Indonesia : ‘unity in diversity’ ; Travelogue Day 5

Jakarta — The city of cats

Jakarta : It is said that we can find house cats in every continent except Antarctica. They are quite common across all other continents and have been man’s friend like dogs since times immemorial.

As I stepped out of the exclusive residential complex Executive Paradise, developed in Antasari, Cilandak, South Jakarta, for expat community, I was in for a surprise. I had seen cats in the sprawling complex of bungalows and apartments just like we see them back home in Delhi.

However, as I stepped out of the complex on the highway I was greeted by a strange sight. Couple of cats were quietly sitting on the footpath, focused on the traffic, observing it with a dead pan face, exactly like officers manning immigration counters at Indian airports. A pedestrian walking past them at a touching distance had no affect on them. They simply sat frozen, unmoving and refused to acknowledge my presence. I was given the true cold shoulder.

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In India cats watch you intently and as you come in close they either scoot off at rocket speed or slither away.

As I moved ahead on my morning walk I started meeting these feline creatures by dozens, all on the pedestrian pathway next to the busy highway. Some were prancing around fearlessly while many were sitting quietly unmoving. But they simply refused to acknowledge any human presence around them. Many of them had stubby tails or no tails. I was told these tailless cats have evolved here. It is said that cats arrived in Indonesia from Holland in the 16th century. Before the arrival of the Dutch these islands were free of this feline creature.

Vegetable and meat market as well as the neighbourhood had hundreds of them roaming around fearlessly, crisscrossing the lanes and by lanes, exactly like lion and lionesses in a jungle.

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Jakarta is a city of cats. The number of cats in Indonesia equals the human population. Jakartans love cats and shelves in the grocery and pet shops are full of a variety of cat food, while there are very little dog food options.

Locals inform that Jakarta and Java are facing a stray cat menace and city’s civic administration is struggling to cope with this feline problem. Locals do feed cats but the sheer numbers is so high that catering to such a large number of stray cats is an impossible task.

My grand daughter loves pouring a carton of milk everyday for a group of five cats. Her parents have kept a bowl next to a bungalow where five stray cats live. They troop out one by one when the milk is poured in the bowl by her. There aren’t any scenes of pushing, fighting or growling. They drink the milk, lick the bowl clean and return to their executive paradise.

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Civic bodies and various social organisations regularly conduct cat sterilisation/neutering drives, so far unheard of in my part of the country. They are running cat care and veterinary centres besides having a number of cat adoption centres in and around Jakarta. Plan is to bring down the number of cats to prevent catastrophic consequences of their starvation, spread of rabies and diseases.

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There are no stray dogs in Jakarta and cats do not fear humans in this region. This is their territory and we, the human species, are welcome to share it with them.


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Sharat Sharma

Sharat Sharma is an indefatigable traveller and explorer from Delhi. For Sharat, age is just a number because what matters is the indomitable will to get moving.

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