Some people say cats are too aloof and, compared to dogs, don’t have much in the way of personality. Those of us who identify as ‘cat people’ are charmed by their independence; we also know they can be extremely affectionate, but this must be earned.
The biggest downside to owning a cat is the pain that comes when it’s gone. I have witnessed the deaths of four beloved pets due to natural causes and one to injury. Another was stolen. Still, I would recommend that anyone able to keep a pet in their home acquire a cat, whether a pedigreed kitten sold by a pet shop or a stray with a winning personality.
From my experience cats, and especially Persians, are extremely smart and remarkable animals. They are superior to humans in their senses of smell, hearing and in some respects vision. They apparently can’t distinguish fine details or rich colors, but have a heightened ability to see in the dark. Every cat has its own distinct personality, mood swings and food preferences, and each seems to have a preferred protection strategy when they sense danger.
There are a few negative aspects of living with cats, like fallen hairs all around and the chance that it might scratch or bite while playing too rambunctiously. This sometimes requires medical attention and tetanus and rabies shots. Cats also need vaccinations, particularly for rabies. I know from experience that some animal hospitals and clinics can be costly. It is worthwhile to check prices before brining your animal in.
Another drawback to owning cats is unpleasant odors coming from the litter box, which must be cleaned and changed often in order to avoid this. Some cats, my present cat included, can never seem to accept the litter box. While frustrating, and this can actually work out well if they can be trained to go outside or in the same, newspaper-covered place all the time.
The first cat I took in was a male kitten I found in the car park behind a coffee shop on Sukhumvit Road in early 1982. I called him Mickey Mouse. He liked to take walks around the apartment building I lived. One day in February 1988 he got an electric shock while chasing birds. I took him to an animal hospital, where he died.
By then I had gotten used to having a cat around, so I took two female kittens from the same car park home in March 1988. I named them Mimi and Sita. I moved to a new place, where Mimi died in September 1993. Sita passed away the next year in November. Both died from disease despite many visits to an animal clinic and a lot of expense for treatments.
I promised myself I had never get another cat, but I couldn’t resist a beautiful male Persian kitten for sale at a pet shop on Sukhumvit Road in December 1994. I named him Sipta.
In May 1995 I bought two more Persian kittens, one male and one female, from the same shop. The proprietor told me that all three Persians I’d bought were born in an Eastern European country and brought to Thailand by a foreign woman. She would carry 7-8 cats on each trip to Thailand, hiding them in pockets sewn inside a long winter coat. The shop paid her 15,000 baht for each cat, enough to pay for her trip and then some. Apparently the woman was also doing other business when in Bangkok.
I named the two new cats Mickey Mouse and Mimi in memory of my two previous cats. The three Persians got on very well. They didn’t fight and even shared food from the same plate. It was really fun to live with them.
Sipta died of natural causes in the animal hospital in October 2012. He was 18 years old. Mimi died in December, also from natural causes. She was 17. I was left with Mickey Mouse the second. He would take a walk every morning around the house I moved into in 2000, but one day in February 2013 he never came back from his walk. I searched all over the neighborhood and asked neighbors if they’d seen him. One told me they had seen a woman carrying a Persian cat inside the village about 400 meters from my house. After getting a description I concluded that it was Micky Mouse.
I posted leaflets all over the village with the photo of the cat, offering a 100,000 baht reward for his return and the promise of no legal action. I didn’t get any response. To lose him made me really sad. He was quiet, smart and the only cat I have ever heard of that would use a toilet like people do. Unfortunately, I never took a photo of him in that position.
Two weeks after Mickey Mouse disappeared I returned to the pet shop to buy a new cat, but was told that the foreign woman who supplied the Persians had stopped a few years before. I was told to leave a contact number with the shop, and in April I got a call to come in and see a male Persian kitten. I bought immediately named him, and this should come as no surprise, Micky Mouse. He is thankfully still with me.
This cat is the most intelligent and amazing animal I have ever known. According to the maid, he will run to the front door while I am still about 100m from the house in my car. He makes all kinds of noises; seemingly a kind of language. He runs to me when I call him, making a loud noise in the process, and even jumps on the table when I tap on it. In some respects he’s more like a trained dog than a cat.
In the mornings and evenings when I am in bed he will jump on my chest, touch my face with his whiskers, and look straight into my eyes. I can feel his breath as well. After a while he jumps off and takes a position next to me. He likes to walk next to me inside the house. When I stop he will stop. He likes to lie and sometimes sleep in front of the computer monitor while I am working.
Just like every Persian cat I have ever had, he enjoys air conditioning. He likes to lie on the table right under the unit. This habit increases my monthly electricity bill considerably.
At only 33cm tall, he can jump up to a point 170cm or higher on the wall, more than five times his height. In comparison, a 170cm tall man would have to jump 8.5m to match that feat. The current men’s world high-jump record, by a Cuban athlete in 1993, is 2.45m. I once saw Micky Mouse slip and fall 5m from the balcony of the house and land on the stone tiles below. He walked away unhurt. If it was a human he or she would be most probably dead or at the least left with many broken bones.
He likes to look outside from the window. Often he will jump on my shoulder when he wants me to carry him outside the house to observe birds. When he lies on his back with his legs up, this means I have to massage his stomach with my feet. All the while he makes a soft noise.
Miss Phacharawan opened the PETc CluB grooming shop three years ago at the So Rung Rueng market on Highway 345 in Pathum Thani. Before that she worked at an animal hospital in Talingchan district of Bangkok. She received a certificate after graduating from Perfect Dogs Grooming Center in 2013.
“I love animals and I always wanted to have my own grooming shop. I have only one person working with me,” said Miss Phacharawan. “Most customers bring in long-haired dogs. We have about 20 cats, almost all Persians, coming in every month as well. In general Thai people prefer dogs as pets, and when it comes to cats they like two breeds: Siamese and Persian. We are quite busy every day, especially during weekends. I close the shop on Wednesdays.”
During our interview, a customer brought in a four-year-old Persian male cat named Angpau for a bath. He sat quietly while Miss Phacharawan cut his nails, combed his hair and gave him a bath in a metal basin filled with warm water. He enjoyed the bath and didn’t resist at all.
“Persian cats are different from other breeds,” said Miss Phacharawan. “Each one has a different personality. They are beautiful, intelligent and have lovely fur and I love them too.”
The rise and fall of cat cafés
Early in the decade establishments known as cat cafés were opening one after the other in Bangkok and nearby provinces. These are places where the owner keeps a lot of cats for customers to watch and interact with. It is a good idea to allow people who may not have a cat at home to relax and enjoy being around the animals.
Lately, however, the number of cat cafés seems to be on the decline. Some apparently went out of business because they couldn’t turn a profit, and some have been closed by the authorities.