Saturday, March 13, 2010

Kittens into Cats

My mother-in-law was in the neighborhood yesterday and called to ask if she could drop by to see the kittens. She'd only seen them once since they arrived in October because of the ringworm quarantine.

She arrived at our building and requested cookies and juice, which I supplied. Then she wanted to see the kittens.

They were both hiding. Of course. Wendy squishes herself on top of storage tubs under the bed, and disappears into even narrower spots when there's a stranger around. Wendy still has a "feral attitude" that we're slowly wearing down. As expected, she was Garbo for my mother-in-law.

Possum was under the sofa. This is new; he is very sociable. But he discovered the big, exciting cave just beyond the sofa skirt and it's his current lair.

Being an exceptional cat, he came out promptly when I asked him to, and made his way over to sniff my mother-in-law's coat. "Here's Possum," I told her. "Isn't he a handsome boy?" She looked at him blankly. "But where are the kittens?" she said. I'd been explaining for weeks that the kittens are big now, but she was still expecting a little ball of fluff.

Possum quickly won her over, and soon he was purring and giving nose kisses as she petted him.

I love kittens as much as anyone: the wonder of a tiny, helpless creature that fits in your hand, discovering the pleasures of cat-hood for the first time. But kittens are such a huge responsibility. Even when they don't come pre-installed with parasites and viruses,  their immune systems and digestions are fragile, there are all kinds of diseases and conditions that can kill them suddenly, and you have to keep constant vigilance so they don't fall, get stuck in dangerous spots, or swallow things your plumber leaves lying around the place (see Tuesday's post, below).

To me, it's a relief when they're grown. Possum and Wendy are at a perfect age: they look like big, blooming cats but they are still immature and love to play and explore. I still see them as "babies" even though their size has tripled or quadrupled since they arrived; they are both bigger now than Snicky and Snalbert. It can take a couple of years, or more, for some cats to mature fully. It may take that long for these two longhairs to develop full ruffs and bushy coats to match their spectacular tails.

They've certainly changed from their baby days. Here's Possum shortly after his arrival:


Here's Possum this morning:


Yes, there's been a certain... expansion. I'm the only one who thinks he's a baby. Fine. What bothers me is people who say, "Oh, I love kittens, but I don't like them when they grow into cats."

Really? So, there's a day when suddenly you stop loving a kitten, because it's looking bigger? And is size the only issue? Maybe it suddenly appears to be regarding you with new-found wisdom? As if it clearly sees you as the poor excuse for a human that you are? As if it's on guard, expecting you to throw it outside to fend for itself in the alley from now on? Can you blame the cat?

People can be so weird. To me, it's not that different from saying, "Oh I love little girls, but I don't like them when they grow into women." Ugh.

I have generally found that when people say they don't like cats, it means that cats don't like them. I'll trust the cat's judgment every time. (I can't say I love all cats; as with people, I take them on a case-by-case basis. I like about 95% of them, and even have a special fondness for feisty ones who might decide to bite me. (I avoid all biting humans.)

So my mother-in-law passed Possy's test; I'd had some doubts. She's nice to cats in her way, and loves to look at cute pictures, but says she'd never own one because, "They defecate!" The first time I heard this, I replied, "That why I'm not having children!" I'll take a litter box over a diaper any day. Plus, cats don't get moody and mouthy and leave home for college, only to move back in after graduation.

A purring lap cat is a purring lap cat for its lifetime. There's nothing better.

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