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“Meow, Meow” Around the World

We love them. They love us. We’ve encountered them in Bora Bora, Antigua, France, Italy, Slovakia, Greece, and many other countries around the world. “Meow, meow” is their international language. They work day and night, always finding a way to take care of themselves, even in the most adverse environments. What would the world be without cats?

Cats are independent. They clean their rooms, buy their clothes, and drive themselves to work. They synchronize their paws to the jazz melodies of street performers and jump around, biting their tails in excitement. Cats can race across the room and crash into a door, get up and pretend as nothing happened. It’s not an accident, but rather a spontaneous show. Sometimes their jumps are shortsighted, making their paws slip on the floor. No worries. It was all calculated. They flee the scene unharmed and lick their boo-boo behind the couch, too proud to admit that they hurt themselves – if they even did.

Sam and I know a thing or two about cats as we grew up surrounded by them in our respective countries, Italy and Slovakia. A few weeks before Sam was born, his parents adopted a cat called Micina (kitten), who became Sam’s companion for sixteen years. She slept at the end of his bed and acted as his alarm clock every morning. Micina was Sam’s first best friend. She taught him how to chase birds around the front yard, play hide and seek, and most importantly, how to take a “pisolino” (afternoon nap) – vital information for an Italian boy.

At my grandma’s house in Slovakia, we always had cats, from what I can remember. Some were ours, and some just stopped by for a visit. Perhaps they overheard that my grandma generously feeds any visitors and has hay bales in the backyard that are perfect for napping, playing, or even birthing cute kittens. If we were ever running short on cats, my younger self would go scouting throughout my grandma’s village looking for some available kittens to kidnap... I mean, “adopt.” At one point, it seemed as if we had more cats than people in my family.

In Bora Bora, we met a friendly feline at the beach where we were staying. She was outstretched on the sand, looking at the fish circling in the water. A few feet from the beach deckchairs was the restaurant that began serving the early-bird patrons. The Bora Bora cat followed us to the table and checked out our order. She wasn’t too impressed with our tray of pastries and assorted tropical fruits. She moved on to the next table in search of her favorite meal – “fish and fish” (double the fish minus the chips).

In Greece, cats look like they are at peak comfortability as they lounge under the warm sun. In Paros, one of the islands we visited, the cats seem to have adapted to the American tourist schedule, as they were the first to show up at restaurants a 6:00 p.m. sharp. They would spread out and take their positions at each table to beg for a piece of fish and, if lucky, some leftover meat from the lamb ribs. And if you let them, once you are done with your meal, they will “clean” the table faster than any Greek waiter.

We met cats on Broadway in New York. Cats, the musical, attempts to bridge man into their world of lightheartedness, camaraderie, and pure joy. We could be part of the gang, with me as the curious and romantic dancing white cat and Sam as the friendly and easygoing Plato.

We love cats, and we just can’t hide it. But, of the many that we’ve met throughout all our adventures, one definitely stands out. His name is Griffin, our friend Emily and Amanda’s cat. We have looked after Griffin several times and have become best friends. Griffin is a Bengal with rich, marbled grey and black fur; his belly is covered by a white and light brown coat that’s as soft as cashmere.

Griffin is officially Emily’s cat. Amanda has two other pets, a white and dark pearl Siamese. It doesn’t help their case that they’re not as social as Griffin. Despite Amanda’s cats being cute, Griffin trumps all when it comes to class, character, and intelligence. He walks elegantly around the house, blinks his sparkling emerald eyes, raises his tail, and says: “Meow, meow,” which often translates to: “Where is my food?” And he is quite the talented actor as well when he plays his rehearsed script: “Please, please, feed me. Don’t you see how much I am suffering?” - even when he had his meal less than an hour before. He slurps up his wet food in seconds and isn’t particularly crazy for dry food, which is his last resort when he gets the munchies.

Griffin is germaphobic when it comes to his litter box. His toilet must be cleaned at least once a day and sometimes even more. And those are the days when he coincidentally is able to sneak into the other cats’ room and steal some of their wet food: double the pleasure, double the poop. And Sam has to do double the work.

Sometimes he disappears and makes us worried. We cannot afford to lose Griffin, or Emily would have a fit, and rightly so. Where could she find another cat as friendly and cute as Griffin? But after a long search around the house, we find him squeezed in some remote place or snoring in the laundry chest. The reward of taking care of Griffin is more than taking care of his toilet or hearing his complaints of hunger. We know what he wants to convey when he licks our hands with his sandpaper-like tongue: “I love you guys. What are you doing? Can we play for a little bit?” He sits down with us on the carpet by the fireplace and relaxes.

No matter where we travel, Sam and I come across some cat that becomes one of the highlights of our journey. One day we may go to Egypt, where cats were worshipped as gods thousands of years ago. Cats may not be gods, but they rule the house of cat lovers that could not live without their meow, meow.

~ Written by: Viktoria Rusnakova & Samuele Bagnai, authors of Enthusiastic All the Way & Tuscan Who Sold His Fiat to the Pope, respectively.

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