It was early morning, during the pandemic lockdown, when we first met her. She was curled up in one corner of our balcony, cuddling her three newborn babies under her belly. When we opened the door, she let out a threatening growl, ‘stay away!’ She made us feel like intruders on our own balcony. But she was a mother after all. So what if she had four legs, a tail, and whiskers.

We were not a cat lover’s family. We never fed stray cats on the streets, let alone giving up a part of our home to a feline. Our first worry was, how do we water our plants that were close to her? But there was nothing we could do. The cat was tired, worried, and aggressive. After our initial panic attack subsided, we decided to accommodate her, only for a few days.

We kept peeping out. The tiny whiskered angels were irresistible. But even more attractive was their mom’s nurturing, as she fed, licked and caressed them. A scene straight out of Animal Kingdom was unfolding before us, and it was just so beautiful. Within a few hours, our feral guest was comfortable with us snooping around. However, she sent out a clear message “Keep a safe distance! It’s in your own interest.” Her eyes kept scanning the surroundings like a VIP’s bodyguard. Her ears were always alert.

We just let the day pass. We were worried about our plants. Should we feed her? How long would she stay? Will our balcony stink? Will she enter the kitchen? Several questions kept cropping up. We were totally unprepared. Regardless of the overpowering cuteness of her kittens, we secretly hoped the cat leaves.

The next morning we went to check on her. To our surprise, the corner was empty. The cat had actually left, along with her litter. Something stirred within us. We were not happy. Our plants were safe, but were the kittens? Now, a new set of questions replaced the old ones. Did she find our home unsafe? Did she sense our discomfort? Why didn’t we feed her? How we longed to see the kitties. But, life moved on. We kept watering our plants. Our garden kept growing.

After a few days, the cat came back alone. She just sat on the extension of our balcony. This time our hearts went out to her. We gave her food. She ate, rested for a while, and left. Soon this became a daily routine. Now, we miss her when she does not drop by. She arrives like a coy girl, meowing softly for food. But she will walk away with an attitude of a snobbish rock-star. Sometimes her demeanour is like a land-lady who has come to collect her dues.

There are times when she tries to enter the house. We forbid her. We get angry. She runs but doesn’t drop her guard. She talks to us through her eyes, “You give me food because you like me. I am under no obligation to please you.”

That’s true. She is a cat and will behave like one. We feed her because we are fond of her. We have learnt to appreciate her for what she is. Dogs become our natural pets because we can train them to adjust to our lifestyle. In some way, they accept the superiority of the human race. But that’s not the case with cats. They teach us to co-exist with animals. To treat them as equals.

A month has passed. We water our plants and feed the cat at the same time. Our plants have grown bigger, and so have our hearts. We call her Goldie. Not because of the colour of her fur, but for the small golden moments that she brings along daily.