My friend Wendy decided she needed a new adventure, and not a conservative one either. So she decided to take a job in China for a year as a visiting editor to a local newspaper. She wasn’t sure whether to take her cat. I cautioned her against. This what I said to her:
“Don’t confuse Siamese with Chinese. Just because China has a history of Chinese temple dogs, doesn’t mean there’s an equally long history of temple cats. Cats know better. They don’t spend their quality time guarding ornate buildings when they can be hissing and spitting with each other along palace walls.
“Besides, dogs are notoriously stupid and will sign on for any silly outing as long as there is a treat and a pee-run at the end of the shift. Not so with a cat. They’re smarter and better educated in the finer things of life.
“Suspended between earth and sky and sedated for 19 hours in the belly of a plane is no place for a cat either, no matter how adored.
“Your cat is too old to learn Chinese.
“Eating with chopsticks might push him over the edge.
“You don’t want to bury your kitty in Shanghai, do you? There are no burial plots reserved for felines and the authorities would frown on scattering his ashes in the waterways.
“He’d much rather wave his white paw good-bye and go inside your son’s home and curl up on your son’s favorite chair, turn on your son’s TV and doze at the football game. There’s no football in Shanghai. No Fancy Feast tins at the store. Only rice and discarded fish heads. And you know his opinion of raw food.”
None of this convinced her. She took the beast and subjected him to hours of travel and a severe inspection at customs. The official looked deep into his eyes, lifted his cheeks to check his teeth, and ran rough hands down his exhausted body. Both Wendy and her cat were allowed inside China without quarantine time.
Wendy writes that they both have adjusted to life in China. She to her work and her weekly visits to the local park where she converses with Chinese people to help them learn English.
Her cat would love to do the same with his Chinese cousins but he’s not allowed out of the apartment. He sits by the windowsill looking out at the world below. Wendy doesn’t want her one American connection to disappear into the Chinese night.