Teddi the wonder cat entered our lives on April Fool’s Day years ago, when my husband and I were first living in Hong Kong, childless and pet-less. That night we were at one of our favourite restaurants, the Queen’s Café, a retro RussianChinese café that was fusion before fusion.
Our waiter seated us at a table next to a built-in china cabinet and took our usual order: borscht and chicken shashlik, with ice cream and lemon tea for dessert. We weren’t sitting there for long when I heard a sharp cry cutting through the din of the restaurant. I wasn’t sure what it was and wondered if I’d heard anything at all. I listened again. Yes, the high-pitched call was definitely a meow. I looked excitedly at Paul. He had heard it too. However, he just frowned and shook his head: Don’t even think it.
But the mewing continued all through dinner, a sharp, bright beacon: Here I am, Here I am. How could we ignore it? After dessert, I started investigating and discovered a hole inside the china cabinet which led to a dark crawlspace within the wall. We peered into the void as the meowing persisted, loud and clear. And then we spotted two little pink ears. There she was.
Once our waiter saw the ears, he wanted to help. Grabbing a large pair of salad tongs from the kitchen, he reached in through the hole and pulled out a tiny, orange kitten. Delighted at his rescue operation, he put her in an empty box with a table napkin: our takeout for the evening.
We had no idea how she had materialised, alone, in that odd location. The café was on the ground floor of a Causeway Bay office building, with only one exterior wall. Had she dropped down from an air-conditioning duct? Crawled through an exhaust vent? In her makeshift lair, we found no signs of a mother or siblings. We saw no transport pod. No cosmic goo. No Superman-style smouldering trail of embers either. Where had this tiny, noisy creature come from?
There was no question about keeping her. I named her Teddi, after my grandfather who had just passed away. She was skinny and covered in fleas, but with some powdered milk and a lot of combing, she grew to become a beautiful, stripy ginger.
Teddi was our first baby, the first sign that Paul and I were building a life for ourselves in Hong Kong. Through the years, she endured the arrival of two incorrigible boy cats, two human sisters and one dog, another feisty female. Our apartment accommodates an entire league of personalities who agree on only two core activities: eating and sleeping.
In the superhero world, the opposite of origin story is ultimate fate. Where Destiny meets Doomsday. Sadly, for our super girl, fate was a cancer diagnosis. She was eighteen but right up to the last day her spirit never faltered, a reminder of her intrepid origins. Teddi’s tale is still one of our favourite Hong Kong stories to tell: rich in detail, heavy with emotion and, most of all, a testament to survival. Here I am!
RIP Teddi, aka Miss Ted, Tedders, Ted-Teds Deayton, 1999-2017.
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Related: What it’s like to leave Hong Kong
This article first appeared in the January/December 2017 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.