I am not a cat lady. I want to make that clear.
Chris and I do have two cats and we think they’re swell. Their primary responsibility is to provide a calm, loungy aesthetic to counteract our dogs’ bouncy, crazy energy. They do this well.
But gradually over the past few weeks, and despite our significant attempts to ignore the obvious, we became aware that a very young and bone-thin homeless mama kitty and her kittens were hanging out somewhere close to our house. We'd see the little momcat carrying a kitten in her teeth, ducking under our bushes.
“That’s not good,” we'’d say.
Then, someone dropped by to visit on a warm, bright afternoon and said, “I'm so sorry, but as I came up your sidewalk, I frightened your kittens away. They were sure cute, sunning on your porch.”
“We don’t have kittens,” I replied, unconvincingly.
Then our adorable neighbor, Rebecca, started posting Facebook messages to me saying things like, “Hey neighbor, there's a mama kitty and some kittens living under your porch!”
The public shame was too much. While inside our house we were the picture of pet responsibility -- two totally indoor cats, one spayed and the other neutered, both with collars, ID tags, regular checkups and vaccinations -- under our porch and, worse still, on Facebook, we looked like scum.
Finally, I arrived home one mid-afternoon and there they were, little gray kittens, lounging in the sun. When I approached, they shot through a previously inconsequential hole in our porch's structure, stationing themselves totally out of reach.
Thus the games began.
I'll jump ahead and say that the three kittens and momcat are now living in our family room in a massive hard-shell dog crate that, in a pinch, is large enough to hold both of our 60-pound dogs. The sweet mama has been around people before. She likes to have her head scratched and she’ll even lie on my chest and snuggle. The kittens are wild animals, though; they obviously were never touched by humans before and I can attest that even now they are not in favor of it.
How they got from under the porch to our family room is a long story, one unfolding over several days and involving 20 feet of rope, a stick, cat food, several friends, a small pet carrier, a particularly inventive 13-year-old boy, a lot of patience, a piece of salmon, Band-Aids and some Bactine.
A kind woman named Barbara at the Humane Society tells me the kittens will undoubtedly be euthanized if they are wild.
As I write this, Chris is sure one of the kittens has given him rabies. Poking around on the Internet, hindered by an ironic Hello Kitty Band-Aid on his main typing finger, he says darkly,"It says the symptoms can take up to a year to show up and by then, it’s too late.”
Maybe I'm naïve, but I don’t think Chris is the one who’s about to die.
Barbara offers me a deal. Foster the kitties. Spend a week or three conditioning them to human contact, make them lovable and playful and friendly, and she'll get them vaccinated and try to find homes for them. Like the family years ago who released a four-foot iguana on our street because they were “done with it,” someone has behaved irresponsibly with this momcat. Someone left her unspayed, starving and alone. Someone was done with her.
She’s little more than a teen mom, but she's managed to keep her family together and alive. The least we can do is spend a couple of weeks giving these kitties a chance.
Barb Guy is a regular contributor to these pages.