Photos: Priscelia Chan
Graphics: Wong Ming Yui
Christmas holds special significance for different groups of people: some see it as a time for praise and worship, while others see it as a time for celebrations with family and friends (for the kids it’s all about the presents under the tree #truestory). For celebrity couple Priscelia Chan and Alan Tern, it’s a special time of the year for them to celebrate their adopted pet cat Twinkle’s presence in their lives.
To Priscelia, Twinkle is like the brightest star shining atop a Christmas tree who fuels their lives with laughter and warmth.
In our final installment of the Furbulous Celebrity Meow series (read past stories on Lin Peifen, Nat Ho and Felicia Chin), we speak to Priscelia to find out about her story – one she calls a “pure coincidence”, with her irreplaceable twinkling joy.
The actress has always been drawn to cats for unknown reasons (Priscelia thinks it’s because she grew up seeing a cat painting at her grandfather’s house), but never had the urge to commit to becoming a pet owner until one fine day, two years ago, when she received a call about an abandoned cat from a vet friend.
“My friend told me she kept thinking of me when she was tending to this cat and said the cat is quite gentle and special - and she’s not too fierce too,” Priscelia recalled, “She sent me a picture of the cat, I took a look at it and immediately called a cab and rushed down to her clinic.”
While this may sound religious, Priscelia shared that she felt a strong calling to adopt Twinkle and bring her home - which she eventually did - after spending some time with it at the clinic.
Alan had some apprehensions about adopting Twinkle because he knows pets will die and that Priscelia would grow attached to the cat, “He asked me: ‘You sure about this?’ I don’t know why but I just found the courage to go with the flow,” she quipped.
“I made a prayer and felt this sense of peace and joy and told my friend I’d adopt her. We adopted her two weeks before Christmas, which is why I said Twinkle is a present from God.”
True enough, Twinkle brought joy into the couple’s lives. Although they don’t have a child of their own yet, Priscelia said having a pet at home is the same for couples who have children as it gives them “a common topic to talk about” which is “healthy” for a relationship as well.
For them, Twinkle is like the baby of the family whom they spoil with cat treats, new DIY or store-bought toys and decorative collars. While Alan tends to put together interesting makeshift toys made out of recycled boxes or t-shirts, Priscelia shared that she has picked up a few cute collar accessories for their cat – including a patriotic #SG50 collar to celebrate the nation’s birthday this year, which Twinkle wore during the Golden Jubilee celebrations.
Twinkle in her pearl and SG50 decorative collars
Once, the actress ordered a slightly expensive collar fashioned out of pearls for Twinkle to wear during Chinese New Year, but Alan deemed it too heavy for the cat. The “protective daddy” observed that it obstructed Twinkle’s movement as she did not jump as much as she did before.
“The moment we took off the collar, Twinkle started to jump around. What he said was really true and I was amazed by his keen observation,” Priscelia said.
That’s not all. We learned of Alan’s paternal protectiveness over Twinkle as Priscelia recounted how her husband once got angry with her for bringing home a bunch of lilies intended for a flower arrangement, “I was told it’s not the kind that are poisonous to cats but Alan said to me: ‘It’s still lilies’.”
After a “minute of silence”, Alan eventually decided they’d place the arrangement in the guestroom because Twinkle is not allowed in it. With a twinge of regret in her voice, Priscelia explained, “I felt guilty for choosing them but somehow at that point in time, I was so excited and felt I needed to match the flowers in my arrangement. Now I make sure I choose flowers that are not poisonous to her.”
Another thing the actress has wised up about since becoming a cat owner? Knowing her own limits and when enough is enough – a mentality that applies to her both as a person and an actress. “You learn that you cannot please everyone… it’s like a cat trait,” said Priscelia.
Who’s the bigger diva at home – Priscelia or Twinkle? And why does Twinkle meow non-stop whenever Alan sings at home? Read on to find out more!
Toggle: So between you and Twinkle, who’s the bigger diva at home?
