We were probably hitchhiking our way through zigzagging roads to Mae Sot, while Burma was being born in a suburb of Yangon. She had no name yet. And little did we know that in just a few days we would find ourselves caring for a kitten that would soon turn travel companion. We had shared big chunks of our way with animals, of all species. Donkeys, camels, monkeys, yaks, dogs, cats, snakes, birds and mice had been as much part of our journey as human friends. We had just spent Christmas bathing in the shores of Thailand with two dogs (petsitting), and a week working in a hostel with 8 cats. And we fantasized with the day when we would live somewhere with a garden to host them all. But we would have never thought that we were a few hundred kilometers away from travelling with a cat.
Finding each other
Burma was born in a ghetto. It was most probably her father who dropped her in a ditch. We would like to believe that Burma was a cat with travel aspirations, so she cried louder from the hands of the kids that had found her by the roadside, when she saw two backpacks passing by. But actually she was blind, too little to see anything with her cloudy eyes.
At first we thought she was a rat. But she soon asserted her feline identity with an unmistakable and unextinguishable MIAOU!
Becoming cat mothers
We never found her mum, but she needed one. So we became cat mothers and then cat siblings, cat toys, cat prey and cat friends for days and nights. Later on, she would even think of Boris as a cat lover, and mark him as his possession with a peculiar signature. But we are going too fast, we did not think at first that we were going to carry with us our furry friend.
Burma did not meet compassion amongst monks and nuns, “practice detachment”, they would advice us. And the dog-patroled streets of Myanmar did not look like a good place to drop a tiny cat. For a while we searched her a family. But the only thing we heard was “she will die”. The only hosting suggestion she received was to live in glass box with a statue of Buddha and another seven cats in Shwedagon Pagoda. With a hindsight we understand that the proposal was made with the best of intentions, and that she may have had a more peaceful life if we had let her on the lap of the Enlightenedd one. But it did feel inappropriate, so we carried her with us. Back and forth from the city to the suburbs and all across Myanmar, Burma learnt fast to travel on four wheels and to look for warmth in our fleece jacktets and sleeping bags.
We could not leave her behind. The Buddhist nuns were right, after three weeks together we had gotten attached. And she did not seem to mind her life on the move. She would call us for food, to pee, or to make sure we were not going too far. And otherwise she would spend most of her time sleeping tight.
From Myanmar to India and all the way back to Europe, she has crossed 10 borders hitchhiking, by plane, by ferry, train, truck, car… She has Indian and European cat passports, plus twenty other documents that allow her to travel almost anywhere she wants. But we usually don’t say that Burma crossed her first border without a stamp.
Travelling together, two humans and one cat
Burma likes canned fish, and chicken breast, and tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon, papaya… Her favourite pastime is hunting lizars, spiders, flies, bugs and woolen socks. She dreams of catching birds. And chicken. And goats. And maybe cows. We can actually not be sure whether sometimes she does not dream of hunting us. In absence of moving targets, she loves to play fetch with paper balls.
She spends hours watching out of windows, still or moving ones. And she can sleep for hours on your lap under the dozing rhythm of a moving truck. Although her best friend ever was a puppy, she is terrified by dogs. And afraid of water. Specially the one that moves in waves by the seaside. She hates heat, and cold. And she is unsure about snow.
A cat made us change the way we travel: we could camp less, we could only hitch in the shadow, our itineraries in cities circled around veterinarians and we started to see stray dogs as ultimate threats. But she also gave us a reason to stay still for a while. She taught us that finding a tiny house in a faraway place is also a way to travel. And that if we want to feel at home in any place, it’s just about finding our own spot. We have often been praised and many times told off, for carrying a kitten in our shoulders or in a box. We have been told she is a lucky cat as many times as heard from random lips that a cat should be free. And we have no answer to any of the claims, because it most probably depend on who is the human and who is the cat. But one thing is certain for us, animal friends are not to be abandoned by the roadside, and if this post many convince anybody to go on holidays with her dog, cat or bird, it will have served its purpose well.
It’s not always been easy to handle a cat and two backpacks, nor has it been to find the legal way to carry her with us, and surely it has not always been easy for the little cat. But we’ve done our best, the three of us. And one year later, we can only say, it’s totally worth it (well, that’s what we say, she just sleeps on the keyboard of a laptop next to us). Burma brought more joy to our journey that we could have imagined, and we only wish her a happy, healthy and wonderful cat life.
A gift for cat lovers
If you have met and also fallen in love with Burma the cat, or if you simply like felines, or want to be one yourself for one night, this is a gift for you: a cat mask. Download, cut, wear, share, gift…do with it anything you like, even paper balls. It’s free!