Samantha is not the prettiest cat you’ll ever meet. But Sam (aka Sammie, Sammiecat and Baby) is certainly one of the most human cats I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
Once upon a time, Sam wasn’t my cat. She was the first child of my friends Ismet and Merete, who adopted her as a kitten from the SPCA. She stayed here with Ismet when Merete moved home to Norway, and was billeted with Ismet’s mother when he joined Merete up in the cold, cold north. The plan was for Sam to remain in Singapore until Ismet was settled, then he’d come back in about a year to bring her over.
As with all the best-laid plans, something went awry. Less than half a year after Ismet’s departure, Sam disappeared. His mother said she had probably escaped while renovations were being carried out on her kitchen. He had friends paste up posters and comb the neighbourhood, but no Sam was to be found.
This is where I entered the picture.
James and I were dating at the time, and we’d toyed with the idea of adopting a kitten together. I spent many happy hours browsing the SPCA’s website, looking for orange or calico kittens we could potentially bring home. On one such occasion, I sent the SPCA’s adoption page to Ismet over Skype chat and told him which of the kittens I wanted.
But he never even noticed the kittens, because while he was scrolling down the page, he came across a listing for Samantha. His Samantha.
And so Operation Samantha Rescue sprang into action. Ismet’s sister was mobilised to visit the SPCA to confirm that the cat listed was indeed Sam. (She was.) However, she was prevented from taking Sam home because her flat lacked the proper combination of window grilles and height above the ground. I was the next best hope for Sam’s freedom, but for some clear obstacles. One, I was still living with my parents, who were most certainly not animal people. Two, James was still living at home too, and while he was happy to take in a rescued cat, his mother had reservations.
Adult cats don’t generally have the best chance of being adopted, and we were genuinely afraid that Sam’s time might be running out. So on a Saturday morning, James and I drove to the SPCA with his mother in tow. While James spoke to the centre’s staff and volunteers about adoption procedures, Ismet’s sister brought us to see Sam, cooped up in an enclosure better suited to a kitten.
Two of the biggest, saddest eyes you’ll ever see on a cat looked back out at us.
And that’s how we sold James’ mother on the cat. Or rather, that’s how the cat pitched herself successfully to James’ mum.
We were never meant to keep Sam for the long term. We knew we were just cat-sitting till Ismet and Merete came back for her. Trouble is, she worked her way into our hearts once she came out from under the bed. She endeared herself with her habit of just sitting there and keeping you company, being companionable without requiring much attention. It wasn’t long before James’ mother voiced what we were all thinking: “Can’t they get themselves another cat over in Norway?”
It was lucky, in a way, that Sam’s original parents were having a similar conversation on the other side of the world. Ismet was worried about the immigration procedures – what if Sam made it through the ordeal of the flight, only to get depressed while waiting to be released from quarantine? The weather would also be a problem; we found out quite early in our guardianship that Sam doesn’t even like being in air-conditioned rooms.
Eventually Ismet got in touch to ask if we would keep Sam for good. By then, we knew we’d be Really Sad if and when she left us. So we said yes. And that is how we came to share our lives, for better and for worse, with our little emo tortoiseshell kitteh.
(Her other set of parents pays a visit every time they’re in town, and Sam has a little emotional reunion with them until her abandonment issues kick in. Then she flounces away in a huff, and remains morose for days after they leave. It’s insanely adorable and just a little heartbreaking.)