Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Itteh Bitteh Kitteh

My friend said the best cats are the ones that come to you. When you go looking for a cat to adopt, they're not as nice as the ones that come to you. Ordinarily, I would think this is an odd statement but given our experience, I'm inclined to believe her.

This event was foreshadowed by Ranger, my friend B's cat. B was going out of town and needed someone to look after her cat, Ranger. Rather than leave him home alone, she thought Ranger might enjoy the company of our family. I reminded her that "our family" included Baby and Gummi, but B thought Ranger could deal with that.

Ranger was a handsome cat, a furry tortoiseshell colored cat with a mellow disposition. After a few minutes to gather his bearings, he just became one of the gang. Within half a day of residence, we already had 15 nicknames for him. Endearing ones, not the other type.

Now we had a cat a while ago. Boots the Chemist was her name. I'd try to explain the story behind her name, but you'll just have to trust me that's it's a lot funnier in my mind than in yours. Bo and I got her when we were first married. She was like our trial child. We figured, if the cat lived past a year, we were responsible enough to have babies. So Boots was a part of our lives for 20 years. And people loved that cat. I don't know what it was about her. She had a mojo going on like no other pet I know. One friend who used to stop by regularly would make it a point to greet the cat. Others would just gush how pretty she was.

But Boots eventually took ill a year ago and passed on to her great reward, that great sunny spot on the rug in the sky. Bo and I figured, with 6 kids, we're done with the pet thing; the cat hair getting into stuff, allergic guests, "accidents." I swear cat urine is one of the great under-utilized weapons of mass destruction. Bo was really adamant about no pets since he was on litter box cleaning duty for 20 years. We didn't want any pets. At least nothing that wasn't going to give us a gallon of milk per day.

So after Ranger went home with his mom, the kids were asking us for a cat. While we enjoyed having our 'guest pet', Bo and I looked at each other and confirmed we didn't want to deal with a pet for a while.

The very next day, the mail man rang our doorbell to give us a package. Over the years, we've gotten to know Mailman Mike. Yes, I know they're called Letter Carriers, but then there would be no alliteration, now would there? While I was talking to him, he said, "Hey, your cat got out." For a brief moment I thought, "Did Ranger make his way back here?" I mean, you hear those crazy stories of animals traveling thousands of miles to be with someone and maybe Ranger and Gummi really bonded. All this went through my mind in a flash before I said to Mailman Mike, "We don't have a cat." To which he replied, "Well, whose cat is that?" pointing to the kitten on our front porch. I looked at the kitten, I looked at Mike, Mike looked at me. It was soon obvious that Mailman Mike was impervious to my telekinetic powers willing him to take the kitten with him. After a brief discussion about where said kitten could have come from, Mailman Mike smiled and said, "Well, good luck!" and walked off.

Aarrrgh! What was I going to do now?!? I didn't have any cat food, no litter, what if the kitten had fleas? I went to my neighbor's house. He's a vet. He's got four cats already. He's probably got cat food and litter and heck, he might, out of the kindness of his heart, offer to take the kitten off my hands, right? He gave me food, he gave me litter and told me, "Let me know how you make out." Don't people recognize someone who is in desperate need of shirking responsibility? Could they not see the panicked look on my face?

I went home and with my son, W. Bear, posted signs around the neighborhood. I also told all the swooning children to not get too attached to the kitten because we were not keeping it. Obedient children that they are, they started to call the kitten Boromir.

That evening, we got a call from someone in the neighborhood who didn't own the kitten, but would be willing to take her if no one else claimed her. "Yay!" I thought, "a happy home!" I did the responsible thing by calling his landlord to make sure this guy was on the up and up. I thought this was divine intervention as the landlord turned out to be an acquaintance of ours. This kitten would go to someone responsible who wanted her. Alas, a day later, he called to say he changed his mind.

Disappointed, I informed the children that we would have to take the kitten to the animal shelter. Thankfully, the Providence Animal Rescue League (PARL) is a no kill shelter, but I still felt bad that this itty bitty thing was going to the shelter.

The next day, W. Bear, Baby and I took the kitten to the shelter to drop her off. The shelter volunteer told me they ordinarily do not take strays unless I called the city animal control officer first. I looked at the woman, "I'm supposed to call a city agency and hope to have this situation addressed before next year?" She said, "You're right, let me talk to my supervisor." So off she went, and Baby who was not supposed to become attached to this kitten, asked, "Can we buy these toys for her?"

The lovely PARL volunteer came back and told me the supervisor said they would take the kitten. Yay! Then she told me the kitten was on the small side and might have health issues living in close proximity to older cats. Much like when you take a newborn to the doctor's office, they segregate the newborn so she doesn't catch germs from the other patients. Having experienced this with my babies, I could totally relate. Then came the big question - would I be willing to foster the kitten for a week so she could gain a little weight and strengthen her immune system? Perhaps I should have told them I have four boys. Germ-wise, the kitten probably had a better chance with the older cats. But they loaded me up with food, litter and other accouterment and, the next thing I knew, I was headed home with a kitten I thought I wasn't keeping.

I called Bo to tell him my tale of woe and his response was, "I think we need to keep the cat."

Wait, what?

He told me that the morning before I took the kitten to the shelter, he had the feeling that we needed to keep her. But he thought that was a crazy idea because we just got done telling each other that we didn't want a pet. So he figured if there was any reason why the shelter couldn't take the kitten, he would take that as confirmation that we were supposed to keep her. He was not at all surprised when I brought her home.

So we sat the children down and let them know we were keeping her. Bo had the good idea to make the kids sign a contract acknowledging their responsibility in taking care of her. Then began the long process of deciding on a name for her. Thousands of names, many from beloved books, were debated.
"Mrs. Darcy?!? What kind of name is that for a cat?!?"
"How about Schroedinger?" "What?"
"We can't keep calling her Boromir! It's a girl!"

Eventually, Bo had to put a deadline in place. I would like to introduce you to our new family member Katniss.

No Grandma B, we're not shipping the cat to you.

I still think we should have named her Mailman Mike.