Cats In Shit

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A girl rescued a kitten that had fallen into a latrine. A little black kitten. You wonder what a kitten was doing in a latrine, but we can’t ask such questions about cats because cats are feminists. The girl, who loves animals, has cats and birds in her house. She grew up on a farm in Nakuru amongst trees and animals in the bush. She touched the horns of goats, patted the thighs of cows and whispered small things into the ears of sheep. The story will make sense if you know this background. 

I interviewed this girl but the interview wasn’t about animals. This story came up during the small talk that happens after the recorder is off and the interview is done. I stuck around a little for fresh juice, while she went back to her real self around her home. Anyway, she told me this story about how one time one of her cats was dying, literally at death’s door, and she fed her milk using a little syringe and at night she spread a blanket on the carpet and for two days she slept next to her. She talked to her in low soothing voices under the low orange glow of the lamp.  She stared into her dying eyes and she told this cat that she loved her and that the world would be a really sad place if she died. She stroked her head. Sometimes she cried and begged her not to die. She did nothing for three days, not her work, she ignored her other pets, she played music, a playlist with artists you have never heard of; Maovete, Kitu Sewer, Proteje, Koffee, and Bob Marley’s grandson, whose name I can’t recall. She played music to this dying feline that her friends thought silently, won’t survive. She uses weed as a nutrition like you would use baby spinach in your smoothie. I don’t know why this is important, but somehow I think you need to smoke weed to feel for animals in this fashion. (She started using it when she had a life-threatening condition that she survived)

Anyway, in the morning of day four when she stirred awake, the cat was roaming around the house, like someone who had just moved into a new house would. She cried with joy and scooped her in her arms and for the whole day, she carried her everywhere. The cat lived to give birth to kittens who gave birth to more kittens. A grandmother of cats. “I save dying animals,” she told me. “There is something in me that saves dying animals. I can’t explain it. I once saved an owl that I found on its side by the roadside.” If I was walking and I stumbled upon an owl lying on its side by the roadside, I’d get the hell out of there fast. Owls have an energy I don’t like. I also don’t like their eyes. How they try to see if you will blink first. Their general countenance is suspect. 

“How does one save an owl?” I asked. 

She carried the owl home (gasp) gave it water and nursed the wound on its body. She fed it pieces of fish and minced meat. The owl got strong and left. Imagine visiting someone and seeing an owl walking past the doorway heading to the loo. You can never predict what you will see in someone’s house. She’s also good with dogs. She believes no breed of dog can harm her. 

I was telling you about the kitten in the latrine. 

So this kitten falls into the latrine and she isn’t aware of this fact immediately. In the morning, after her breakfast, she senses immediately that one of the kittens is missing because cat people have that supernatural power. They will be able to tell if they are missing one cat but the same powers won’t lead them to where they forgot their car keys. 

So she starts looking for her kitten around the house. She calls out her name. She opens closets. She looks inside shoes. She stands in the middle of the room, deep in thought; ‘hmm, where could she be?’ She searches outside, behind the house where there are piles of timber. She walks to their garden tool storage shed and opens the door knowing full well that the cat can’t have walked through a locked door because cats aren’t Jesus, who performs miracles like walking on water. She walks around the compound, looking up trees, and calling out her name. She was called ‘Spotty’ because she was spotted. Funny she couldn’t spot her now. 

Finally, she hears a very faraway meow. A faded cry. A hallucination. She follows it and with great shock, it leads her to this old disused pit latrine at the very corner of their compound. It’s not a shallow latrine. It smells of old shit – and old shit smells bad. “Spotty!” She cries down the dark latrine. Spotty meows back. Everybody who comes and looks down at the darkness of the latrines tells her that it would be impossible to get that kitten out of there. Impossible. “Just let the kitten die,” they seem to say. “No way I was letting that kitten die alone there, abandoned.”

