I pulled into the driveway, gazing up at the beautiful redwoods through my bug splattered windshield as I parked my car. It’s a year later as I nervously climb the steps to Wild Cat Education and Conservation Fund (WCE&CF) as a new volunteer. As I enter, I hear a warning from inside as Rob moves toward the door to the hallway where the new black leopard kitten is scampering about. Walking in on exotic kittens seems to be in my cards, a déjà vu moment that reminds me of Bandhu. I can’t help but hope that he still has his unique smile, a symphony of soft pink and fluffy white. I am certain that by now all of his kitten fur is gone, replaced by a thick, water repellent coat. Will he recognize me? Definitely not. Kittens forget people and their faces just as easily as we do when we are babies. No, he won’t remember a single thing about me. He won’t remember me gazing down at his heavy eye lids and gaping yawn. He won’t remember the uneven texture of my old jacket, nor will he remember the sound of my voice.
On September 2nd, 2013, Bandhu, meaning “friend” in Nepali, was born. He began his life quite small, weighing a pound and 12 ounces at 5 weeks of age. He lives at the Wild Cat Education and Conservation Fund in the heart of a redwood forest in California.
I remember the first time I laid eyes on this peculiar fishing cat. When I arrived at the compound, he was napping for a second or two, a necessity in order to recover from an hour of play. As he heard strange voices he scampered out of his carrier and hid behind a box. For a moment he managed to suppress his curiosity, but soon he faltered and peeked his head around to snatch a look at me. His eyes were glossy and arranged very close together, a useful quality for a cat who fishes most of his life. Four distinct stripes of a dark brown hue trailed down his forehead. White linings complimented his eyes both from above and below like stretched clouds on a lazy day, blending with his fluffed blotches of black and brown fading at the tips. His ears were rather small and geometric in comparison to his head. He was covered in the type of fluff that only a kitten can boast. A splash of pink and white highlighted his permanent smile, accenting his youth as his whiskers flicked this way and that. After a few moments of taking me in with his eyes, Bandhu put forward a paw, then another and another, softly resting each of his pads on the floor as he slinked towards me to investigate me in my entirety.