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"Lessons From a Cat" by Lilli L. Fuentes

Posted by siyerwin on Friday, May 16, 2008 at 9:00 PM

(Re-posted with permission from the author)

SKELETAL, except for his bulging tummy, Toby was a kitten destined to spend his entire life in the alleys and corners of our school. Nobody could possibly have wanted him. I didn't want him, but huddled among the bushes that evening, he looked like a lost boy. And then he followed me, as fast as his infant legs could carry him, to the jeepney stop.

Right there and then, something strange but familiar tugged at my heart. Motherly instinct, perhaps. My best friend gave me a wry smile when I begged her to put Toby in a box.

Our first week together was awkward. I've had a teddy bear and a stuffed pig, but I've never held a real, live cat in my arms. As days passed by, he grew bigger and his cries got louder. It became increasingly difficult to hide him among the pots and rocks in our garden.

As I feared, my mom went ballistic upon learning about my latest acquisition. But I ignored her sermon about the impracticability of keeping a pet and the subject of cat poop.

I was like that with my mother. I could never make her understand what I felt, using the only language I knew. So, I would just retreat in silence until she gave up and let the matter go.

The idea of being responsible for someone was a novelty for me. I began to linger at the table, collecting scraps from every plate and preparing Toby's meal. Afterwards, my sisters would make fun of the way he walked, swinging from side to side because of the heavy weight of his belly. And though she would never admit it, I caught an amused look on my mom's face one night.

Toby spent most of his time sleeping in a shoe box until he became too big to fit in it. I loved to watch him stretch and curl like a ball, looking as if he never knew a single moment of hunger, cold or fear in his life.

When my best friend visited, she almost did not recognize the cat in a checkered vest and matching collar. "So how did you do it?" she asked. "How did you come to love this thing?"

I myself didn't know how. Toby waited for me at the door and sat with me when I studied. But he was a cat. Cats do not jump up and down when you're home, or wet your face with licks and kisses. In fact, you do not have a clue whether or not they are happy to see you at all. But there I was, loving someone who I wasn't sure loved me back.

Toby died just months after we celebrated his second birthday. It was my first time, as an adult, to be overwhelmed by a deep sense of loss. But I did not lapse into silent mode this time, especially not with my mother. She was the one who had taken turns with me, feeding Toby and giving him his medicines. She had allowed Toby to worm his way inside her heart. In the end, she was the only person who understood my grief. I think Toby struggled to live just long enough for my mother and me to become friends. It's been five years. I thought I would never love again, but things have actually gotten worse. I found myself a new pet, a dog this time. Now we have seven of them, plus three cats and two rabbits that survived my sister's experiments in medical school. My mother is protesting that I have turned our house into an orphanage.

Being with animals, I've learned a different means of communicating, one that does not leave people trapped in semantic confusion and syntax errors. Speaking from my heart, I have found a way to make others listen to what I am not saying.

In a cynical world like this, it is fashionable to be cold and calculating. "You must know how to play the game," my best friend warned me.

But I do not want to build walls, or wear masks, or resort to subterfuge. I value my compassion, spontaneity, and ability to love purely, without conditions.

True, a thousand needles have pricked my heart, but I feel more human.

Amazing how a little kitten started this all.

Lilli L. Fuentes is a corporate lawyer who is also a consummate animal lover. She runs a veterinary clinic with her veterinarian husband in Greenwoods Executive Village in Pinagbuhatan, Pasig City. She also runs a blog ( with her dog Moymoy who, oddly, only likes to blog during Mondays. Last month, Lilli went to Iloilo to have a little vacation but she ended up rescuing and bringing back 7 stray puppies with her to Manila. Read that amazing story at She's currently looking for foster homes for the puppies.

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  1. 3 comments: Responses to “ "Lessons From a Cat" by Lilli L. Fuentes ”

  2. By Greenwoods Pet Clinic on May 26, 2008, 11:19:00 PM

    Hey Sherwin! Its an honor to be mentioned here in your blog, thank you very much. I am happy to inform you that all seven Aspin puppies were adopted and taken home by their respective new families last Saturday. Two pups were adopted by a regular reader of your blog who found out about our blog and the puppies we rescued by following the links in your post. Isnt that amazing??! Thank you very much once again- Lilli

  3. By siyerwin on May 27, 2008, 9:17:00 AM

    Hi, Lilli! That's great news! I think you should join our adoption team and tell us your secret! hehehe. Kidding aside, I'm really happy for those pups. That is some reversal of fortune. All thanks to you, attorney!

    Hope to see you at the shelter!!! :)


  4. By Anonymous on Jan 8, 2010, 1:47:00 AM


    I remember Toby...

    Lynnette Ecraela-Duckenfield

Post a Comment

Please do not leave your email or contact numbers in the comments. Email me directly at sherwin @ if you have concerns or questions. This blog is increasingly attracting breeders/pet sellers trying to advertise their business through the comments and I don't want that. The blog seems to also be becoming a bulletin board of sorts for people who wish to abandon their pets. allows no way to edit your comments so there I have no other option but to delete comments that I deem inappropriate in this regard. I apologize for the inconvenience. Again, if you have any questions/concerns, better to email me at sherwin @ than to comment here. Thank you very much!

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