“So, I found a really long stick,” she says. “Luckily my mom makes firewood so that was easy to find. Then I tied a wire to the end and made a flat surface using a kifuniko for those paint cans. That way when I lower the stick, the kitten would have a platform to stand on then I could lift her. Now, a pit latrine is deep and this little fucker didn’t know me that well so it took me hours to get her to trust me enough to climb on the platform. She was also very tired at this point, I think she’d been there for most of the night. So, I put a piece of chicken on the platform so that she could climb on it. Needless to say, I lost a couple of pieces because they just fell into the loo. It was a task to keep the stick upright while still using my phone torch to see into the latrine. At some point, I even forgot I was dealing with a toilet, my entire arm (all the way to my shoulder) was inside the hole. Eventually, she realised I was only there to help and she climbed onto the platform and I managed to lift her enough to grab her.”

I was impressed. 

“Why was it important to save this cat?” I inquired. 

“Because the cat was drowning in shit.” She said, “And it felt familiar.” 

That hit me on the chest, like a hammer. 

“And because I couldn’t give up on her when she wasn’t giving up on herself.”

I sat there and thought, damn, this is a better story than everything she had earlier told me on record. 

“Why don’t we have these little bits in the interview,” I urged her, “these bits about owls and cats in shit.”

She refused. She said it might make her look and sound “woo woo.” She didn’t want to sound woo-woo because she’s a professional. Of course, because “professionals” don’t want the world to know about their vulnerabilities, about all the pets they have buried since they were eight years old, and how each burial bruised their hearts and made them see life and process their sense of mortality. God forbid. 

I remembered her story because I remember most stories about mortality. I remember it now, perhaps because today is the day my mother died. Of course, I’m writing this today but you are reading it today but your today is not my today, your today was my yesterday which was 6th May. Your today is the 7th, Tuesday. 

My mom died twelve years ago today. It’s 9:21 am as I write this sentence, which means she had about three and a half hours to live before phones started ringing and six worlds collapsed right in the middle. The funny thing is that life moves on; trees grow, children join new schools, you buy new trousers, you get potted plants (some die, others don’t), you walk on a beach barefoot, you cut an apple in half, you shave with an old razor…life goes on, months turn into years, into a decade, and soon nobody, but you, remembers that your mother doesn’t live anymore. 

And on a day like this, you linger in bed a little longer when you wake up, weighted by sadness. Your day is already blighted by grief before it begins. You say a prayer for her soul then you get up and step on shaky ground because that’s what your world feels like when you remember your mother is not around anymore. Suddenly it feels like you are walking on a trampoline. You don’t have any meetings on that day because you know your state will be fragile and your emotions frayed. You are like porcelain with a crack on it. It helps that it’s cold outside so you mostly stay in the house. You light a candle on your desk and stare at the flame for an extended period. 

You think of how “wasteful” her life must have been. All she seemed to have done was raise children and take loans to send them to school. That all she did was defined by the endless sacrifice of domesticity. You wonder if she would have liked to devote her life to other pursuits: See another country. Walk on snow. Go on a cruise. Lie on a dhow. Try out a cocktail. Read a book that’s not the Bible. Drive a car. Hold a menu with foods she can’t pronounce. Dye her hair a colour that would make the church gasp. Generally, be selfish; and make self-serving decisions, choose herself, not her children and husband and family….Rebel, and revel in the brief madness of it. Was she curious about the things that lived beyond the orbit of family? You carry these questions with you throughout the day.  

At some point during the day, a most mundane thought occurs to you as you pick lemons from a supermarket: That your mother never wore lipstick. That she died without knowing what it felt like to rummage in her purse to look for lipstick. And of all the things that can make you cry that day, that’s the thing that brings tears welling in your eyes right there in the supermarket. Through the hazy glass of tears, you stare hard into your trolley as you wait for this wave of grief to pass. Someone looking at you would think; my I thought onions made people tear, that man is tearing over lemons. 

