Monday, August 27, 2007

When you've already got this many cats what's one more?

“You got another cat?” my dad asked in disbelief.

“I didn't mean to.” I retorted.

It was true. I didn't mean to but he was so little and lost. I knew as I stood there in the twilight watching the little black kitten pounce a piece of hay that I wasn't leaving the barn without him. He was barely bigger than my hand and the word around the barn was he'd been there for a couple of weeks. I hadn't gone riding in a month so I'd missed his arrival. He was living in the shed where we store the horse's hay. The hay bales made plenty of small hiding places that provided supreme shelter for such a small cat and he needed it. The barn teems with predators who'd love to munch a kitten: hawks, owls, stray dogs and that doesn't even mention the larger cats, opossums and raccoons who wouldn't necessarily eat him but if they attacked they'd leave him seriously wounded.

I glanced at my friend Amye. Neither of us wanted to leave him there. I lost the debate since Amye still has more cats than I do, even after the addition of the kitten. We made a make-shift cat carrier and loaded the kitten in my car. My husband was going to be murderous.

Five minutes into my trip home I decided to ease him into the news. A guitarist, my husband was at band practice for the evening. Band practice puts him in a stellar mood. It was the perfect time to drop the bomb shell. He'd have happy pheromones going to help buffer the blow, sort of like chocolate. Plus, he'd probably already had at least one beer. I dialed his cell.

“How's it going?” I asked. They had just acquired a new bass player and it was his first practice with the band.

“It's going great!” Brian practically bubbled through the phone. “We sound better than ever! He already knows how to play Circles. He learned the into even. And then we were playing...”

I cut him off. “I found a kitten.” I announced. Yep, that'll ease him into it.

“It's not coming to our house.”

“Too late, he's already in the car. We're on the interstate.” I could hear the gnashing of his teeth and imagine the complaints he's soon be lodging with his band members about how I was bringing home another cat. Lucky thing he had those pheromones.

Brian and I hung up and the kitten and I soon arrived at home. I set him up in the office where I could keep him separate from our 3 adult cats and the dog. He didn't know what to think of being indoors at first but a bowl of cat food mixed with some chicken broth made an immediate impression on him. He gulped down the food and soon was purring loudly and happily pouncing some cat toys I'd found for him. It didn't take him very long to decide that living in my house was a definite improvement over the hay barn.

After the trip to the vet revealed that he was transmittable disease free he was introduced to the adult cat population. Friday is great with kittens so he went first. The kitten stared at Friday from underneath my computer desk. Friday ignored him and instead sniffed the litter box and the kitten's food. Soon, though, he eased over to say hello. The kitten hissed. Friday jumped back, feelings hurt and went to hide under Brian's computer desk. That's my brave, fearless Friday. It took him several days to get over his hurt feelings but it wasn't long before he and the kitten were chasing each other down the hallway.

Hemmy went next. Hemmy was indifferent to the kitten and far more interested in the kitten's food. Hemmy is easily distracted by potentially edible items. Kit, on the other hand, didn't give a rip about the extra food. She was furious that after defeating the Labrador, I'd had the nerve to bring another animal into her house. She fluffed up her tail, arched her back and leaped hissing at the kitten. Fortunately, I was prepared for this reaction and I moved to back her up and calm her down; but before I could intervene, the kitten wheeled around, fluffed up his tail, arched his back and hissed right back at her. Kit didn't know what to do. Perplexed, she licked her lips and sassed out of the office annoyed and confused. I began to see how the little guy had avoided being eaten at the barn. He may have only been 2 pounds but he was 2 brave and aggressive pounds. I suspected that he was going to fit into our crazy household just fine.

So here I sit a few weeks later with a four cat household instead of a three cat household. I always said we were full, but I was wrong. Now we're full. Furthermore, I see my suspicions were correct and the kitten is fitting in nicely. He and Friday have a love-hate relationship that involves pouncing and running but includes a general politeness that prevents actual injury. Hemmy is still more interested in the food but that will probably never change and Kit has admitted a grudging respect and has decided not to murder the kitten after all. Since she feels the same about Friday and Hemmy I'm guessing that's the best we're going to get from her.

The kitten for his part is a fast learner. He's a bit of a stinker too and leaps out of nooks and crannies to pounce the older cats. Luckily, he's not only smart he's very fast and has avoided the occasional retaliation from the big kitties. For this reason, he still lives in the office when we're away. I'm not entirely sure if I'm protecting him or protecting the big cats but I'm certain that my own sanity is largely preserved by keeping him separate. The other thing I am sure of is that this little guy will give me plenty of stories to tell and recount here and that's something that I'm looking forward to very much.


Gottagopractice said...

Was this your exciting cat-related news? Have you had Kitten for three weeks? Does he have a name yet? Inquiring minds want to know.

For myself, I observe that after adding four fosters, now long-term, to three resident cats, the house seems exactly right.

Jennifer said...

Yep, this was the big announcement. I got him about 3 weeks ago. The name, see that part's tricky. I'll be posting and possibly soliciting advice regarding his name soon. He's had several so far.

My husband says I'm a cat lady. I say if I had a bigger house I'd have more...I hope he doesn't read this!


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Doreen said...

love your post. we have 6 cats and every time a new one arrives my mom reacts the same way as your dad!

Jennifer said...

I can't tell you how good it feels to know I'm not alone. Sometimes it feels a bit silly. I mean if they were kids people wouldn't quite stare at me the same way. But when you think about it four cats are a LOT less work than four kids so I think I'm pretty lucky.

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