The other night, after being out of the country for about a month, I was sitting quietly watching a movie in our Paraguayan home… When suddenly I heard something tapping on the rooftrop accompanied by a strangely familiar and haunting noise. It sounded like howling dogs, or possibly a wolf? Confused, I proceeded to open the windows and the howling only got louder and more desperate. What could it possibly be?
I finally asked my husband who matter of factly told me that these were the neighborhood wild cats. Have you ever heard cats howling? It was certainly something new and unsettling for me. Too bad they don’t really celebrate Halloween here because this would serve as the perfect haunted house in the dark. As intrigued as I was by this vocal encounter, I decided to try to track them down..
The next night, we returned home and there they were …three of the coolest, badest cats I’ve ever seen in my life. One was black and looked like the ‘gang’ leader – I named him ‘Ramon’, followed by two other cats, ‘Raul’ and ‘Rosita’. It was straight out of one of those Speedy Gonzalez cartoons with the ‘gatos bandidos’ rummaging through trash, bullying other cats and dogs. I was afraid one of them might pull out a revolver on me.
That same night I heard them break out into a loud and ferocious cat fight. Were they fighting over Rosita or a newly fetched rat?
These cats are keeping it real, and in order to survive they have to fight their way through life, defend their territory and scower the neighbourhood at night for food. These are not the nice kitty pets I’m used to back home. They are mostly regarded as pests here. The next morning I woke up and saw the three of them in our backyard, climbing (coincidentally) up the mango tree in the rain. The sound of their big claws holding on to the tree stem was distinctive. Plus, I always thought cats were afraid of rain? But nothing seems to stop these cool cats. Driving down the block I then noticed trash everywhere, evidence of their midnight snacking spree.
There are many wild cats and dogs on the streets of Asuncion. Cats are generally not kept as inside pets here. Many houses will have dogs, but again, not necessarily the cute cuddly ones; more the kind that will deter a burgular.
That said, just this past week was International Animal Rights Day and there was a large march for animal rights in Asuncion. They were pushing for the adoption of a new law that protects abuse against pets. So there might be some hope for my new neighbourhood friends after all.