You feel sad that she sacrificed her life for her children, that the sum total of her existence was to raise children. How bloody unfair; marry, have children, send them to school, die. Of course, it’s not as limited as that, surely. She had a great childhood, loving parents, a decent education, a marriage that seemed as okay as marriages go. There were joys, no doubt but you can’t help wondering if there should have been more for her. And that makes you sad. You feel like you robbed her. And as you walk through the aisle, looking for bloody Harpic (why can’t they ever put Harpic in a place you can find them?) you miss her so much and you hope she is at peace and she is as happy as dead people can be.

Happy Mother’s Day to the living and departed moms. 

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On to chippier matters, I would love to say a big thank you to Nosim Natasha (@yours4lyf) for her hilarious TikTok book review of my first book DRUNK

In her own words, “GERRIT!” Buy your copy HERE and have it autographed.

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39 Comments
  1. Oh Biko 🙁
    May your mom’s soul rest in peace. I know she looks down from heaven ( Surely she must have gone to heaven if she never wore lipstick and read the Bible) and is proud of you.

    My mom once told us ( my sisters and I) that we are her greatest investment and I know that she meant this in a good way but it made me a little sad. That just like your mom, she is defined by the endless sacrifice of domesticity.

    Happy mother’s day to all the amazing women who have made the brave choice to be moms

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  2. Its been 8 years and it hasnt been easy ,the pain doesnt go away,in time we learn to be happy even with pain

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  3. This made me think about my partner whose mom left too soon. Also, the interviewed girl and I should meet up someday!

  4. The part where he said mother never wore lipstick…. coming to think of it… mine too has never worn lipstick and I’m about to go change that. Aside from that, you taking the strength to write this despite everything. Thank You. Sending love and hugs

  5. When moms go, there is something from you they carry with. I lost mine 7 months ago. Its well Biko.

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  6. Biko, hugs.

    I was really excited by this post because
    1. It’s about cats and I love those little snobbish creatures. And this chic is actually “woo woo” but my type of crazy (I am straight but I think we’d get along so well).
    2. I’ve also rescued a puppy form a latrine, only it wasn’t an old latrine. It was in use. It died two days later. Turns out being in deep shit can actually kill you.

    Then you started talking about your mother and I don’t know what to say. I hope she is at peace too.

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  7. It will be 3 years in June for me since I lost my mother. May she continue to rest in peace

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  8. Reads about your mother are my favorite. I celebrate the love between you, my mum is alive but I think I ever really enjoyed a mothers love, support or celebration. She really has complained about domesticity and children being expensive

  9. My mom passed away a month ago so I feel your pain. Funny how the world goes on for others while yours feels like it’s stopped coz she’s gone. I’m sorry for your loss Biko.

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  10. All is well Biko, may your Mum, and those other Mum’s missed below the Sun rest peacefully and receive all the Love sent by those who cherish the memories and sacrifices.

  11. May your mama rest in peace. Coincidence that mum passed on on 6th May at 9, 20 years ago

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  12. Happy mothers day to all women out there. It has been 21years for me and I was barely ten years. Sometimes when you achieve something small you start crying wishing she was around.

  13. There is always something you feel you should have done for a departed loved one but I bet even if you had made it to take her to Minneapolis, you would still feel inadequate. That you didn’t do enough, yet as a mother, I can tell you her heart was full seeing her children doing well is better that visiting even the North Pole.. and now you open my eyes that I should do more for myself. Motherhood is a call to giving and giving and more giving and rarely receiving and sometimes getting lost in it all. I am inspired to pay a trip for all the girls (mothers) in my family

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  14. Our mums were au naturale…no lipsticks or make-up. When we were growing up, the only women who wore red lipstick, purple eyeshadow and pink blush were considered women of the night, and somehow always had gifts for us kids or chewing gum or sweets.

