The Musings of a Ruga Girl—Shoola, my purred friend

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Cats, also known as domestic cats, are small carnivorous mammals that have been domesticated by humans for thousands of years. They are popular as pets all around the world due to their playful, affectionate, and independent nature. They are known for their agility, grace, and sharp senses, particularly their excellent night vision and hearing. Cats are also valued for their ability to catch and kill rodents, which has earned them a place as working animals in many societies. There are various breeds of cats with different physical and behavioral characteristics, but all cats share common traits such as their love for play, grooming themselves, and napping for long hours.

I grew up in a practicing religious home, it’s a house full of peace, love and laughter, I can’t say exactly when? But for the better of fifteen (15) years of my life I lived with cats at a time five (5), I don’t know why Mallam decided to keep the cats, or it might be because cats are viewed as holy animals. Above all they are admired for their cleanliness. They are thought to be ritually clean which is why they’re allowed to enter homes and even mosques.

The little knowledge I have of cats, it was long thought that cat domestication started in ancient Egypt, where cats were venerated from around 3100 BC. But cats are known to be carnivorous animals, who feed both on animals and vegetables. And in 2021, there were an estimated 220 million owned and 480 million stray cats in the world.

Shoola is my favorite pet (cat) . She was named by Nana when we first brought her to the house, she instantly domesticated herself and became immediately a great favorite with us.

Upon my touch, she immediately arose, purred loudly, rubbed against my hand, and appeared delighted for my notice.

Shoola is fun to be around with, whenever I pat her, she looks up with her eyes, and tiny nose, asking for more. She rolls her smooth fur on me, whenever she feels mushy. And whenever I draw her perky ears, she immediately brings out her sharp claws and tiny paws in retaliation while she meows and purrs.

I entered Mallam’s room one evening only to see him eating suya with Shoola, I protested to Mallam about him, loving Shoola more than me, and he smiled at me telling me the story about a Mosque in Damascus called Masjid al-Qitat. Qitat means cat in Arabic. In 1267, it was donated under Islamic law as a charitable foundation established to protect cats. This endowment set up 800 years ago is still thriving.

Seasons come and go, and I noticed that Shoola was very lazy, and always ran for her life at the sight of a big rat. When I am going out, Shoola evinces a disposition to accompany me, I stop by the door to caress her and tenderly tell her to go back.

One Monday morning, as I was rushing to get ready to school, Shoola picked my egg and ran with it, I followed it, with the intention of beating her, but she had hidden itself away from any pry eyes, when Mallam heard me grumbling, he interjected with a new story saying, “have you not heard of Ismail Saib Sencer (1873-1940), the director of the Bayezid Library in Istanbul, he fed hundreds of cats. For this reason, Beyezid Library was called “The Cat Library”.

I smiled not because of the story but upon hearing the word Library, I wish I could visit this historic Library and bury my nose in its bibliophile, books make me travel around the world in the cheapest way, it entertains my mind and changes my life and vision. I was brought back to reality from my day dreams by Ummi’s voice telling me to come have my breakfast and go to school. I moved my legs slowly with a meh feeling about the egg.

Shoola was not small, she was not big, but she was fluffy. She was timid and shy at first, but over time she became the most loving and affectionate pet I could have ever asked for.

She loved to snuggle up on my lap while I worked or watched TV, and would always greet me at the door when I came home from work. She had a playful and curious nature, and enjoyed exploring the house and playing with her toys.

Shoola was not exactly a great hunter. Though I wasn’t always thrilled with this, I couldn’t help but appreciate her natural instincts and skills.

Shoola was the first to welcome me home, I caressed her as she meowed loudly, earning my subtle laughter, its weekend I am going to read a book I borrowed from a friend called “The Promise and the Dream”. We used to say, time spent with cats and books is never wasted.

I woke up on Saturday morning, and couldn’t find Shoola, it’s unusual not to hear her meowing, as she works in between my legs, I searched and searched but couldn’t find her. My search extended to my neighborhood, but still to no avail. I felt frustrated and solivagant at the same time. And a sense of guilt, that I couldn’t protect her enough.

I miss her whenever I lay on my bed, I feel the emptiness of the room, the wide space on the bed, I keep having illusions of her return, and silently praying that whoever picks her up should not hurt her, she is so sweet and innocent.

I laugh when I remember how she would open her eyes due to her well-developed sense of smell especially at fried eggs. I am missing her every second that passes by, I can’t help but feel her presence in the house, and sometimes even hear her growls and hisses. Shoola has left a vacuum not only in my heart but in Mallam’s heart as well. He has not told me anything related to cats again, since Shoola went missing.

I will always cherish the memories of my time with Shoola and will forever miss her warm, comforting presence in my life. She was a true friend and a loyal companion, and I will always be grateful for the love and joy she brought me.

Oh, Shoola, my sweet feline friend

Your life with me has come to an end

Your gentle purrs and playful swats

Are memories that will never be forgot

You brought me joy and comfort too

With every rub and every “mew”

A furry presence always there

To share my space and show you care

But now you’ve gone, and I’m alone

No longer hear your soothing tone

No more will I feel your soft fur

Or watch you play, your heart a blur

Rest now, dear Shoola, forever sleep

In fields of mice and yarn to keep

Your memory, though, will always stay

A precious thought to light my way.

I miss you Shoola, I am hurt by whoever took you away from me

Please be safe.

*Sumayya Abubakar is a development worker, she is an educationist, and peace builder. She is the lead of Plateau based Muryar Fulani Peace Initiative Network Inc. She runs a schools system for marginalised populations in Plateau state, North central of Nigeria and can be reached at [email protected]

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