My youngest has been begging us for some baby something of his own for about three years. He has a dog of his own, a Pointer (mix?) named Molly, but she came to us at about six months and Sam missed the cute small puppy thing. He's inordinately responsible as nine year olds go--never has to be reminded to do his chores and willingly cares for Molly without grumbling. I've only been putting him off because we really do have "enough" cats. Far too many by some standards, but I've never been one to let others dictate that number. We keep them well fed (some too much so), spayed and neutered and vetted and we take in what no one else wants. Getting a cat on purpose is unheard of this house.
But when Joseph's little girlfriend announced their cat had just had kittens, though he didn't say a word, Sam's eyes lit up. I turned to his father and looked at him. He nodded faintly.
When I was single, the most important question I asked a guy was if he liked kids and animals. I found it was a good secret weeder question. The guy or two who answered "no" didn't last long (except for one really creepy boyfriend wannabe who needed a little more encouragement to go away. I advise all young single women to make the acquaintance of their large Harley Riding Neighbors for this purpose). The next phase of questions was along the lines of "How much?" By the time I mentioned being a believer in rescuing animals and big families (four to six kids) most of the less courageous guys were on their way. I tested the remaining out on my various pets (rats, hamsters, gerbils, fish, cats . . .), took them home with me and watched them with my brothers and sisters and, when that was too far, I invited them to meet me for lunch at the daycares I worked at.
Because a lot of guys who profess to like animals do not actually like cats, I had one remaining secret question that only had one right answer. My father hates cats. Because of this, my mother resorted to underhanded tricks in order to keep them while she was married to my Dad. Their marriage didn't last for a lot of reasons, but Dad's need to control everything around him, up to and including my mother, contributed to their demise. I didn't need a repeat of this in my life. I'm not so hung up on cats that I couldn't live without them, but I have found that most guys who don't like cats are a lot like my father. Love him I do, but I don't want to live with him in replica.
This narrowed the field considerably. In fact, at one point it narrowed the field to zero and I thought I might have to compromise if I wanted to have a family at all. That or figure out a way to do it by myself.
Just when I was about to give up, Gary and one other guy, both long time friends, made it very clear they were interested in committing to a relationship. I could have been happy with either of them. However, while they both liked cats only one liked kids. Guess which one that was?
Gary likes cats. He likes them a lot. Sees strays and talks about bring them home. Fusses at me for insisting one seven year old male cat named Diogenese stay outside. This is the cat who refuses to use the litter box, won't stay off the counters, out of the trash, and sprays on my computer monitor. (Hey! I'm tolerant, but even I have my limits). Gary's is the "get up during the night with orphaned kittens," kind of like. Thank god.
Neither of us expected Sam's kitten to show up on our doorstep four weeks early.
"The mama won't nurse them anymore," she said. "We've been feeding them hot dogs to try and get some weight on them, but it's not working too well. Can you take her?"
I looked at this tiny, skin and bones creature, her eyes just past blue and on their way to gold, and said, "Yeah. We can do this." There's always a risk in saying yes to baby animals and because I'm me and because God has more confidence in me than I do, I've been in this position before.
Sam dubbed her "Tara". She's a either a tortoise shell with a small amount of white on her or a Calico with a lot more brown and gold than white, depending on your take on it. Her face is split in half, one half grey and black, the other gold. She makes extremely confident eye contact and fully expects everyone to like her.
The first night I let her sleep with me, as I was worried about stressing her too much. She cried very little though. For the most part, she slept or lay quietly in the crook of my arm. Last night I put her to bed in a kennel on a full tummy. She cried for a little while, but settled down quickly. At five this morning she was up wailing for her breakfast. I fed her and let her "sleep" with us. Instead she pounced on fingers and toes, growling and biting them. Gary got up with her and spent an amused hour or so trailing his fingers across the sheets as she pounced after them while I attempted to sleep.
I think Miss Tara will be just fine. She's finally getting a handle on lapping formula from a bowl and she likes scrambled eggs and tuna, but she's still rejecting soft kitten food. We've introduced her to a small litter box and she's getting a handle on it what to do in it, though if we don't watch her, she'll roll around in it playing as well.
When I woke to find her curled up on Gary's chest this morning I had to smile the picture of this huge guy who whispered that he was afraid to move for fear of waking her up.
I leaned over and kissed him and whispered back, "I'm so glad I didn't settle."
"Me too. What are you talking about?"
I just smiled and went off to make the coffee. A girl has to have her secrets.