Priscelia: She lah! Even my stylist said that my cat is more ‘diao’ (cool) than me. But she’s not super diva, she’s more manja (affectionate). When I wake up in the morning she’d follow me around the house and meow non-stop until I touch her. That’s her way of making sure I greet her in the morning.
Both you and Twinkle have such manja personalities, how similar are the both of you in that aspect?
She’s more act cute than me (chuckles). My manja (to Alan) is sometimes cute too, but hers is cuter. When I had her for the first year, she’d climb on us and sleep on our chests. It’s unpredictable so that’s one of the exciting things about adopting a pet – when she suddenly shows you affection it can feel so sweet. But I’m not sure if it was a phase as she has outgrew it (sleeping on their chests) and nowadays she rarely does it.
What is Twinkle’s favourite way of showing her affection towards humans?
Through her eyes or when she purrs. I like to hold her close to my heart, sayang her and look into her eyes. I hope that she can feel my heartbeat, hear my heartbeat and know that I love her a lot. You know when cats blink it’s their way of saying they love you too? I also like it when I’m sitting on the sofa and she’d put a paw on my leg – it’s very subtle and quiet, like she knows I’m in my space and she’s in her own space too. She’d knead Alan’s tummy too and that’s her way of showing affection to him. She’d run and jump on him at night when he comes home and knead on his tummy. Sometimes she’d do it to my tummy or leg too.
What is something new you learned about yourself and cats since becoming a pet owner?
I’m less anal about cleanliness and hygiene now (laughs). I used to be super anal and Alan is surprised at my change too because I can be quite an OCD freak. For Twinkle, we realised that she’d meow non-stop whenever Alan sings. He’d usually sing with the sound system whenever he is exercising. Even though it’s a bit out of tune, I think it’s quite cute so I don’t really care (chuckles). But Twinkle would meow non-stop, so when Jackson Galaxy (a cat expert) came to Singapore, we asked him about it through a reporter and learned that cats are very sensitive to pitch and sound. So if someone doesn’t sing well, to them it's noise (laughs).
When you’re feeling down, do you think Twinkle can sense it? How does she comfort you?
There was once I had a friend who passed away and I was crying when I heard the news. I remember Twinkle was sitting on the ledge near the window, enjoying the sun. I think she was sensitive to the tone in my voice, looked around and kept staring at me. She didn’t come down instantly, but when she did she just stayed near me. Although she didn’t do anything much, I felt that she knows how I felt.
She’s not a lap cat and when I am preparing for work, especially when I have to prepare for a new show with tons of scripts, she can sense that I’m in my own world and would just sit beside me to accompany me. And when she is bored, she’d sit on my script to get some attention from me.
Since she was adopted around Christmas, does Twinkle exhibit happier moods during the year-end festive season?
Actually she loves it when both Alan and I are at home –we can also feel it too. Before I took on this project, Revenge Queen, we’d go for breakfast during the weekends and come back to change her litter box together. We’d sit on the kitchen floor and sayang and groom her. And we felt this energy – like a trinity of love… it felt comfortable and comforting.
Would you say that the decision to sterilise one’s pet is one of the best gifts that owners can give their pets?
I would say that is what a responsible pet owner would do. And one thing I need to clarify about is Twinkle has given birth to kittens before – she’s suspected to be made for breeding by a particular place somewhere. This piece of information was given by the cat lady who found her because Twinkle is apparently quite pretty and exotic (she’s deduced to be a Siamese Lilac Pointe) so that could be part of the reason why she was abandoned. In that sense, it’s not very responsible of people to throw her aside because if there’s an oversupply and overpopulation and you can’t cater to them, some of these cats will end up being culled.
If Twinkle could make one Christmas wish for the good of her own kind, what do you think it will be?
No more abuse or mutilation of cats and that cats have the right to live the way they deserve to live – to be carefree and roam around anywhere they want to and to have the love of their caregivers – be it indoor or community cats. Like any other life, they deserve the right to live the life they have – that’s the most basic respect we can have for them.
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Watch past episodes of 118 here.