We’re not sure how many cats we have.
We thought we only rescued two kittens from the animal shelter. Two sisters, Katie, the gray tiger, and Zoe, the black and white. They were only a few weeks old when they came to live with us, too small to move beyond the bedroom door. But once they were older and did venture into that big world known as the rest of the house, a very strange thing happened.
The number of cats in our house multiplied.
The chaos and mayhem that has ensued over the last year has convinced us that we have more than two cats. It would defy all the laws of physics for two small cats to cause such commotion. Our evidence for this belief? The shredded curtains, the damaged blinds, the smashed glassware. The disconnected, well-chewed phone cord. The removal and shredding of all pieces of paper in our waste baskets. The sight of cats racing at a speed so fast they are just a blur, making it impossible to determine how many of them have just flown by.
We speculate that these cats come up through the drains. They creep in the open windows. They slither under the doors. The cat food bowls are always empty, the litter boxes always full. We are paying for far more cat food than two cats could ever eat. And as for litter box duties… Talk about job security!
Katie and Zoe deny any knowledge of the other cats. They stare at us with wide, innocent eyes when we make inquiries, as if they do not know what we are talking about. Sometimes they yawn, clearly indicating the questions are not important. And sometimes they casually saunter away, intending, we are sure, to warn the other cats to lie low because the food providers/box cleaners are getting suspicious. Then we laugh at ourselves. There cannot possibly be more than two cats in our house. Right?
We carry this false security to bed with us. We lie still in the night, listening to the sounds of thundering paws racing around the house, sounding like a herd of stampeding buffalo. To get up and investigate is dangerous. In the dark, a little, furry assassin will crack-block your ankles and then disappear, leaving you bruised and swearing on the floor. So we merely listen to the galloping, mentally calculating how many cats it would take to make that thundering noise. Calculating how much cat food we will have to buy. Calculating how many times we will have to scoop the litter boxes. We eventually fall into an uneasy sleep, each hoping that the rampaging hordes will not trample us in the night.
Last winter, Katie, our beloved tiger cat, died at the age of seventeen. It broke our hearts; we found her when she was five weeks old and she was such a part of our lives that we couldn’t even imagine how to fill the gaping hole that was left when she died.
She was an amazing cat. One year after we adopted her, our daughter was born. We brought the baby home and placed her on our bed, not certain of what Katie would think of the situation. Katie circled the mysterious bundle, obviously wondering just what it was. The baby made a movement that startled the cat. She had not been expecting something alive. To our amazement, she didn’t run. She sniffed the baby from head to toe and then lay down next to her. She then looked up at us as if to say, “Thank you for bringing me this baby.” From that day on, our daughter was Katie’s Baby.
After Katie’s death, we were divided about what to do. Our daughter wanted a kitten. We weren’t so sure. It is so damn hard losing pets and with the pain of Katie’s death fresh in our minds, we weren’t certain we wanted to do it all again. But as time passed, we gradually weakened. We began to talk about getting a kitten. A friend mentioned that two kittens would be an even better idea. They would keep each other company and entertain each other.
In May we adopted two kittens from an animal shelter. They were only four weeks old, part of a litter that was discovered on a construction site when the kittens were only one week old. There was no sign of their mother so they had been bottle-fed by the shelter staff. We dubbed them Katie and Zoe and brought them home. We were ecstatic. We were no longer petless. Happy days!
They were so young their eyes were still blue and they each only weighed 1.5 pounds. We quickly discovered they did not know how to drink out of a bowl. They did not know how to use a litter box. They could not even wash themselves. It was like having newborn babies. We turned the little bathroom off our bedroom into a kitten nursery and lay in bed that night wondering what we had gotten into.
What we had gotten into was two furry, purring little bundles of pure happiness. They learned quickly. They grew fast. They became our obsession and our joy. We plastered Facebook with photos and videos of our darlings. We knew we had the smartest, prettiest, most delightful kittens in the world.
When we see the antics of our kittens, we remember our first Katie when she was a kitten. We no longer cry about her death. We laugh in joy at all the good memories.