Written by Sejal Suvarna
The doorbell rings and the first person to zoom across the door to greet his guests is Mr Igor. He will scan every guest by rubbing himself against them. Few questions will be asked in the form of meows and purrs. The ones under suspicion are nibbled and left with a warning. Only after the security check is done, the person is allowed an entry. Every person who has visited our house would testify to this kind of scrutiny by our purr-master, Igor. Mind you, this is rather difficult for the faint-hearted or non-animal lovers!!
My cat Igor, better known as @igorkooka, turned 4 recently. In human years, he is as old as me now. It is hard to believe that a 1.5-month old furball I met a couple of years ago, who weighed only 500 gms, has transformed into a handsome tom-cat and will soon be the oldest member of our family. Being my first pet, he has not only infused motherly instincts in me but also made me realize what animal love is all about. He has radically changed me from a person who would run away at the sight of any cat/dog to a person who is obsessed about them. I have come a long way from being indifferent towards animals to now being a human-mom to a cat and a dog. Over the past 4 years, I have become a fierce mom and a mad cat-lady. I shamelessly judge people based on their attitude towards any cat/dog. You can blame all of this on Mr. Igor! This is what he has done to me.
A lot of relationships look like this: First comes moving in together, then comes adopting a pet. Ours was no different. After we got married and settled in Almaty (Kazakhstan), my husband started bullying me to adopt a pet cat. He was always a cat-lover but never got a chance to raise them due to family restrictions. This was his chance of making up for his childhood aspiration, living with a cat. Though I initially resisted, I had to give in to his relentless insistence.
We actively started hunting for cats. We even visited a breeder who had fancy Siberian kittens with blue eyes, worth almost 300 euros. ‘Shopping’ for cats was new to us and didn’t seem right. Though they were really cute, we decided to walk out.
As fate would have it, two days later we found an abandoned litter of kittens on a nearby pavement. It was common in Almaty to discard kittens who didn’t qualify the ‘breed’ and ‘blue eyes’ criteria. We waited for signs of mom-cat, but none came by. Kept in a cardboard box, the kittens tried to jump out and woo us with their innocent looks and baby faces. But one kitten caught our eye. He strangely seemed disinterested and calmy slept in the middle of all the chaos. Occasionally, he did some stretching and yawning, without bothering too much about our presence. A typical cat! We looked at each other and instantly made our choice. Without much deliberation, we selected him to be the new member of our family.
We got Igor home and also shopped for few kitten supplies. His age, gender, health complication (if any) was still a mystery to us. He was as new to us as we were to him. Slowly, we started the process of understanding him.
Our first task was to train him to use a litter box for peeing/pooping, hence we checked a lot of videos on Youtube. They advised having patience as the kitten might take days or weeks to get trained. Keeping that in mind, we started the training process. To our surprise, Igor grasped it immediately and peed at the correct spot; instantly falsifying the claims of all expert trainers. We felt like proud parents of the child who had topped his class. It looked like we had picked up a bright kitty!
Trial and Error
As new pet parents, we didn’t know what to feed him. Instead of googling, we decided to act on our instincts and fed him a lot of boiled chicken and milk on his first day. Igor being hungry ate the scrumptious meal as if there was no tomorrow. Because of this, the next day he was heavily constipated. This condition was new to him as well. He was so scared that he went into hiding under the deep corner of the sofa. We tried to comfort him but he wouldn’t dare trust us, especially since he knew we were the cause of his suffering. We had no option but to starve him and later put him on a strict kitten food diet until his condition improved.
[TIP: Kittens should be ideally given Cerelac/wet food/formula milk as it is easy for them to digest. Regular milk should be strictly avoided as it contains lactose which cannot be digested by animals]
As we had picked up Igor from the street, we found his extremely dirty and decided to bathe him. My husband gave him a bucket bath, while he shrieked and screamed; probably yelling at our stupidity. During the next week, we continued giving him a bath every 2 days until the vet sternly told us that kittens shouldn’t be bathed at all.
