I have often filled my Sunday column with stories from the animal kingdom and it is in that spirit that I have borrowed the caption of this week’s piece from one of my favourite books by Gerald Durrell bearing the same title.

My late father was uncannily gifted with the ability to communicate with animals and was often requested to visit the Lahore zoo, where some sick member of the big cat family needed to be calmed down for administration of medicine. I accompanied him on many of these occasions and was witness to his amazing powers. In one particular vividly etched case, he fearlessly entered the cage of a pair of leopards named ‘Noshi and Raja’ and minutes later amazed spectators by turning them into ‘purring’ docile members of the feline family. I paid tribute to this wonderful individual by writing a piece titled ‘The Beast Master’ many years ago. Amongst other attributes that I gratefully acquired from my father, the most cherished one is perhaps the gene that allows me to establish a link with wild creatures.

My love for animals is known to all my friends and family. I considered myself the top dog in this category until I met a young couple, who beat me all hands down in compassion towards God’s creatures. So dedicated is this pair towards sick, abandoned, starving and injured strays that they now carry a stack of paper plates and a jumbo bag of dry canine and feline food in the back of their car – to feed hungry cats and dogs wherever they find them.

The female part of this couple is known to have brought traffic to a halt as she stopped her car on way back from work, then walked into the chaotic rush hour traffic to rescue a tiny kitten from certain demise in the middle of the road. The couple named it Tigger (after the lovable character from ‘Winnie the Pooh’ stories). This tiny bedraggled bundle of matted fur has now grown into a sleek and shiny feline, who is a pampered member of the family.

My own home is gradually developing into an animal shelter of sorts. Two cat families have made my tool and motor shed their respective homes. They are fed by our domestic staff and surprisingly do not come into conflict with each other. They remain as our outdoor cats, secure in the knowledge that their young ones are safe from any males of the species that have an inclination to kill kittens. Sometimes they occupy our verandah, which is a violation of territory as far as our indoor cat is concerned.

‘Ginger’ – for that is our indoor ‘queen’, came to us as a gift after we lost our Siamese ‘Sher Khan’ (or ‘Sheroo’ for short) after fourteen years of companionship. Siamese are by nature temperamental and true to this trait, good old ‘Sher Khan’ adopted me as his own. He had a digestive disorder by birth, which entailed giving him wet canned food amply mixed with ‘psyllium husk’. My adoption by him meant that only I could touch him and play with him (which I considered to be a singular honour). This state of affairs put him on the wrong side of the family, who labelled him as a ‘psycho’.

‘Sheroo’ had a particularly sadistic relationship with my sister in law (who does not like cats). He would make it a point to sit in front of this relative and stare belligerently at her. We would watch this battle of nerves making wagers on who would capitulate first. I always put my money on the cat since it was usually the other side, who gave up and changed her seat. The punch line to these encounters was that ‘Sher Khan’ would follow the lady and repeat the exercise until I bunged him into the bedroom and locked him in.

My home is now ruled by my feathered and furry friends. This relationship has brought us joy and satisfaction. In return we are rewarded with unending birdsong, gambolling kittens, the sight of chameleons warming themselves in the sun and an occasional glimpse of a wild hare or fox that stands transfixed in our car headlights and then magically vanishes into the undergrowth.