The Cats of Nepal


I was listening to a podcast a while ago about the domestication of the cat: apparently the cat and the human arrived at this relationship through a symbiotic development. Cats hung around human places, took care of the various pests, and reaped rewards - so they stuck it out, and became what we have today.

I saw this relationship exemplified perfectly when I lived with my host family in Nepal - two cats existed alongside my family, acting as pets, but also as feral creatures that came, went, and hunted as they pleased. In other ways, too, these cats acted as the charming troublemakers, little menaces that scrapped, stole, and lazed around like oafs.

A pixelated view of our eating area.

They were one black and one with mottled brown and grey stripes, one the parent and the other the rebellious child. They often showed up around dinner time - when we sat on woven stools around an open fire, my family eating with their hands and I with a large spoon - mewling loudly. They’d chase fist-sized spiders around the terrace, and sneak up behind the large pots of extra food. I distinctly remember a time the brown and grey cat - more the rascal than the other - snagged a few licks from the serving spoon before getting shooed away. Another time it sunk its teeth into the plastic handle of a bag of bagels and attempted to drag them away between its legs. Lastly, at one point, my host brother became so frustrated with the cat’s shenanigans, he plunked one of the hollow stools over it until the meal was cooked.

Animal discipline around the world truly deserves its own post.

It seems at this point that that whole symbiotic relationship thing I mentioned earlier is less than extant for these cats, but they did do their part. Aside from keeping the spiders and crickets in check, they also curbed the mouse population. In countries such as Nepal, nature and home are not as separated as we keep them in the United States. My home in particular was a concrete behemoth with no inner architecture; the bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchen were situated outside, and though we had windows, not all of them were completely covered with glass. As such, nature worked its way in and filled my room with spiders, mosquitos, and even lizards.

The view from the top floor. A cat might often be found lounging on the tarp-turned-roof.

The cats did their jobs, keeping the mice out of the kitchen so our food remained uncontaminated. They ate the leftovers the family didn’t want to go to waste - and at times offered themselves to me when I couldn’t eat something because of a food allergy.

In time, I won them over - something I’ve never been able to do with my cat at home. My host family laughed at me at first because of my unrequited attempts to pet especially the brown and black cat. But - they were also happiest for me when that cat finally climbed into my lap during evening tea.

I have so many fond memories of the people and animals I met while in Nepal. These cats occupy some of my favorites.

I’d love to hear about some of the wacky pets you’ve met along the way. What is a story that stands out?

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