Photos: Nat Ho
‘Tis the season to be jolly.
With a couple of weeks to go before Christmas is upon us, it’s a good time to spread holiday cheer and joy to those around us – no monetary gifts required, sometimes a smile is all you need. And our gift to you this week is through sharing the story about how Tanglin actor Nat Ho met his “daughter” Kymmi, in this week’s installment of the furbulous celebrity meow series.
We were told it all began with a chance encounter on the set of Channel 5’s Polo Boys in 2009.
“Actually it was my director who picked her up but as she was already looking after quite a number of cats at that time, she couldn’t take in another one,” shared Nat in an interview with Toggle, “When she was picked up, my director actually stayed with her through the night but her mother never came. Maybe it got into an accident or something - we don’t know…”
The estimated 1.5-month-old kitten was then temporarily cared for and housed in the MediaCorp store behind some boxes in a cage. Nat wanted to take a look at it when he learned of the kitten’s existence from the director, but little did he know he’d end up falling hook, line and sinker for it.
And the rest, as he said, is history. “After I saw her, it was love at first sight,” laughed Nat.
The 31-year-old actor decided to adopt Kymmi as a form of company for his mum, who was initially resistant to the idea of having a cat and even yelled at him when he first brought the kitten home. But Nat’s mum bonded with Kymmi over time and eventually became quite attached to the little furry creature.
Nat shared that his mum would also keep him updated with pictures of Kymmi from time to time. Once, when he had a video call chat with his mum and brother from Taipei, “Kymmi came in [to my brother’s room] because she heard my voice and she started meowing a lot,” he recalled.
“She’s not the kind who’d usually meow much unless she needs attention. I think she was just looking for my voice.”
On another occasion, Nat’s mum sent him a photo of Kymmi sitting in a corner of his room, waiting for him in complete darkness. “That was heartbreaking,” he sighed.
But what was probably more heartbreaking for Nat was when he received the cold shoulder treatment from Kymmi when he returned home for good from Taiwan: “I think she was angry with me [for being away].”
It took him one to two weeks to coax her and slowly build up the bond between them again because “it’s not like you can just come back into their lives too,” he chuckled, “It takes a period of adjustment but things are back to normal now.”
Nat getting lovey-dovey with his "daughter" Kymmi
Having Kymmi in his life certainly helped Nat better understand his co-star - a cat named Sigmund - in an upcoming Channel 5 telemovie where he plays a playboy who hooks up with women on Tinder with the help of his profile picture of him and his cat. “It was notoriously hard to shoot because cats are unpredictable and they are not trained [to act],” he shared, “It takes time to build trust too, but when you’re filming - how much trust can you build up in a span of a few hours?”
Nat added that the cat would run all the way to back of the storage area of the warehouse where they were filming at, which reminded him of that one time he did a magazine shoot at home with Kymmi which left her traumatised.
“She hid in the cupboard and wouldn’t come out for more than two hours,” he recalled, “There were a lot of people and bright lights and cats are very sensitive to their surroundings. It was sensory overload for a cat and I promised never to subject her to something like that again.”
Read on to find out more about Nat’s relationship with Kymmi on the next page!
Kymmi re-imagined as an internet cat meme by Nat
Toggle: How similar are you and Kymmi in terms of your characters?
Nat: People who are not familiar with me or who take a cursory glance on my Instagram feed will think this guy is quite cool, but when they know me I’d like to believe I’m quite a warm person (chuckles). I have my dorky moments too and it’s the same for her. Also, I won’t say I’m violent, but I have a don’t-mess-with-me-streak too. People always say pets reflect their owners and I think Kymmi is very much like me too. Sometimes she’d run, try to skid and end up bumping her head a few times (laughs).
What was your first impression of Kymmi?
I remember when I first got her, she was still a kitten and easy to bring around. I brought her to Pornsak’s house as he had a cat. And when they met, Kymmi, who was about two palm sizes big, held her own against Pornsak’s full-grown cat – he was a huge guy! She snarled as he came over and that startled Pornsak’s cat. I never brought her back again (laughs). At that time when you first have a cat and your friend has one too, you’d think: ‘Come, let’s have a play date and make new friends!’ and I’ve since learned that she’s quite territorial and is very feisty.
How do you know if Kymmi loves you?
Cats communicate by blinking their eyes, so if they blink you know you’re in. And they are also very protective of their stomach area so allowing you to give them belly rubs is another sign. Sometimes Kymmi would groom me too – I’d lay down on the floor when I come home from work and she’d start licking my hair. I think she actually likes to smell hair wax or gel and I’d stop her from doing that. She’s also very attracted to cologne (chuckles).
A boy and his cat
What is something new you learned about yourself since adopting Kymmi?
I think at this point in my life this is the closest I’ve come to feeling like a father. Just the other day I was telling my mum: ‘Wah, Kymmi is now 6 years old already ah, but still so cute’. You know, it sounds so stupid but how can your heart feel so much for a little creature?
Do you think it’s stereotypical to think that men with cats are more feminine as compared to men with dogs?
I think for me it’s more of a lifestyle choice. Cats are more or less self-sufficient and are able to entertain themselves; they don’t need a lot of attention or be taken on daily walks and you don’t need to pick up their shit. Sometimes I come home at 3 am and I’d just go and sayang Kymmi for a bit before she goes back to sleep. But if I had a dog, I’d need to attend to them and I just don’t think that it’s fair. I think cats are is a good lifestyle choice for busy people – they are naturally trained and low maintenance.
When you were filming in Malaysia years ago, you once came across a weak and dying cat. What went through your mind at that point in time?
We heard a lot of meowing and we saw the cat and tried to help. It was very hot and I think it was dehydrated and it’s so skinny – it probably had some worms in its stomach or some disease. It had injuries on it too and looked in really bad shape. We brought him into the coffee shop where we were filming and some of the other artistes tried to help find a vet. We wanted to get one to come over but it passed away before the vet could visit.
How did it feel, as a fellow cat owner, to see another cat pass away?
You can’t be the superhero of every person or cat in the world but whenever we have the fate to come across one, we try to help.
If Kymmi could spread some love and cheer to her fellow felines and give an injured cat a Christmas present, what do you think it would be?
I think the best Christmas present would be an owner that loves them.
What do you think people can do to help when they come across an injured and abandoned cat?
It depends on your own comfort level too because some people are terrified and don’t know how to approach a cat and things could actually get worse. For that I think there are a lot of organisations in Singapore that people can contact for help… And the thing about these societies is they’d firstly nurse the cat back to health and subsequently try to find it a home. There’s actually a very long checklist that people need to fulfill so that they can ensure to the best of their ability that the cat is well taken care of.