I have lately been at the receiving end of much ire from dog lovers within my friends and family. This is due to the fact I have become a cat person after keeping dogs for as far as I can remember. This change of heart was initiated by a Siamese cat named ‘Sheroo’ that came into my life many years ago. When this wonderful animal passed away after giving me companionship for fourteen years, I decided that the best tribute I could pay to my departed friend was to continue enjoying the company of felines.

An old classmate of mine, who now lives in the United States of America, believes that cats are creatures from the fifth dimension. Without detriment to whichever dimension they belong to, this species has long been considered mysterious. The ancient Egyptians worshipped it, while many pagan religions considered this animal to possess supernatural powers.

In our own part of the world, cats are part of many superstitions. There is a venerable distinguished gentleman, who (along with a great many people) thinks that if a black cat crosses his path, it will bring bad luck. On more than one occasion I have seen him stop his car on seeing a black feline get to the other side and wait till another vehicle has crossed the spot before driving on.

Hollywood has used the cat mystique to good effect in horror movies making witch craft and black felines synonymous. Take for example the movie ‘Mummy’, where the ancient horror disintegrates into sand on seeing a cat in the hero’s hotel room.

It is said that cats do not get attached to people, but to places. I find this to be untrue as I have seen this animal getting as attached to people as dogs. One of my close relatives compares his cat to a sedative. This does not come as a surprise because feline purring is reputed to reduce tension and lower blood pressure.

Cats are also used by therapists to treat special children and mentally handicapped persons. These wonderful creatures prove to be excellent companions to the elderly. I can recall an old house in Lahore known to all and sundry as ‘Billion waaliKothi’ (The Bungalow with the Cats). This colonial type structure stood in the middle of a very large compound identifiable because of a spacious enclosure containing a dozen or more cats. The owner of the house was an old spinster, who was totally devoted to her feline companions and lived happy in this relationship.

I know that cat owners (I am one of them),sorely grieve at the passing away of their purring friends. I can still recall the night that my Siamese died because of acute diabetes. I sat up with him in my vet’s clinic as he sank deeper and deeper into a coma and finally gave up his ghost as the call to prayer sounded from Faisal Mosque. I could not help, but do a column on the ‘tragedy’ and was deluged by mails from cat lovers who found empathy in what I had written.

Then there is a close female relative, whose love for cats is amazing. She has on many occasions braved oncoming traffic to rescue tiny strays from the middle of busy roads and take them home to be cared for and adopted. Her current population of cats is five and likely to grow.

Mark Twain has written about cats and even Leonardo da Vinci has honored members of the feline species. As far as I am concerned there can be no better closing line for this week’s column than a popular saying amongst animal lovers - “Dogs have owners, Cats have Staff”.

The writer belongs to a very old and established family of the Walled City. His forte is the study of History.