    I guess whatever pursuits our mums missed here on earth, they will be able to indulge in, in heaven. For faithful servants, God offers the heart desires and blissfful rest. That gives some comfort to us down here…that firstly, they are in perfect health, and secondly, they are in the presence of God.
    The more older I get, the more I feel that being in the presence of God is much much better. I don’t think anyone is morose there. God rules there, here the world leaders seem to have lost their marbles. It’s no longer about the citizens of the world, no longer about feeding or sheltering every human being, rather it’s about nuclear capabilities and the ever present threat of World War three.
    Maranatha…May Jesus rescue us from this madness.

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  15. Oh Biko,
    I read this and related to some degree, not because my mom is dead, but because (in my eyes) her life has been characterized by the domesticity of life you described. I’ll say a prayer tonight, that God keep her alive for as long as is possible, for your mom’s soul and for you.
    Lemons make people cry huh, I am in a super metro headed home as I type this out. I can’t tear up, because if I do, they’ll probably think, “huh, poor boy, didn’t even get home to get the break up messege.”
    Bless.

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  16. Bless your heart Biko,I lost my mom 5 months ago,still feels like it was yesterday..Moms are irreplaceable.For those with Moms still around cherish every moment with them.

  17. Well,as a child I told myself that when I became an adult with my own money ,I would travel,I would explore the world.As an adult ,I have realized ,I had childish dreams and desires.

    I believe that your mother loved her life as it was,her greatest joy was her children.I believe that though she might not have visited her dream destination or drunk a very expensive wine ,she was quite fulfilled than those who have explored different countries and read countless books.

  18. This reminds me of a story you once wrote of a lady who kept asking herself what her purpose in life was…which one day she realised or believed was raising her son. I believe most of our mothers look at their purpose as raising their children, that if it be the only thing they excel at, then their lives were certainly worth living.

    Happy mother’s day to all mothers that give their life to their children, you are cherished♥.

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  19. Hugs to y’all beautiful souls.

    About cat people, we’re awesome purrents. Big up to this “woo-woo” girl.

  20. Always expecting this at this time. Same date my mum died but in 2010. It bothers me how I have forgotten s
    small things about her already

  21. The funny thing is that life moves on; trees grow, children join new schools, you buy new trousers, you get potted plants (some die, others don’t), you walk on a beach barefoot, you cut an apple in half, you shave with an old razor…life goes on, months turn into years, into a decade, and soon nobody, but you, remembers that your mother doesn’t live anymore.

    Ooooh Biko ,I read this and tears ran down my cheeks. I lost mum 4years ago and everytime I read your post year in year out, just before mother’s day I realize nobody but our tribe remembers that our mothers don’t live any more. May your mum and other mums continue resting in peace

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  22. Comfort to those whose mothers have departed.

    I don’t know why you had to start with cats in shit, but that made me recall an incident when our grandmother interrupted our play as children, ordering us to get rid of her cat on the allegations that it had eaten her chicken. The same bait used by the Professional in your story.
    Anyway, we thought that the best place to dispose of the live cat was the pit latrine. And we threw it into the smelly sea of soft, old and new, black shit. The latrine did not stop being used of course, never mind that the cat’s meows would drown 3 days later.

  23. What a heartwarming cat rescue story. She was fortunate to have a caring owner.
    Another Mother’s Day another reminder we’re several that have departed Mums around this season. Mine passed away on 15th May 3.30pm 14 years ago and it’s never been the same since. I will never forget I spoke with her and wished her a Happy Mother’s Day and then she was no more a few days later. May she and the other Mamas continue resting peacefully. Happy Mother’s Day to them and the ones still around.

  24. I guess I have to put up with stories about your late mum because you are also a feminist, just like the feline. Isokey. Sawa tu.

  25. Tumepandisiwa na bongo zetu zika karangwa for centuries.
    Raukeni mara moja kwa jina la Yesu Mtakatifu.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcSz4W9sig4

    Apologies Biko and fans for the post but in times of war we all need to elevate as a matter of expediency.
    Act accordingly.

  26. For the sacrifices of all the Mums out there: THANK YOU❤️
    May your Mum rest in peace and may you find peace ️ too, Biko.