I wasn’t looking for any pets to come into my life. Losing our last old dog had been an emotional ride that I didn’t want to repeat. So, I was more than a little hesitant when my wife suggested we adopt a new kitten from the neighbour down the road.
I tried to reason with her. “Do the math,” I said. “We’re both in our 70s and cats can live up to 20 years and sometimes more. Chances are that the cat will still be around after the two of us are sipping mojitos in those mythical Elysian Fields way up yonder. Who’s going to want our middle-age cat then?”
Besides, even though I’ve had experience as a cat owner a time or two before, I’ve always considered myself more of a dog person. Each of the three dogs in my life lived to be 15 years old. That’s 45 years of dog. If you consider a human year to be equal to seven dog years, I would have accumulated 315 years of man-dog association (if I were a dog, that is).
Dogs are loyal, to a fault. They pine away if you are gone too long and they worship the smell of the ground you walk on. Cats, on the other hand, can be classified as indifferent (as if they really cared how you wanted to classify them). They will tolerate your presence as long as it is accompanied by food, water and a warm place to sleep.
Anyway, getting back to the kittens, my wife announced that she would at least have a look at the prospective adoptees. When she returned, she declared that she was smitten with a little two-toned female, but the tiny black male runt of the litter also tugged at her heartstrings. After a couple of sleepless nights of wrestling with a decision, she convinced me that the best line of action would be to take home both of the kittens. After all, who could separate two such affectionate siblings!
We named our new kittens Moxy and Fruvous (after a 1990s Toronto rock band, Moxy Fruvous, known for their rap rendition of Dr. Suess’ Green Eggs and Ham). Moxy, the pretty grey and white female, is a compact little fur ball with an off-centre Hitler moustache marking her face. She is the born hunter, although all she has managed to capture so far are twist ties and small bits of driftwood. Fruvous, the thin but elongated black male, shows signs of Siamese ancestry because he will look up at us from floor level and talk. So far, he only knows two words. “Meow,” which means “food” and “MMMMEEEEEOOOOWWW,” which translates to “more food, now!”
It’s presently a month later, and the kittens are now 13 weeks old. They spend almost all their time alternating between two-hour cycles of sleep or wrestling with each other. Although they are natural predators, they will basically ambush and attack only two things: anything that moves and anything that doesn’t move. My legs, for instance, seem to often fall into both of the above categories and so are considered fair game. As a result, in order to protect against open wound infections, we have resorted to stashing assorted-sized bottles of mercurochrome, hydrogen peroxide, isopropyl alcohol and iodine in strategic places throughout the house.
Perhaps I’m giving the impression that all our kittens do for entertainment is ambush us or roll around the floor play-fighting like Ninjas. No, no! They are capable of so much more destruction. Take furniture, for instance. Sofas and upholstered chairs make excellent scratching posts. Even if you built one from some spare plywood with a bit of old carpeting stapled on or buy one of those fancy cat tree condominiums, it’s clear they much prefer an antique heirloom divan left to you by a distant great aunt.
Kleenex paper is another kitten obsession. They absolutely love to pull clumps out of the bathroom waste basket and shred them back into cellulose fibres. If they are lucky enough to dislodge a roll of toilet tissue off its dispenser, there are hours of playtime lying ahead. Those television ads you’ve seen of kittens batting a roll of toilet paper down a hallway as it unwinds into a long ribbon of whiteness are no exaggerations.
We’re learning not to get hoodwinked into buying toys and trinkets for the kittens. This would be a total waste of money as nothing seems to please them more than an empty cardboard box from the liquor store or a couple of large grocery paper bags. There is real structure to their “floorplay” as they take turns climbing into these, the one inside being the defender while the one on the outside attacks the “fort.”
Other games include riding around on the floor mop, chasing each other up and down the staircase and trying to escape into the great unknown outdoors. Our next dilemma will be to train them to catch rats, but not birds. (Yeh, I hear you say, good luck with that!)
Of course, what to feed our kittens has been a discussion between my wife and me. My personal sentiments lie with the dry kibble. My guess is that all those nutritionists working for the pet food companies must have figured out the best diet for the little critters, so why try to fiddle with the formula? The kittens, on the other paw, tend to disagree. They will stare into a stainless silver bowl filled with some delicious crumblies with that puzzled “whazzat?” look on their faces before walking away in total disinterest. In contrast, my wife who is a firm believer in mushy love, has progressed from canned cat food to canned tuna and salmon accompanied by packages of little liver treats. She is presently in the kitchen baking up mini sockeye quiche biscuits for our feline crew.
Nobody asked me, but I believe this life with kittens is starting to grow on me. There is no end to the entertainment they provide as they work their way through a checklist of mischievous activities that are guaranteed to bring a wry smile. I know; eventually they will grow into cats who will see me as just another piece of furniture upon which to sleep. In the meantime, why not just enjoy Moxy and Fruvous for the imps they are? Now, pass the iodine please.
Dear Mr. Zylbergold: It’s nice that you are enjoying your kittens – they are very fun and amusing. As for attacking everything, ”although they are natural predators” means they will be killing or maiming everything they find on your and your neighbour’s property: Birds, butterflies, tree frogs, garter snakes and lots of other beneficial creatures. The awful thing about cats is that they are well fed but still have to maim and torment an animal for hours while they “play.” I hope you keep your cats indoors or train them to walk on a leash as dog owners do. “But WHAT ABOUT THE RATS!” you may scream. Learn how to use a rat trap. They are very easy to set. Also — to all cat owners – when they kill a rat they will chew on it or rip it open to eat a liver or some other part. Then they will come in and rub their face all over yours while carrying intestinal parasites, fleas, mites and other little treats. Enjoy your precious little killers.