Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Cat People

Great. Now I have that horrible 1980s film in my head.

I've only ever had one pet in my family at a time.

Actually, that's not true: when the kids were very young, we bought a betta fish and a couple of minnows. I think you can see where this is going. The employee in the store said these fish could co-exist. Maybe he didn't realize the size of the fishbowl we were putting them in.

We should have separated the fish as soon as we saw the little bite taken out of one of the minnow's tails. We should have realized that a compromised tail fin would impede the speed at which the minnow could swim.

The message came loud and clear, one morning, when I entered the kitchen to make breakfast, and found nothing but a head and spine lying at the bottom of the bowl. It was next to the miniature, gold treasure chest, but this was no booty. I used our kitchen tongs to retrieve the remains and dispose of them before the kids came down for their oatmeal.

The second minnow followed shortly after. Apparently, I didn't learn from the first lesson.

When DW and I moved in together, before we married, we adopted a kitten from the Humane Society. Leo was an adorable grey and white cat who was social and would always jump on someone's lap when we were on the sofa. We had Leo for 11 years when he developed kidney disease and had to be put down. I was with him right to the end.

It took a couple of years for us to decide to get a new cat, and that's when Edwin joined our family. Ed has been a laid-back dude who has made friends with many neighbours because of his friendly disposition and his ability to control the neighbourhood mouse population.

Sadly, he also bags a few birds, now and then, but the bell that we added to his collar has reduced his success.

Edwin was a solo family cat until he was about nine years old, when, on an impulse visit to a pet store, I walked out with a second cat, Jake.

Jake was cute, but he was hellish. He tore up the house. He tormented Edwin. He tried to dominate the entire family, and when his attempts failed, he'd take it out by crapping on DW's and my bed.

Jake had to go.

We found him a lovely Carleton University student who loved cats and fell in love with him at first sight. For months after she took him, this new cat owner sent us photos and updates of Jake, who thrived as an only cat.

Once again, we were a one-cat family. Edwin continued to be the centre of our family.

A couple of months ago, DD14, who had been asking me for a dog on a daily basis for years, finally told me that she would stop asking for a dog if we would get a second cat. She wanted a kitten, female, preferably a tortoiseshell cat. That weekend, we went to the Humane Society. I wasn't hopeful that we would find a cat to her exact expectations, but that if we found a female kitten that was friendly, it would fit the bill.

We walked out of the animal shelter, with a female tortoiseshell kitten. Her name is Lily.

Edwin didn't warm up to Lily right away, but never tried to hurt or dominate her. Lily was playful and would pounce on Ed, who would meow in protest, swipe at her with a clawless paw (he'd keep them retracted), or pounce back when she persisted. Now, they get along fairly well.

Two weekends ago, DW and DD14 got it in their heads that another kitten would be good for Lily. Edwin was 12 years older than her and he was an outdoor cat. DW and DD14 wanted a kitten close to Lily's age, someone who was as playful as she and would be a companion for when Edwin was outside.

Edwin tends to keep to himself and never seeks Lily out to play.

I said we really didn't need a playmate for Lily: we've always had one cat and they always did fine. I said no, but they could hear that my voice wasn't as firm as when I used to be asked for a dog.

The Humane Society Web site showed four potential kittens, all of whom were at a single Pet Smart store near Parkwood Hills. We drove over to check them out but by the time we got there, every one of them was gone. The last one had left the store less than an hour before we arrived.

It wasn't to be, I told the girls, let's just be content with Edwin and Lily.

This weekend, DW checked the Humane Society's site again, and another kitten was in the same Pet Smart. As we were planning to do some shopping, DW urged me to hurry out the door with her. This time, we took DD16, who loves cats but didn't think we needed a third in our family.

The kitten was in the store, and we learned that she had just lost her sister, the previous day, to another adoption home. This was a nine-month-old female Torby, a tortoiseshell and tabby mix. She was lean but solid, and was extremely affectionate. As soon as I picked her up, she didn't want me to put her back down.

She came home with us.

Our house has gone from a solitary cat to a household of three felines. All of them friendly, all affectionate. It'll be a couple more weekends before we can introduce the latest kitten, who we've named Camille, into the fold, but already she's tried to join the others. Edwin has seen her and has given one of his whatever turns of the head.

Fingers crossed that it works out.

Go ahead, call us cat people. Crazy, crazy cat people.

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