l woke up at about 4am one morning, to fetch some water. When l got to the tap, l noticed a movement. I quickly flashed my touch in the direction of the movement and there it was, just staring at me. Its eyes were round and shiny. Its fur, black. It stared at me unwaveringly with those huge, round, shiny eyes. It was a cat.
“Chai May, your own don be. Wetin carry you comot this early morning? You see as this cat de look you? You sure say no be winch? See as the body kuku black sef. This cat be winch o. You no go run go back room before E turn to human being?” That was the voice of fear talking to me.
” Tarr! Sharap there. Winch ko? Who tell you say winch de waka by this time? You no see say day don break? No winch go de waka by dis kin time na. Except de winch wan die. Na ordinary cat be that. Even if na winch sef, no be to shout “Jesus?” The winch go pick race by force. Na today?” That was the voice of courage rebuking the voice of fear.
” May no mind that yeye fear you hear? It continued. Shebi you Remember say Bible talk say God no give us spirit of fear? No fear. Na ordinary cat ojare.”
The exchange only took a few seconds but after listening to both voices, l decided to go with the second one. I put down my buckets and proceeded to open the tap. All the while, my dark friend was still staring at me. I have this habit of talking to animals like l talk to human beings. So when the cat wouldn’t stop staring, l said ” hello” and waved my hand. Maybe l waved too hard. It got scared and scampered for safety while my hand was still in the air.
That encounter reminded me of the first time l was told cats were evil creatures and animals that are easily possessed by witches. One of my neighbours had bought a kitten. Now, this neighbour whom my siblings and l called fat lady behind her back, was not on good terms with my Mum. Because she was not on good terms with Momsie, my siblings and l stopped greeting her. Now that l think of it, the reason why they started beefing each other, is one of the most ridiculous things on earth. But as kids, we didn’t know any better so we joined forces with Momsie against a lady who used to be very nice to us.
Our hatred for her intensified the more the day one of my siblings woke up to say, as we were slept, he woke up to see fat lady standing beside our bed. She was holding a knife over him and was going to stab him. He shouted ‘Jesus’ and she disappeared. Only to reappear in front of my parents bedroom. He shouted ‘Jesus’ again and she disappeared finally. It could have been real, it could have been a dream. It could even have been the hallucinations of a seven years old. I don’t know. But l remember that because of that narration, everyone in the family soon agreed that fat lady was a witch.
The morning devotion that day was something else. Momsie used over one hour to pray and thank God for exposing our enemy and delivering her son from witchcraft manipulation.
Whenever fat lady, who didn’t know what was happening, passed by our door or window, Momsie would begin to sing one of those ‘amebo’ Christian songs women sing when they want to pass across a message either to an erring neighbour or husband.
” Satan shame unto you. All powers belong to Jesus. Shame unto you. All powers belong to Jesus. Witches shame onto you. All powers belong to Jesus…”
After a few rounds of singing alone, We would join her to proclaim the power of Jesus over Satan. That song came to our lips if and only if it was fat lady passing by. We made sure we sang out loud that soon it became obvious to her that our song was directed at her. Her countenance would change each time she heard us singing but she would pass quietly.
We finally got weary of singing but from that day forward, our wary eyes greeted Fat lady’s every move with suspicion. We even extended our suspicions to her Sugar Daddy whom we had also nicknamed fat man. We stopped greeting him too whenever he came for one of his weekly trysts. We concluded that he must have been a wizard to comfortably have relations with a witch. Only my dad didn’t care. He continued relating with the man.
Now, fat lady’s kitten was very beautiful. It was very small with beautiful eyes and a white fur streaked with brown near its tail. All the other kids played freely with it but not us. We had been instructed not to touch anything that belonged to fat lady. The first day l set my eyes on that kitten, l regretted the beef between fat lady and my mum. All l wanted to do was carry it in my arms and cuddle it. I would stand by our window and watch the other kids as they played with it, wishing it were me in their shoes.
I soon got my chance. One day, the compound was empty and out of boredom l guess, kitten made its way to our door. Its meows attracted me and l opened the door to let it in. l quickly carried it in my arms, my mother’s instructions forgotten. My siblings and l kept rubbing its fur and laughing at the way it snuggled deeper into my arms.
“What is that?” My father asked. we didn’t notice him come out of their bedroom.
“It’s a cat,” l responded.
” Where did it come from?”
” What is it doing here? Now Put it down and open the door for it to go out,” he shouted.
Before the cat could take a few steps, Dad was all over it, hitting it with his slipper. He hit it so hard like he wanted to kill it. The cat meowed pitifully. The meows hurt me so bad that l didn’t know when l cried, ” Daddy please stop. Don’t kill it.” I grabbed it and took it outside myself.
When l returned, Daddy gave us a lecture on how cats were evil creatures often used by witches to harm other people. He didn’t know that the kitten belonged to Fat lady but on hearing that Cats were animals possessed by witches, it wasn’t hard for me to believe my dad. Fat lady was a witch and she owned a cat. That singular act had confirmed she was truly a witch. Why would she have a Cat if she wasn’t one?
I grew up believing all cats are possessed by witches. It didn’t help that almost everyone around me believed the same thing. I recall a friend of mine telling me how an old woman in his neighbourhood was regarded as a witch by all. She owned two huge cats. She would sit in front of her house all day and both cats would sit on either side of her. You never saw her without them so It made people wary of her. Being old and owning cats meant only one thing. She was an old witch.
I asked someone to buy me a dog recently but he said he was either going to buy me an Owl( yucks!!) Or a Cat. I refused. l couldn’t bring myself to tell him that in Nigeria, cats are viewed as evil creatures. In Nigeria, Cats can easily be manipulated by witches. what if he bought me one and one witch somewhere decided to enter into it? What if being a chronic introvert, people began to attribute my keeping to myself, as witchcraft all because someone gifted me with a cat.
Nollywood didn’t help much. I remember in those days of movies like Karashika and End of the wicked, the witches would turn into cats in order to perpetuate their evil acts.
There is a lot of dislike for Cats in this part of the world that l feel bad for them sometimes. How they manage to survive in an environment such as ours, beats my imagination. I once watched a former colleague beat a cat to death. He had opened his bonnet that morning and there was the cat sleeping on his engine. After beating it to death, he picked up his phone and called his village to tell his mother about how witches had planned an accident for him but God had given him the strength to kill the evil messenger. Mind you, this cat was a cat l had seen walking on the office fence, several times.
Dogs, chickens, goats and other domestic animals, were created by God. The Same God that created Cats. How come we don’t view the others as evil creatures? Why is the Cat singled out as an evil thing? How many of us have actually seen a cat turn into a human? Or a human enter the body of a cat? I have only seen such happen in the movies or on the pages of a novel. Yet the belief is widespread. Black cats are even the worst hit. Growing up, every black cat was a potential witch. How did we arrive at such a conclusion?
To an extent, l have 98% purged myself of the idea that Cats are witch carriers. However, the remaining 2% chiefly made up of “what will people say,” still won’t let me consider having one as a pet.
How about you? Do you think Cats are evil? Do you agree that they are easily manipulated by witches? Do you fear them? If you do, why? Or have you once upon a time thought that Cats were evil but now you think otherwise? What made you change your mind?
Cats are lovely looking creatures. I am really curious to understand why our society has come to regard them as evil.