Chichi the Persian is 21 years old and determined to use up all her nine lives, even if
she gives her ‘mum’ a heart attack in doing so.

Chichi looks like a pretty normal Persian girl. She’s got thick grey fur, big eyes, and pads silently up and down the stairs. Although her back legs are a bit wobbly, suggesting that she’s no spring chicken, you’d never guess this lady is 21 years old. “Chichi was five or six when I got her,” Chichi’s “mum” muses. “So she’s at least 21, possibly 22.”

Few cats get to Chichi’s age, with an average family pet reaching 14 to 16 years, but Chichi has been a bit unusual all her life.

“I had just lost a cat; his name was Ujang, and I was in tears,” Chichi’s mum recalls. “Then the phone rang. It was a friend of mine, a shipper, who said that a couple had used him to transport their goods to Malaysia. However, when they got here, they quarrelled and split up. One of them went back to their home country, and the other told my friend to find a home for the cat, or he’d put her to sleep.

“At first I said no. I mean, I was upset, you know? My friend kept her for a few days, but he had dogs and they’re possessive and so he called again a few days later to say the cat was locked in the bathroom. I thought I’d take a look – just a look. And, of course, I fell in love with her.

“Funnily enough, Chichi took to me immediately, too. I took her home, and she followed me everywhere. When I went to work, she’d sit on the fence and look at the river and the wildlife. She’d wait for me there, and when I came home, she’d come running out to say hello.

“My mum and I sound a bit similar, and one day my mum told me that she had called Chichi and the cat came running. Then she suddenly stopped, looked about the porch, saw my car wasn’t there – and my mum says Chichi gave her a long look as if to say, ‘You can’t trick me!’ and then she stalked back to her fence.”

Chichi adored her new mum, so when other cats came knocking on the door, Chichi’s nose was put out of joint.

“When I adopted Mel, Chichi took over my bedroom and stayed there. That was five years ago, so she was quite old already then. Mel and the cats who followed, Puddles and Koko, would be in the kitchen and downstairs while Chichi’s domain was my room and the rest of the house. She was slowing down then, so she would sleep most of the day, go out for her walks by the river, and at night she’d sleep with me.”

Like most old folks, Chichi also began to have health issues.

“She went deaf about three or four years ago, which was all right because at that point she was mostly an indoor kitty,” her mum says. “But in January last year, she began to get seizures.

“It was terrifying! One day, I heard this terrible noise – and it was Chichi, screaming and salivating. I went to the vet and we did the full exam, blood, X-ray – the lot – and the results showed a kidney problem. We fixed that with a special diet, but we didn’t know why she was having seizures.

“The vet asked if I could video-
tape her the next time – I was totally appalled! I said, ‘I’m standing here crying and you’re asking me to tape her?’ He explained that if he could see her, it might give him a clue about what was going on. That made sense and, although it was very difficult, I did what he asked.”

The video revealed the problem, and Chichi is now on medication.

“I had to give her half a pill once a day, but this affected her hind paws, so we now give her a quarter of a pill. It’s not perfect but it’s much better.

“Also, a few years ago, I felt this lump on her head. The vet put Chichi out and took out the lump. I was imagining the worst, but it was just a cyst. That was a relief, but then Chichi took a whole day to come out from the anaesthetic. It happens, especially with old cats, but I really thought she’d had it. I sat by her carrier, crying my eyes out, and then suddenly she was moving and waking up. That was another miracle for me.

“Our last disaster was last week. My room door is always open – and, for some reason, Chichi decided she wanted to go for a walk. She hasn’t done this for ages, but that day she marched out, went downstairs and went outside. Of course, she’s old and deaf, and it began to rain. When I came home, I couldn’t find her. I panicked and looked everywhere for her! It wasn’t till the next morning I found her – alive and well but in the storm drain!

“I took her home and fussed over her. It wasn’t till later that I realised it was all my fault. Chichi has her tray in my bathroom, because she’s an old lady, so she has her own facilities and doesn’t have to go outside.

“She likes my bathroom dry or else she may slip when she uses her tray. That morning, I’d cleaned her tray and the floor, but then I forgot and left her tray on the loo. Chichi must have come in, thought, ‘Where is my tray?’ and gone outside like in the old days.

“Now I keep my bedroom shut and make doubly sure her tray is as she likes it.

“One thing about Chichi being deaf, though, is that after her storm drain adventure, I was able to give her a bath and use the hair-dryer. That prevented her from being cold or having to do a lot of maintenance work. I think she quite enjoyed herself, actually. When she was all clean again, I put her on the bed and said to her, ‘Chichi, no more gallivanting grandma antics. I don’t think I can stand it!’”