Kitten Love: It’s amazing that something so small can have so much energy, intelligence, curiosity, and grace
Mollie is just 4 months old, but she learned the ins and outs of our household within days of joining us. She’s the perfect example of kittenhood: speeding through the house, finding the perfect hiding place, playing tackle with the big guys, then crashing to recharge her batteries before heading off to her next adventure. Everything is new, yet it becomes quickly familiar.
She may be graceful, but we’re doing the “kitten shuffle.” Open the fridge, she’s there. Chop veggies at the counter, step back, and move to the sink, she’s there. Head for the bathroom, she’s there.
There comes a time in the life of any cat lover when you need to add to the herd. Cats outnumber dogs (approximately 90 million to 73 million, according to a survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturing Association) and that’s because we can’t have just one. Sometimes it’s a deliberate decision; other times it’s by chance. It’s worked both ways for us.
We’d been thinking about addition for a little while. Two of our longtime feline family members had gone to Rainbow Bridge in the past year, leaving us with “just” three. One had been my husband Paul’s favorite, so he wanted someone he could call his own and had his mindset on a black and white female kitten.
While you can never replace a kitty that has left this world, you can honor its memory by adopting a new one. A colleague once said, “The reason they don’t live as long as we do makes it so there are more to adopt.”And after all, things were getting a bit too placid.
So one Saturday we visited a local shelter that was having an overflow of kittens and cats. This little black and white girl, 4 or 5 weeks old, had been dropped off with no mom or siblings. She was a tad reserved, but purred readily and was not opposed to snuggling and playing. We put dibs on her but would have to wait to take her home until she was big enough to be spayed 2 pounds.
We returned the next week to visit her and my husband swore that she gave him a dirty look when she was put back in her cage, so he decided it would be less stressful (on both him and the kitten) if he just waited until she was ready to come home.
In the meantime, we had to choose a name. That would be Paul’s choice and I came up with a list. Nothing struck him, but after I put the list away, he said, “I think I like Mollie.”
Then we had to bide our time until she was ready and that took two long months.
Introductions can be tricky, but we felt confident since our own three cats had always lived with others and Mollie had lived with an assortment of cats at the shelter. Upon arrival, I immediately dabbed a bit of vanilla on each cat’s nose, an introductory trick to make everyone smell the same. We let Mollie explore the family room for a while; it has all sorts of hiding places, which she quickly found. The older cats eventually wandered in, a bit startled to find the newcomer.
There was a lot of sniffing and a bit of hissing, some posturing. Paul spent some quality bonding time with her. After all, she was going to be “his” cat. She quickly found some hiding places, which probably made her feel more secure as she was adjusting to her new – and much bigger – digs. However, she learned that her meals were served regularly and readily accepted cuddles, accented by a very loud, immediate purr.
Pulitzer, our orange tabby, became her first bud. A big, indestructible guy, he tolerated kitten attacks and wrestling matches, punctuated by a hiss when things got out of control. Mollie seemed to understand that, at least for a minute or so.
Dusty, our senior citizen, was patient but didn’t take too much guff. He played the sniffing game, drawing the line at full-blown engagement.
And our Russian Blue diva, Tekla knew she could get some perspective on the situation, by claiming the kitchen counter. She knew that was off-limits to Mollie – at least for a while. She did deign to play chase, turning the tables on her little pursuer.
The acceptance has been, well, acceptable. Mollie lines up for meals at the designated time, hunkers in on the bed for the night with the others, and makes her opinion known through little chirps. She’s providing energy and stimulation to the household.
I believe that the barometer of successful integration is seeing your original cats maintain their loving (hopefully) routines. Dusty hops up on the nightstand and smacks his lips, wanting to crawl under the covers with me. Tekla, too, scrambles under the covers, way down in the middle of the bed. And she lies on my arm, which rests on the desk as I type. Everyone eats heartily and no one seems to feel displaced.
Look carefully at the black smoosh across Mollie’s nose. See the outline of a kitty with two ears and a tail to the left? We consider that symbolic of all the kitties in our household who have preceded her. n
Sally Bahner is a longtime writer and editor, and expert on everything feline. She can be reached at [email protected]