Monday, May 30, 2011

On Mayhem: Living with kittens

The thought "I wonder where my Coke is - I sure would like a sip" had no sooner entered my mind then I heard the thunk and splash. The sticky, delicious liquid was already dripping off the edge of the white bureau in my den and soaking into the beige carpet before I could moan a curse and shove my laptop aside, tripping over The Best Comforter in the World to get to the mess.

I have one mama cat, Gatsby, and three kittens. We had five kittens but have managed to unload two of them so far. I fear we are keeping the rest, as they have found their way, quite relentlessly, into our hearts.

Monster and The Dude

I've never had cats before: we are dog people in my family. My dad and stepmother have a lovely Siamese, Jasmine, but she pretty much lives under their bed and is rarely seen in my presence. In fact, I was severely allergic to them until either A. I had my son or B. he decided he needed kitten about a year and half ago. I don't know what happened, but my severe allergy was downgraded to mild when Gatsby found her way into our life as a kitten just a little younger than hers are now.

Gatsby on the ride home

My son and I hadn't been living at The Cottage for very long before I returned home one day to find our front door slightly ajar - it had been that way for hours, apparently. Obviously distressed, I burst into the house with little thought to a knife-wielding stranger camped out inside but more along the lines of "They took our stuff! Our STUFF!" Nevermind we have very few things of any value to anyone but us: it is our stuff.

Our stuff was all still there, from the ancient, Jurassic analog TV to my pretty but relatively inexpensive jewelry. Everything, that is, except our beloved cat.

I talked to neighbors, I made calls: no one had seen her. Not knowing anything about cats or their... habits... I threw up my hands and prepared to tell my son that his cat was gone. The recent move and my even more recent bout with kidney stones resulting in an extended stay in ICU with sepsis had been unsettling enough - now the cat was gone.

She wasn't gone for long. Two days later we spotted her on the front porch as we returned home. She wasn't alone.

"Gatsby's back," The Dude cried out, pointing from the backseat. "And she has a new husband!"

"Oh hell," I muttered, eying the orange, quite pedestrian friend who had escorted our little slut cat home.

Of course you know how the story goes. I, again, knew nothing about pregnant cats. I thought (and prayed) that she was just getting fat. I convinced myself that she was just getting fat even if I convinced no one else. As the truth began to literally show itself I relented to the fact that we were about to have several new additions to our small family.

"How many kittens do cats have?" I wondered aloud to friends. "Two? Three, maybe?" This resulted in amused snorts from my best friend Sarah, a cat lover from way back.

In late February I returned home from a trip to a local walk-in clinic to treat a hellacious sinus infection to my jubilant son meeting me at the door, jabbering, "Gatsby had her kittens! There are FIVE of them!"

Horrified, I stumbled to our laundry room to find Gatsby, even more irritable than usual, curled around a nest of mewling, slick and gorgeous kittens.

Since then our little home has gone from manageable and pleasant to unpredictable, often messy and delightful. Things are suddenly knocked from shelves and tables, there are unexplained messes in unexpected places, and forget about sitting for any extended period of time without having a small knot of fuzzy kitten for company.

Here are some things I have learned from having kittens:

1. Your stuff is no longer your stuff. It's their stuff. Feel privileged for even being allowed to remain in the house.

2. Don't leave your purse on any sort of elevated surface. Don't leave anything on any sort of elevated surface, for that matter, because it will get knocked off and things will be scattered. Lipsticks and earrings will disappear forever.

3. Your days of laying down and reading peacefully are over. Your reading view will either be blocked by a sleeping cat on your chest or you will become part of the track they are using to run laps through the house.

4. Forget about privacy, period. Whether it's just sleeping (they will find a way to enter your bedroom unless you just plain ole shut the door, and then they will mew pitifully and mercilessly outside the door, and small paws will appear beneath the door, patting inside desperately) or what was once considered private bathroom time (bathing alone is unacceptable, you can't be trusted to be alone in their bathtub, don't you know that's where they get the best sips of water?), you are now at their mercy at all times.

5. Your vocabulary will now include phrases like "sifting litter pan liner" and "odor control for small spaces" which, actually, can be applied to other parts of your life.

6. There are few things softer or more precious in this world than the belly of a sated, sleeping long-haired kitten purring, curled around your neck. This will become a soothing and necessary part of your writing routine, like ambient music.

7. Get used to waking up and having at least a small part of every room scattered, including piles of books knocked over every single day, several times a day, and DVDs knocked off the top of the DVD player because one of the kittens just loves napping on top of the warm machine.

So, there are sacrifices that must be made, time that will be carved out of your day to do anything from change the litter box (constantly, at least twice a day, at least in my house) to pausing to let a passing kitten nuzzle your nose or weave between your ankles as you try to complete a hurried meal. These are the little things that change your life and make you adore these little darling creatures that, at one time, made your eyes swell and your back prickle in annoyance.

Because, looking at them, how could you not love them?

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