Monthly Archives: June 2017

A story about kittens

When I was a kid summer was a magical time. I can still remember looking forward to the bus ride home on the last day of school. The air was sweeter, the leaves greener, and everything was better because Summer Vacation had arrived.

One particularly magical summer came when I was about 10 years old. My brother, sister, and I discovered some kittens in our garage. We didn’t know where they came from but they were old enough to get around; we knew that if they were very young they wouldn’t have had their eyes open yet. There were five of them and we were sure that we could convince our parents that we could keep at least a few.

When we asked, I don’t really recall what the answer was. It must have been at least a conditional yes because we named each of them and even picked out a kitten that we could call our own. My brother picked out an orange bicolor and named him Tiger. I picked the solid black kitten with blue eyes and called her Midnight.

It wasn’t long before tragedy struck. The kittens, curious things that they are, were exploring the garage, climbing around to see what they could find. Midnight somehow fell into a drain pan with used motor oil in it and was thoroughly drenched with the stuff. I remember understanding that this was bad but didn’t really know how to help the poor thing. I remember trying to wash her and get as much oil out of her fur as I could, but it didn’t help. She died not long after. I was heartbroken.

The rest of the kittens, except Tiger, all left. Ultimately he stayed with us for many years. He was part of the family and treated us all pretty well (except for my dad). I never felt that he was very close with me, though. Perhaps I was hanging on to what might have been with Midnight.

When I moved out of the house I either wasn’t allowed to have a pet, or unable to support a pet, for quite a few years. It wasn’t until after Michelle and I married and moved to Wisconsin that another pet entered my life. One day at the mall she visited the pet store (long since closed at this point) and fell into a deep, mutual love with a Himalayan kitten there. It was so obvious that they were meant to be together that we agreed to bring him home a couple of days later. He was a big, fluffy ball of fur with striking blue eyes and a regal attitude that you couldn’t help but admire. Maximillian was with us for almost 16 years.

When Max left us, I was heartbroken again. He was one of the sweetest cats I had ever known. He nuzzled and purred his way into the heart of nearly every person he met, including mine. Michelle was clearly his favorite, though. She could just look at him and he’d start to purr.

Our house was lonely. Often we would walk into the house in the evening and hear Max’s familiar purring, even though he wasn’t there. Sometimes I’d even whisper a greeting before realizing the room was empty. We went seven months like this, through the end of winter into spring and summer, when it became clear that we were going to look for another feline friend.

The wife of one of my work colleagues volunteered at a local animal shelter. Michelle went to see if we could help by providing a foster home for some cats. It turned out they had a pair of tuxedo kittens thought to be about 8 weeks old that needed love and attention. These sisters were found on the street abandoned, sick, and hungry. Michelle’s protective instincts kicked in and she brought them home. She fought to keep the smaller, very ill one alive. At one point she resorted to force feeding the kitten with an eye dropper. We used a heating pad under a blanket to keep her warm 24/7. The larger kitten was also sick, though not lethargic. When Michelle wasn’t taking care of the smaller one, the larger was kneading her, purring and cooing at her, and snuggling up close.

Eventually the day came that we were to give them back to the shelter. Unfortunately our two older girls had bonded with the kittens, and Astrid and Zena stayed with us. Because they’re domestic short hairs, though, my allergies flare up pretty rapidly and I need to wash when I touch them. They’re both very friendly with me but quite definitely not my cats.

Not long after this Michelle was ready for a cat of her own, again. She found a Maine Coon breeder in a town about an hour away. She was adamant than she would not be able to have a Himalayan again, in part because she felt that she might end up comparing them to Max, which would be pretty unfair. Maine Coons seemed to have the right personality type, and as a bonus, they can get pretty big. You don’t have to worry too much about not seeing a 20 pound cat underfoot. And that’s how Sullivan came to be with us, about a year and a half after Astrid and Zena joined our family.

One thing about Sully that’s particularly noteworthy is that he’s very affectionate. Not long after he came home with us it was obvious that, except for the typical kitten rambunctiousness, he was right up with our beloved Max in that way. I’ve remarked several times that this was like being struck by lightning, and not only that, twice in the same spot. Even to this day he is clearly devoted to some degree to everyone in our family. He also has an impish sense of humor that comes out when you’re least expecting it.

Just like with Max, though, Sully has a favorite human. Michelle worked hard to bond with him from the moment he came home with us. He has grown closer to me than Max ever did. He even has a couple of routines, one when I get home from work and one at bed time, that he insists on doing with me nearly every day. Week by week they get a little more complex, and sometimes a little more silly. Even so, he rewards only Michelle with instant purring when she coos at him. At this point I started to long for a kitten I could call my own.

Imagine my surprise when, for Christmas 2015, Michelle gave me a card to redeem for a kitten from the same breeder that Sully came from. I was overjoyed! There are usually only a few litters available per year, so I knew I would have to wait. But, for the first time, I started hoping that the story I began with Midnight all of those years ago would finally have a chance to play out.

That dream finally materialized last weekend. To be honest I was hoping for a female kitten. I even had a name picked out months in advance. I’ve now got this gorgeous little boy, instead, so he doesn’t have a name yet (even after a week). I’m getting closer, though. I’m taking my time to get to know him a little better so I don’t end up giving him a name that doesn’t fit like “Killer” or “Spot” or “___ as a bag of rocks.”

One thing that I can say for sure is that lightning does apparently strike in the same place three times.

silver tabby kitten

Unnamed silver tabby Maine Coon, taken Saturday, June 3, 2017.