Wild Cats in a Suburban Jungle
This short story was submitted to satisfy an english course requirement.
With ears laid flat like a WWII D-day invasion glider, the kitten flattens herself on the cushion, hidden by the arm of the maroon and brown print couch. She is stalking her prey, like the wild Serval she is descended from. In this case her sister Ayo is the prey. Ayo and Gabatta are Savannah cats, a new domestic breed. There is also a third Savannah lurking nearby, Mankala who is just over a year old. Savannahs are related to the African Serval and because my wife and I enjoy different games, we decided to name them all Mankala, an African board game. Ayo is Nigerian for Mankala and also means “Joy,” while Gabatta is an Ethiopian variant of the game.
These are very special and unique cats; each cat a miniature replica of a Serval. They are bred for long lithe bodies and short tails. Their lean bodies are covered in short waterproof fur spotted like a leopard. These beautiful cats are almost invisible as they lie motionless on the dark living room couch, made undistinguishable by the myriad of highlights and shadows of the dry African plain that is their camouflaged coat.
They have much larger than normal ears that make the small head look even smaller. On the back of each ear is oscelli, a light marking on the dark background that looks like eyes. It is a characteristic that confuses predators and prey because each is unsure which way the cat is facing. Their eyes are rimmed in dark black markings that are reminiscent of depictions of Queen Cleopatra. Mankala’s eyes are a bright golden orange, while the kittens’ eyes are light hazel. In the dark, Mankala’s eyes reflect a burning orange-red.
At only four months old, the veterinarian said the sisters could have been mistaken for seven month old kittens due to their size. At six months these kittens are the size of most traditional-breed full grown house cats. Savannahs grow for two to three years and can average twenty pounds when fully mature. The two sisters are of an earlier generation than Mankala, and already outweigh her by over three pounds.
When the Savannahs are lost or separated from the others, or when they want your attention, they chirp, not a meow like you would expect. By looking at them you might even think to hear a mighty roar, but no. They chirp, like a bird. The other Savannahs go running looking for the missing cat when they hear chirping. They also talk to “prey” on the other side of the window. Sitting on the back of the couch, with ears flat against the side of her head, Gabatta crouches as low as her body will allow, chattering and chirping, at birds, squirrels, even a leaf rustling in the wind.
Ayo walks unsuspectingly past the couch where Gabatta is concealed, and Gabatta with her whiskers pushed forward, wiggles her rear and launches a powerful pounce onto her sister. Ayo jumps straight up in the air two and a half feet then runs at a full sprint through the house with Gabatta and Mankala pursuing her at a breakneck pace. The sound is of a herd of wild stampeding horses thundering across an open field. All Savannahs love to climb, so older and wiser Mankala jumps in two bounds to the top of a bookshelf to oversee the battle. Ayo stops dead in her tracks, and Gabatta jumps over her and the race continues. When they finally stop, they both rise up on their hind legs and bat at each other in mock combat. They lunge and lock arms like pro wrestlers. Ayo, the larger of the two, gets the upper paw, and throws Gabatta to the sculpted Berber carpet. With a mighty leap she arcs through the air and lands where Gabatta had been as Gabatta runs through the living room and the chase is on again. Mankala watches, leaning intently over the edge of her perch, as if she were a gambler anxiously awaiting the outcome of a historic sports event.
The kittens have been running and playing so hard they pant, another Savannah trait. Finally worn out, they trot to the parquet floor, plop themselves down on the cool wood and begin to bathe each other. They clean ears, wash foreheads and under chins, and even groom whiskers. Mankala grandly prances past dragging a towel between her legs, proud of her most recent kill. Once the kittens cool down, the whole cycle of prowling and stalking through the dense undergrowth of the house begins anew.