Ungau – and How He Changed Me

I first met him when I was on my way back to my car after running for a half-marathon in Bukit Jalil sometime last year. I remember exactly how I first saw him. He was playing by himself under a parked car, totally oblivious to the surrounding. I tried to ignore him first, and was actually walking past him and somehow I looked back at him and he was looking at me and before I knew it he walked right up to me and went right for my shoes.

He rubbed himself up around my shoes as if he was destined to meet me that day and that he was actually expecting it. The harder I tried to ignore him the more I wanted to scoop him up and bring him home. But then, I’ve never had a cat for a pet for as long as I could remember, except may be when I was still a kid back in my kampong in Keningau. We never really looked at them as our pets but they were quite a number of them in and around the house and I never really paid attention to them, but I did give them food just because I wanted to get rid of the food leftover. I remember how I woke up one morning and found out that a cat had given birth to at least half a dozen of kitten right by my side and I could see them crawling all over. I even had the time to see the mother ate the umbilical cord down to its last bit. I was too stunned to do anything.

So yeah, back to the story when I met Ungau, I couldn’t bring myself to just ignoring and leaving him right there and pretending like I never met him. I was in a dilemma – a deep one – because I knew it would be a long process of learning and getting adjusted to the fact that I have something to take care of back at home IF I took him home with me.  I scooped him up and for a moment I really wished he’d resist and even bite me if he had to just so that I wouldn’t have to bring him home.

But no, there was no resistance at all. Instead, he curled himself up right in my arms as if I was his long lost dad or something. Still having a lot of thinking in my head, I took him to a nearby bus stop where I took a seat at one of the iron benches and tried to reason out with myself. A lot of things just went through my mind and the more I told myself that I should just put him back down and walked away, the stronger I felt the urge of bringing him home with me and see how things would go from there. But seriously, there was something about the way he looked at me that made me go “Fuck it. Lemme bring him home” and that’s exactly was I did. I found myself driving back home with Ungau cuddling in the front passenger seat. He was instantly asleep.

From then on, things were beginning to change in me.

I could never go walking in the streets without stopping and turning to look whenever a cat or dog comes my way. I’d be reminded of Ungau every time and wondered if he was doing alright back at home. When I first took him in, I couldn’t even wait to go home whenever I went out of town or even when I was at work. It worries me so much if he doesn’t eat because when he doesn’t eat that means he is not feeling well. Then I’d go see the vet the very next day.

And talking about vet, I don’t even want to talk about how much money I’ve spent on Ungau. There was one time when he got attacked by a neighbor’s cat and it was quite bad. He got infection and he had to be ‘hospitalized’ for a few days “Or he’ll die” said the vet. Then the vet asked me to buy some kind of medicine which was actually for humans but was the only medicine to cure Ungau’s infection.

The pills were priced at RM12 EACH and I had to buy like a stack of it because it’d take a few weeks of medication before he could be 100% cured. “Otherwise we might have to take him down before it gets worse. We don’t want to let him suffer” I remember the vet saying. I cried like a baby that night. I even prayed with all my heart so that everything would turn out to be alright.  I mean, that was the only thing that I thought I could do at that time. It might sound funny but it is not when you really are in such a situation. Heh.

I mean seriously, that is probably what happens when you care so much for something. Or somebody in most cases. I could never imagine how a cat that I picked up from the side of a street would change my life in more ways that I had probably imagined. Ungau makes me love animals so much that I’m even seriously thinking about turning into a vegan. Ungau would come to my mind every time I imagine how they slaughter the animals – chicken, goats, cows, pigs, buffaloes – it doesn’t matter. I can’t look at their eyes because it hurts me so much when I imagine how they’d ultimately go to the dinner table.

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And then those unexplainable emotional encounters that I go through every time I watch a movie about an animal. I remember how I watched Hachi – a movie about a dog whose master died while giving a lecture and that dog continued to wait in front of the lecture hall even long after his master has died. My gosh, I was so choked with emotions I had to pause the movie every now and then because I really could not keep watching. I cursed myself for letting emotions took over but I just couldn’t help it. Again, I blame it on Ungau.

Then I remember watching Life of Pi. I would have given that movie a meh look if I watched it before I knew Ungau. I mean, that part when Pi cried so hard when that damn tiger named Richard Parker walked into bushes the moment they landed on the shore of Mexico. “I didn’t cry because we were finally safely ashore, but because Richard Parker did not even look at me. Instead, he went straight to the bushes – just like that ” (or something). I could almost feel the sheer frustration and disappointment that Pi felt in that movie. I would have cried myself really.

Weird and strange it might be but that’s just how it is to me now. I really do believe now how a pet could change me as a person. I could continue writing another 10 pages about Ungau and how he changed my life but of course I’d leave it for another post. And probably another. And another. And.. I mean, is there such thing as ‘overly obsessed with a cat’? Because seriously, I think I am. I am obsessed with Ungau. A cat. A stray little kitten that I picked up from the side of a road. LOL.

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