Growing up, I had hamsters and fish. The hamsters (they were called “teddy bear” hamsters) kept getting out of their cages, and consistently hid either under the couch in the living room or under my parents’ bed all the way upstairs. The fish were as much my mom’s responsibility as ours, though that changed not long after the time she was cleaning the tank out and our algae-eater flipped out of the water and smacked her on the lips.
None of this prepared me for having a kitten.
We adopted her from a local animal shelter. They were really great about socializing their kittens there. Each kennel had a pair of kittens or one older cat, and there were two enclosed areas off to the side, each with a bench for human visitors, a couple kitty towers, and a large litter box. My partner went there first while I was at work, and texted her approval and about this little two month old calico tortie baby the shelter had dubbed “Peaches” who had rolled over for her and wanted to snuggle immediately. I clocked out a little early the next day so I could be there before it closed — and we took her home that same day.
Super cute! Even though, as we discovered, she never stops talking.
Apparently this is a calico thing. Since we had been specifically looking for a calico, it would have become a part of our lives no matter what.
She was a little bewildered by the new surroundings when we brought her home, but within a day she was exploring all around the room and had briefly met both of the dogs. Thanks to the set-up at the shelter we’d already seen her interacting with other cats, and seen signs that she was both inquisitive and not easily daunted by the older kitties. (And that she knew how to use a litter box!) We chose a good one. She was almost less uncertain of the dogs than they were of her.
The next morning, when I started my day of trying to work from home, this happened.
That first week was amazing. I spent most of it napping or watching tv on the couch with a little baby snuggled up on my chest. A few times she crawled up a little further and licked my face with her little baby tongue and my heart melted. I gave her face rubs and scratches and kisses, and when she nibbled on my fingers I coaxed her up her tower to get to her food on top of the dresser. At first we named her Moriarty, Marty for short. It was actually pretty appropriate, but sounded too much like our dog’s name and he kept getting confused and overstimulated. Now she is Frankie, after Lily Tomin’s character in Grace & Frankie, and it’s even more appropriate. She’s such a lovey cat, but not afraid of complaining and/or telling us about everything that happens in her life.
It was amazing to me that this tiny thing was my responsibility, even in part. She was such a baby when we got her, at only two pounds, that I worried about hurting her if I picked her up too quickly. If she jumped down from something that seemed disproportionately high compared to her tiny body, I worried. If she kept mewing at me, I would carry her to her food or to her litter box or to the top of her kitty tower or to the window where I would hold her and let her look outside, because she is my baby. Even the fact that she choose with her mouth open (om nom nom) and sprays dry kitten food bits all around her food bowl is endearing to me.
Ten months later, my partner and I both still awww at every yawn and cute rolling over or funny face. We are used to the constant meowing for attention to the point where it’s only annoying sometimes, and she started to fill out so that she no longer looks so frail. I don’t worry about her jumping down from tall places anymore, I worry that she’ll sneak out of the house and get lost, or get in trouble. Sunday she will be an inside outside cat, but I’m not ready for that yet.
Do I feel qualified to take care of this tiny creature? I don’t know. I definitely didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I agreed to bring a kitten into our apartment. I had no frame of reference for what to expect, and I would be lying if I said I expected my heart to melt as completely as it has. Her litter box could stand to be cleaned out more often, and I’m not actually sure how often cats are supposed to be bathed by their humans, but so far we have managed to raise a cat who doesn’t claw the furniture, lets us clip her nails without much fuss, lets us play with her ears and paws, does not cry about shots at the vet, tolerates long car ride’s with more or less good grace, and only caused one very nasty-looking claw mark on the events of her first bath. I think we’re doing okay.
And I think we have the cutest cat that has ever pitter pattered across this earth.