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PETALING JAYA, May 7 — You only need to take a quick glance at theatre-maker Jo Kukathas’ Facebook page to understand the deep bond she has forged with her cats.
Most recently, the Instant Café Theatre artistic director’s life was tossed upside down when her cat Lucy went missing for 25 days.
“In that time, I really felt the kindness of friends, neighbours and strangers, many of whom walked the streets looking for her,” she told Malay Mail a week after Lucy was found.
Kukathas met Lucy four years ago when the cat and her five siblings — all shades of orange — were found by a friend in a box at a condominium with no sign of their mother.
A month later, Kukathas went over to her friend’s place to take photos to share on social media to find them a forever home and left with Lucy in tow.
“I ended up falling in love because you know kittens,” she said.
“When she was a kitten, she was a fearless and loving girl, forever climbing, forever exploring.”
But the actress, director and writer already had a cat, her long-time companion Kahoe, who wasn’t pleased when Kukathas brought Lucy home.
“As is always recommended, I kept her separate and slowly began to introduce the two of them.
“I had to ask Kahoe to accept her for my sake and even though he didn’t like her at first he tried his best to be accommodating,” she said.
In time, Lucy won him over with her persistence and playfulness, and the house was full of joy and chaos.
“Eventually he became her best friend, her older brother, her protector.
“She’d go out and get lost and he’d have to go out, exasperated to look for her,” said Kukathas.
Kahoe would always find her, sometimes with the help of the neighbourhood cats.
“Everyone really did love Lucy. I always felt the universe loved Lucy.
When Kahoe passed away, Lucy was devastated.
“He was our rock. I’ve never seen a cat so sad,” Kukathas said.
And now, the theatre director is determined to write a book to tell their stories, something she has been planning to do for years.
She started with a series of stories on Facebook and Instagram using the hashtags #LivingWithKahoe and #OhLucyMine.
“I promised my cat Kahoe years ago that I would write his book. He is the inspiration.
“The writing came out of spending time in his company. He was a wise, opinionated, loyal, loving, practical and very observant cat.
“He liked to talk,” she said.
In the stories, the sifu-student relationship comes through with Lucy as the playful young cat and Kahoe as the centred and grounded mentor.
“I’m not sure if the book will be called The Adventures of Kahoe and Lucy or if I will do a series of books called The Book of Kahoe, The Book of Lucy, The Book of Dr Strangelove etc.,” she said, the third being one of her stray cats who has been adopted by a friend.
Kukathas is still figuring out the format of the book but is certain she wants it to be illustrated.
“I love children’s books and have always wanted to write one.
“I just have to find the right collaborator and illustrator.
“But this isn’t a children’s book rather it’s an illustrated book for grownups but children can read it too.
“Children can read anything they like. And should,” Kukathas said.
Despite MCO 3.0, the Instant Café Theatre co-founder is just as busy, working on several projects including a Zoom Theatre project with various writers.
Other projects include a migration, democracy and empathy project titled The Bronze Lion, a new play written by Ridzwan Othman about grief, loss, struggle and Sisyphus, and a Parastoo Theatre collaboration called And Then Came Spring.
She’s also starting a play writing and play reading course in mid-May.
“And of course, I’m working on The Adventures of Kahoe and Lucy.
“Dr Strangelove and all the other cats I’ve been privileged to meet will get a chance to have their stories heard too.
“But mostly it will be about what I’ve learned living with Kahoe and from my mighty girl, Lucy,” Kukathas said.
Kukathas is one of many animal lovers who hope more people will come to appreciate, understand and love animals for who they are.
“They give us unconditional love in uncertain times.
“Animals allow us to express what is best about our humanity.
“They teach us to express love. They teach us to live in the present. They teach us compassion.
“They teach us that the universe isn’t about us. These are all lessons we need to learn,” she said.