Cat Tails

Ubud Writers & Readers Writing Workshop – Do you have a story?

“If animals could speak, the dog would be a blundering outspoken fellow; but the cat would have the rare grace of never saying a word too much.”  Mark Twain

Obviously Mr Twain never met a Bali cat.  The real one that is, not the one masquerading  as a Bali cat calling themselves Balinese. Many Bali cats are very vocal, possibly due to  their Oriental connection. Certainly my cat Tango has a voice. A friend once commented  that if she were a man her language would be very colourful! She is known to the Villa  Kitty staff as ‘the boss’. My girl has attitude!

Tango and her brother Yoko Onooo “how did I get a girl’s name!” were tiny kittens when  I found them on separate occasions in Ubud in 2008. They have now been joined by  darling ‘legally blind, she wouldn’t get a driver’s license’, LeChat, the very timid Forest,  my sweet beautiful Maya, Ushki who has fur like a plush puppy toy, the super model  twins with their long limbs and amazing markings, Honey & HaSheba, and Quincy Jones  who plays rough-house Rosies with my Bali dogs. And we all live together in our house  that backs on to Villa Kitty. It often happens that my ruang tamu, lounge room, gets the  overflow from Villa Kitty too so the numbers can rise dramatically. We are 20 at home  today, with a total of 127 altogether at Villa Kitty.

I caught up with a friend recently who told me her husband had ‘converted’. Buddhism? No, she replied, this once “dog” man is now a converted felinophile! She related how an uninvited visitor arrived about a year ago, a pretty, long haired Tortie not more than 12 months old. It was a definite ‘no’ to the cat staying from her husband and anyway he added they were picking up their puppy from the local refuge soon, once the fence was in place.

The cat persisted, sitting at their front door, every so often putting her two front paws up to the glass. They fed her, of course while looking for the owner. When the owner was not to be found they arranged for a friend to come and adopt her. The friend arrived and the cat disappeared. The friend left and the cat reappeared! My friend swears the cat came out of hiding and wrapped her arms around her husband’s legs! The cat stayed, the puppy arrived and they are best friends.

We hear some great stories from visitors to Villa Kitty, with the children often telling the best. I love  their animated faces as they relate tales of their favourite cat who plays with their dog and then they  all sleep together. Too often it’s the adult’s fears that have people choosing one over the other.

Villa Kitty is hosting our third Ubud Writers & Readers Festival writing workshop for children.  Run in both Bahasa Indonesia and English, it is for children from 5 – 12 years but I think that some  “older” children could participate also. I know the child in me will be ready with pen and paper.


  • Bali cat adventures! Join Nicholas Mark, finalist in the 2013 Australian Arts in Asia Awards, at Villa Kitty, Bali’s first cat sanctuary, where he will lead you through the maze of the mysteries of writing a fantasy/adventure children’s book. Nicholas will talk about his experiences creating his contemporary Asia-themed children’s literature. Listen to him play the didgeridoo & see what the cats think about this! Let your imagination run wild & create your own adventure at Villa Kitty where you will learn about the importance of cats in our lives.
  • Bilingual | for ages 5-12 years | suitable for 40 participants.

I am serious about getting a book of cat stories together. I guess it’s because I am here at the coalface that I hear so many wonderful, funny, often poignant stories that should be recorded. Cats don’t take up much room in the home and when they’ve snuggled into your heart there’s just not much you can do about it. They are there forever.

Please contact me if you are interested.

Email me or text +6281558701737 or visit and our facebook page for further information about our projects.

Instinct – Daughters & Kittens

Every Child Deserves a Kitten

Published in The Bali Times – Friday 15 January 2010

“Check your departure time, please!” I begged Isobella. “Yes, yes” promises my dutiful daughter, the one who always listens respectfully and then does exactly whatever she pleases. This time was no different and when she finally did my worst fears were confirmed. Whilst her departure is Saturday, it is ten minutes after midnight Saturday. One full day earlier than we had thought!

I hate saying goodbye, that final hug before my child disappears through the hungry airport doors leaves me feeling like I’d been punched in the stomach. I hate the trip home from the airport when I sit, tears dripping down my cheeks, snivelling and wondering why, yet again, I didn’t bring tissues. Thank goodness I carry my ever present sarong. Those wonderful sarongs that have carefully gathered up all sorts of little puppies and kittens over the years here in Bali but which on other occasions double as an over sized hanky. Whitney Houston is singing ‘I look to you’ from her latest album, a gift from Isobella. Honk, honk – I am hopeless!

Isobella had spent her Christmas holidays with me but, as all good things do, the holiday had come to an end and life must return to normal and I am left with the memories of this wonderful time with her.

We played tennis and badminton. We salsa-ed and dined out at Indus and other gorgeous restaurants, we rode bicycles from Kintamani to Ubud and swam at Sengkidu and caught up with other friends on holiday but possibly, unanimously agreed, the sweetest memory is the three days when Miss Kitty came to stay.

The Sunday after Christmas Ibu Made, mother of Putu, the young girl who spent each Sunday with me, learning English while we cleaned puppies cages had came to see me. She stood on the bottom step of my terrace with her youngest child, Made, a little boy with an angelic face and a temperament to match.  Ibu Made had just dropped Putu off at Roda Internet where she now had computer lessons each Sunday. Not quite the same as the warm and fuzzy Sundays at the animal shelter but still productive as she was using a program which helped with her English.

They had come to ask a favour. Just recently, explained Ibu Made, they had found a tiny kitten, wet and shivering having been caught out in these heavy summer rains and had brought her home. They were going to Singaraja the next day for a ceremony and wondered if I would be able to look after the kitten for the three nights they would be away. Of course, said Isobella, but I was more than a little concerned as my two, Tango & Yoko Ono, are spoiled and therefore very territorial. But, yes of course, we’d ‘kittysit’!

