I got Bagheera and Fisher (Bug and Fish for short) in early November 2016 with my partner, literally two days before the fateful election of he-who-I-refuse-to-name. My partner and I joke that we got them because we were stressed out by the election, and well, clearly having them around has helped us cope with the aftermath.
It felt significant at the time for me to get pets because I had just received my U.S residency card after fourteen years of visas and struggling to stay in the States. Getting cats was kind of a symbol of my ability to put down roots without being worried that I’d have to pick up and leave. That was one of the reasons I never felt like I could get an animal before, because I didn’t want to have to give them away if there was uncertainty about my ability to be here.
I grew up in Sri Lanka and Thailand — and had lots of cats growing up. But back home, because I lived in the suburbs of Bangkok, our cats came in and out of the house freely and had a lot of open space. Way different than a New York City apartment.
Since coming to the States at age 18, I haven’t had pets. I like cats because they just do their own thing and kind of don’t need you, but then also cuddle up to you and love you. I think their nonchalance is hilarious.
We adopted Bug and Fish from a Russian lady who lives in Bayridge. She had upwards of 27 cats in her apartment. I really wanted to get a little black kitten — black cats are less likely to be adopted because they are considered “bad luck” or whatever nonsense that totally has to do with colorism. This Russian lady looked behind her couch and pulled out a 6-week-old kitten and handed it to me. Bug was so small and I loved her instantly. She had just been found under a dumpster the day before. We weren’t actually planning on getting two cats, but when we came back to get Bug the next week, the lady said she had found her sister under the same dumpster too. That’s when we met Fish, our tuxedo cat. Fish was wide-eyed and so scared. Admittedly, at first, I didn’t think we could handle two kittens, but our friend who was with us had picked Fish up and begged us not to leave her. We were pretty easily persuaded.
In the first month that we had them, we thought Fish maybe didn’t know how to meow because she was so terrified and just hid in the bathroom. Eventually she came around. Before we had them spayed, Bug was the friendlier one. She would curl up and sleep under my neck (because she was so little). Fish hated being picked up and hissed a lot, until she became more adjusted. They were so tiny that they would climb our sweatpants to try to reach their food on the kitchen counter.
After they were spayed, it was a whole 360. Bug became more reserved — the only person she really trusts now is me and she still sleeps with me in bed. But she hides when other people come over and does her own thing. She also needs special food- so I joke that I ended up with a gluten free cat with trust issues. Shockingly, Fish has become the well adjusted cat who chills at dinner parties like she’s another guest at the table. Every morning at 6am, she lunges onto the bed and butts her head against mine to get fed. It’s annoying as hell.
They both have very distinct personalities and are major weirdos. Personality wise, I feel like they represent two different sides of me — I like that they are super different. I’m lucky because I live in a fairly big apartment in Crown Heights and there’s enough space for them to not feel cooped up. It’s been super chill having them and they definitely do bring down my stress because they are so bizarre but cute.
Fish likes to sit next to me when I’m on work conference calls on my laptop, and sometimes will start eating my hair. Bug likes to be left alone during the day and she just lurks like a little panther on a corner couch behind a big tropical plant in the apartment. They go wild for a laser pointer. And if they eat too much catnip and are high out of their minds, they chase each other like they are running a marathon.
I’m a deejay by night, so sometimes if I’m blasting music or working on a mixtape or a set on my equipment at home, I’ve noticed they stay pretty close to me and just listen/watch me. I kind of wish I could bring them to the club when I deejay so that they could just sit by me like guard panthers. That would be epic- and maybe makes me the ultimate cat lady?
Thanu Yakupitiyage is a Sri Lankan born, Thailand-raised, Brooklyn-based activist, cultural organizer and deejay. She moved to the U.S when she was 18 to attend Hampshire College in Western Massachusetts. She received her Master of Arts from UMass amherst. She’s lived in New York City for almost 10 years and works as a media professional. Her work has primarily been in the field of immigrant rights, and now in climate justice. By night, Thanu deejays under the moniker “Ushka.” As a deejay, she traverses genres across global electronic, club & bass music and believes that crafting safe dance floor spaces for immigrants, people of color, and queer folks is an important form of political & cultural organizing.