[TIP: Never bathe tiny kittens. They are too delicate and need warmth. If required, sponging is recommended]
When I think back, I feel we could have done a lot better with little more research or someone guiding us.
The entire adoption plan was so impulsive and sudden that I forgot about my husband’s upcoming business trip. Though I had no experience managing a cat before, I was now forced to take care of Igor singlehandedly.
Like every kitten, he was extremely hyper and full of energy. Containing him was an ordeal for me. He was so tiny that he would hide in the most unexpected places, making me worry and look out for him. On finding him, he would excitedly charge in my direction, scaring the shit out of me. He would make me jump on a sofa, bed or anything beyond his reach.
My husband had declared a ‘no cat in the bedroom’ rule on Day 1. But at night, Igor meowed and scratched my bedroom door so much, that I had to let him in. While I worried about breaking the rule and upsetting my husband, Igor calmly slept like a baby next to me.
Slowly and unknowingly, a bond was forming between us. We were becoming more comfortable with each other, at the same time respecting each other’s privacy. We were like 2 cats living in the same house. Dogs have masters, cats have staff! Igor had titled me his ‘Head-staff’. He would follow me everywhere, curious to know what was I up to. He would even sit beside the bathroom door until I finished my business. He was trying to be the little lamb that followed Maryeverywhere she went! My husband’s business trip had proved to be a blessing in disguise in strengthening my bond with Igor.
The first Purr
While my husband was on his trip, I once casually picked up Igor and was shocked to hear some kind of sound coming from him. It felt as if he had swallowed some motor which had suddenly gotten activated. I got terrified at the thought that Igor was in danger. I immediately called my husband to share my concern. He laughed and explained that this sound was called ‘Purring’. Google explained that cats purr when they are content and happy; kittens usually purr to let their mothers know they are OK. This was a sign that my tiny kitten had found his lost mother!
As he was born in Kazakhstan and his native language was Russian, we started looking for suitable Russian names. After a lot of thought, we decided on Igor which means ‘Warrior of Peace’.
Over the course of next four months, we had formed a strong bond with Igor. He was our only family in a foreign land. He had become the perfect go-to person when one of us was occupied while the other wanted some company.
When my husband got a new job offer in our hometown, Mumbai, we decided to relocate with Igor. We couldn’t imagine our life without him. We couldn’t think of leaving him back as he would never be able to survive the freezing winter without a home. His chances of getting re-adopted were also close to NIL as he was a 6-month old kitten of mixed breed. The entire process of relocation was such a tedious ordeal that I will be soon covering it in detail in another blog.
Life in Mumbai
We shifted to Mumbai in late 2014 and Igor opted for Indian citizenship! Adapting to Mumbai wasn’t very easy for him. Mumbai is a lot warmer, humid, crowded and noisy as compared to Almaty. It took him a while to acclimatize to his new habitat.
Every cat has a distinctive personality of its own. Igor is an extremely social cat and adores humans. He likes to be part of our discussions and be the center of attention in all the house-parties. Igor has a huge fan following, especially females. He manages to rub his charm off on everyone he meets.
Igor is extremely communicative about his feelings. He has a different meow tone for all his requirements. Being his head-staff, he has trained me well to understand each one of them!
Igor has a rich taste in almost everything – alcohol, food, the place he sits, the vehicle he travels in. His life is anything but mediocre. He is a true Royal.
In 2016, we adopted an Indie pup, Kooka. Being her big brother, Igor matured quickly and became a lot more responsible. As every growing-up sibling, they share a love-hate relationship. I will be writing more about this soon in a separate blog.
Social Media and Endorsements
Igor and Kooka together maintain their Instagram handle, @igorkooka. Click to check out their account.
In his free time, Igor takes up modelling assignments for LANA paws.
It is my humble request to everyone to adopt animals. They might change your world like they did mine. Cats, especially have therapeutic benefits and can be a remedy for anxiety, stress and depression. Pets transform people into better humans and teach us to live in-the-moment; something we all need to learn.
Once again, Happy Birthday, Igor
Originally published in May 2018 on Sejal's personal blog.