Little Made who had been standing silently beside his mother during our conversation pulled at her sleeve and whispered something. Ibu Made turned to back to me and said “You will give her back, won’t you!”

The following morning they arrived with “Miss Kitty” and our hearts melted as Made reluctantly handed her over, his beautiful brown eyes watching her and willing her to know she would see him again.

Kittens remind me of daughters during the sweetest little time when the world is pretty and butterflies need to be chased but never caught. Isobella was my human kitten with her green eyes and lithe limbs as she easily climbed and danced around our garden. She had a delicate nature with a smile never too far from her lips and giggles that tinkled. But don’t let me get too romantic – like my hissing, spitting Tango & Yoko Ono, now both nearly two years old who were not handling this little interloper – Isobella’s late teen years were less than “sweet”! Life comes full circle and I have a young adult who I admire and miss horribly.

Miss Kitty wasn’t in the slightest bit impressed with the large cage nor the kitten food or toys. All she wanted to do was play with Tango & Yoko Ono. They, on the other hand, acted like a pair of spoilt brats, using language that would have made Sinbad the cat sailor blush! But this tiny kitten with a personality bigger than Brutus the Rottweiler would have nothing of it.  Miss Kitty stalked them, jumped out from behind cushions and gilded bathroom doors, patting at their flicking tails and taking flight as their tempers frayed and they turned with menacing looks that suggested the worst but then walked off knowing they too had succumbed to this tiny kitten’s persistence.

While she was with us we had her sterilised, with the permission of Ibu Made, of course. It is truly amazing that kittens and puppies are now able to be sterilised at an earlier age than in the past thus saving unwanted pregnancies! She was home by 3 o’clock the same afternoon and that was the only time we had any peace from her pouncing personality. Anaesthetic does have that effect!

In three days Miss Kitty had won our hearts. We were a glum lot taking her back to little Made but one consolation was that this little boy loved his Miss Kitty.


Instinct – Mango, My Bali Cat. Published in The Bali Times, 08 June 09

I am lying on my bed, a tear rolls across the bridge of my nose under my eye on to the pillow. I have silently cried for over 24 hours and I wonder if there will be a time when I don’t feel this horrible pain of loss.

‘Don’t cry anymore’ Ganceng, one of my good friends at Honeymoon Guesthouse, tells me as I pass him on the way to work. I nod. Every time I open my mouth my voice is hoarse as I choke back the tears.

It happened so fast. Just like every accident that happens due to speed. One minute you are speeding along and the next minute you loose control because of something, something that, at normal speeds you could have easily avoided.

I look down. The cyclist is getting up. He’s ok. He turns to pick up his bike. How on earth did that happen? I walk around to see and there he is. Unmistakeable. The only white cat with ginger markings in the street.

He was from Jalan Suweta, Ubud’s Royal family’s street. I always said he and his sister were a royal pair! They were playing on the side of the road the day my friend, Janet, her two daughters and I found them. Janet’s girls wanted them but Janet said no! However they could live with me over at Second Honeymoon Guesthouse and her girls could visit.

He has the longest legs and his fur is pure white with ginger markings. Somehow I have dropped all my belongings. I pick him up. I know I am speaking but I’m incomprehensible.

Vet, Vet. It’s too late, I know. Vet, I am whispering now. Blood is pouring from his nose. I am covered in it. I hug him to my chest and keep saying his name. Mango, Mango. His body twitches but he is no longer in pain. Tears & blood are soaking us. I hear Yukde say ‘No, not just a cat. He was her child’.

My friend Made is stunned. He was about to drive me to Casa Luna and had just pulled up in his car. He has my bag, picked up, from where ever I’d thrown it. The motor cyclist is saying ‘but he just came out too quickly’. I look up at him. I know him. ‘You were speeding’. I say. How many times have I called out to people in this street? Slow down.

I hold my boy to my chest. His life is slipping away in my arms. He has gone.

Made hands me a sarong and I gently wrap up his body. A friend arrives and walks with me home. I have to shower but I don’t want to let go of him. I wrap him up in another sarong, a soft blue one, and place him on the bathroom floor.

Another blue sarong is wrapped around him and I go back with my friend. I am holding him on my lap. His body is still warm. The staff have heard and silently they start coming by. They bring messages from friends in Jalan Bisma. They have all had to catch him, and his siblings, on nights when I was late home. He was loved. One or two laugh gently, not in any malicious way, but to lull me out of my sadness. I will, I promise, smile again but now I can’t.

So much emotion over a cat? Is it strange in this society? He wasn’t perfect, the New Year’s morning snake in my bedroom and a couple of smelly mistakes on the bathroom floor, the neighbour’s chickens. The chickens were saved by quick thinking staff and delivered back, a little worse for the wear but alive. No he wasn’t perfect.

He and his two siblings have been my comfort here in Ubud so far from my children. They have bought me so much joy and he especially with his vocal responses to my calls when arriving home.

The staff bury him in the place where he, Tango and Yoko Ono had played so often in the past 15 months. They bring offerings and place them on his body that is now waiting for the earth to cover him.

Goodbye my beloved Mango, my beautiful Bali cat.

The air is cool and evening is descending. Friends come after work and we sit on my veranda. Tango and Yoko Ono are both sitting together on the wall surrounding the guesthouse temple. They sit quietly, staring toward Mango’s resting place.

One day at a time.

If you risk loving, you risk getting hurt. Isn’t that how the saying goes. But if you don’t take the risk you also miss out on the joy. Fifteen short months with my beautiful Bali cat but it was fifteen months of joy.