I had a bright idea the other day: putting my cat up on top of the wall would be a great way to keep her away from my food. Every time I begin to cook it activates a little white furry homing beacon: within five seconds Hobbes comes flying into the kitchen, mewing and purring and trying to separate a piece of bread or soya from the pack in order to move in for the kill.
It’s not like I don’t feed her. I buy cisense exclusively for Hobbes’ consumption (cisense, n. chih-sense-ay: small juvenile fish of multiple species, harvested from streams and lakes typically with mosquito nets, dried and sold on the side of the tarmac; local price is currently K1/cup), and I already feel not a little guilty that my cat gets fed more protein than 75% of the kids in my village. Yet this pampered pet prefers to nibble on the fresh-baked bread I buy from the tuck shop at the school. Three days ago she nibbled right through a Ziplock bag. Iwe, I brought these with me from America, I complained. She ignored me, clearly failing to grasp the significance of from America, that highest tier of Peace Corps Zambia volunteer possession rankings which simultaneously represents both quality and scarcity (from Lusaka is next, followed by from the boma, then in the village, and finally sheepishly bringing up the rear is I made it myself). I can rattle off all of the prized possessions I brought with me from America in 7.8 seconds. I glared at her. She yawned and closed her eyes, filing her own grievance with a dismissive meow.
Picking her up and tossing her out of the room isn’t a very effective deterrent – she just grumbles and wanders back in. But from the top of the wall, a curious kitten has free reign over a veritable maze of walltops and roof support branches, a new world rife with opportunities to satiate even the most inquisitive of felines. Meanwhile, I can cook and eat in blissful peace without an obstinate Hobbes sticking her nose in every single place I don’t want to see it. Once I’m done cooking, I’ll just lift a disgruntled cat back down and she’ll be none the worse for wear. Mwila sakamana. No worries.
I lifted my protesting, squirming kitten up onto the living room wall. Tentatively she began to explore her new surroundings. We’ll see how long it takes you to find your way down, I told her, immensely pleased with myself.
Ten minutes later: a muffled crash from the back of the hut, a loud meow. Hobbes trots back into the living room and makes a beeline for my plate, purring like a V8 engine. Sigh. Back to the drawing board.