The Cats of Zanzibar


The cats of Zanzibar have found a 10th life – an island paradise of dog-less streets (they just blink lazily when you ask them why), with scores of wide and shaded smooth-stone steps, the languid hours staging few interruptions to their long, hot, slow-eyed days.

In Stone Town, stretched out in front of metal-studded doors designed to keep even rampaging elephants at bay, their formidable freedoms rub up next to plastic bowls of water and food scraps placed by unseen hands; a feral life of liminal domesticity.

Not a flinch passes beneath their fur though the echo of human footsteps must seem clamorous inside their soft-padded world.

Sometimes battered but never bare to the bony, they pay for the countenance of shopkeepers in the corpses of rodents that nibble away already paltry earnings.


These little island tigers stalk the promenades for food, at times they work alone, at times in loose groups held loosely together by tactics and hunger. They eye the fishmongers with Zen-like concentration and they eye one another with less restraint when one of them lands a catch.

Thoreau said “It is not worth the while to go round the world to count the cats in Zanzibar”. The cats of Zanzibar would, I’m sure, agree. They count themselves perfectly well. And can even count themselves lucky compared to some. Or so it seems to me.





About subincontinentia

writer and eternal optimist
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