Saturday, April 28, 2007
A New Life
Star, with Fleming in supporting role.
`“Lovey has to have a new companion!” Once that was declared, and when the debate over the joy of pets versus the sorrow of losing them had been concluded, the search for a feline companion began, “for Lovey’s sake”. At least that was the excuse.
You would think, with all of the homeless cats in the world, that it would take about an hour to find one, but that’s not the way it was. The orange cat advertised in the paper had already been given away. Vets had no current leads except for a veterinary center called FloridaWild, which specializes in rescuing wild animals as well as cats. I had conceded that I would not insist on a Siamese cat (Siamese cats have been big in my life), but I did demand a very young cat. . . which eliminated all but two at FloridaWild, across whose polished wood floors a fashion show of nine different shapes and colors strolled, observed by a parrot and a cockatoo. “Panther”, a tornado orphan, would have been a possibility had he not eliminated himself from consideration by frantically fleeing down the hall as a streak of black as soon as he was displayed. My favorite was a kitty who had lost half his tail and had a hip replacement after he was hit by an automobile, but we were concerned about his long-term health. The only suitably young cat was a few months old, very lively, but not particularly appealing. Choosing a cat to live with for years is like choosing a wife. You don’t just go out on the street and grab the first woman that comes along. If the feeling’s not there, it’s not there. We reserved judgment.
Later that day FloridaWild called and told us about a woman who rescued cats and dogs. We phoned her. Yes, she had some kittens. In fact she had just received two litters of very young kittens – one abandoned at a bank, and the other left by a mailbox in nearby Lake Helen. Our lack of experience with kittens resulted in unconditional jubilation. Kittens! Perfect!
As we turned into the driveway of Donna’s country home we spotted at least a dozen cats on the lawn, on the walkways, in the flower beds. They slept, they strolled, they ran. More cats nonchalantly emerged from the garage to have a look at us, while inside the house scarcely a piece of furniture was unoccupied by a furry body.
I was amazed at the incredible cleanliness of the spacious home, and the patience and good humor of the woman whose home it was – who I sensed must once have been on a university faculty. In her library/computer room were two ladies from the bank with about eight tiny kittens tumbling all over the floor. Cuteness compounded, needless to say. Then Donna took us to another room and opened a bathroom door, and the Lake Helen brigade tottered out. The choice was made almost immediately: One of the Lake Helen kittens was a Siamese. The siblings resembled other pure breeds, but there was only one who stood out as Siamese.
We arranged to pick her up the next morning. I impulsively volunteered my computer room/playroom to be the kitten nursery needed to keep her separate “for a few days” from the older cat. All was prepared – litter box, kitty bed, kitten bottle with nipple and special milk, food dishes, toys. (Just think: Donna bottle fed sixteen kittens at least twice a day, along with everything else!)
What we did not realize was that an adopted kitten is usually a fully weaned little cat of at least eight weeks old which has lived with its mother and siblings and learned a lot about living and playing from them. Our kitten was only five or six weeks old, not weaned, and had lived with its mother, if at all, for a couple of days. We didn’t realize that she might have more to learn from her brothers and sisters – in particular how hard to bite and scratch without hurting.
So, last Friday, April 20, we brought “Star” home. Her name is still subject to debate. I liked “Star”, while Julia added “Twinkle”. Star was no more than a ball of fluff, and yet she quickly proceeded to take over my hitherto sacrosanct playroom and show me who was boss. Teeth and claws like little needles assisted with the invasion. She soon realized that human hands and bare feet were improved versions of the sparring partners who had been her brothers and sisters.
That first day she never stopped racing around the room and playing. Her nightly bedroom is a bathroom because of my concern that she might chew on the snake’s nest of wires at one end of my room. My time alone with her is 90 percent delight, 5 percent worry (“Where is she? Where is she?”), and 5 percent pain.
She was too young to be tested for feline leukemia as would usually have been done, and so she has to be segregated from Lovey until this coming Monday. She has, however, been introduced to him. First we set them down to view one another from a few yards apart in the living room. Donna had predicted, “I know what the reaction will be. Kitten will run up to Lovey saying, ‘Mommy, mommy, it’s been so long!’ and Lovey will knock her over with one swat . . . but she’ll keep coming back.” Is it happening? Kitten is tottering over to Lovey. But wait – something’s wrong. Instead of swatting, Lovey is wide-eyed with horror, turning tail, running away in such a panic that he knocks over some shelves. He doesn’t stop until he’s out of the main house and on the far side of the pool deck. He’s not much better on the next day, when Star is displayed on one side of the screened deck while Lovey crouches in the ferns on the other side. All that can be seen of Lovey are two gigantic golden-green disks where once had been his eyes.
But in the following days the relationship improved. Lovey cowered and stared from closer and closer distances, and later he actually made an effort to approach the kitten. Now, after a week of tentative introductions, he seems calm and ready for the big moment next Monday after Star comes out of quarantine. When she finally is standing free in front of him, will the traditional welcoming swat be administered? Emergency vehicles will be standing by.
. . . To be continued, replete with boring philosophical ruminations . . .