr Shaler, the 19th Century author says about cats! (quoted above).

    Like this

  3. Karen says:

    Ha ha! Wonderful pictures! What faces and what poses!!! :D

    Like this

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