Monday, November 3, 2008

The Cat Dad


Son has found a baby cat in the barn.

This is not the first time.

Earlier this summer he found three kittens, at first so tiny they barely had their eyes open. He waited until he thought they would be old enough and then caught them and brought them into the house. I did say "into the house," though I am firmly averse to animals in the house. What can I say? - he convinced me.

Plus we'd be doing the neighborhood a favor. Their mamma is a feral cat, a very fertile feral cat. Our half-hearted attempts to catch her and take her in to be spayed had not met with any success, but we could at least neutralize her progeny. And they were adorable - a black tuxedo he named Peridot, an orange creamsicle named Tansy, and Aspen, a black-and-white stripey.

They didn’t last.

It’s not just that their adoption coincided with the start of our building project, which began with tearing open the wall in the downstairs bathroom to fix a non-functioning shower. (And why exactly was I surprised to find kittens climbing all over inside the basement walls?)

Keeping the kittens outside on the porch in a big computer box worked about three days. We could handle their newfound skill at jumping out with a weighted screen over the top. But we were no match for the mamma cat, Feral Fertile, who mer-yowed around our house all night every night and finally even brought a big burly tom with her, whom I can only suppose was their father.

I cannot oppose a dedicated mother (and a father to boot! there is hope in the animal world!)  Out of maternal solidarity and despite my son's most pathetic pleas, I decreed the kittens let free and watched them scamper to reunite with their family. May the same be measured out again to me.

I’m sure the songbirds -- threatened now by a thriving tribe of predators -- will forgive my sloppy, shortsighted, anthropomorphic sentimentality.

Son was heartbroken - or more accurately, all the more determined.

The rest of the summer he was on constant lookout for cats he could tame. And every other week he’d go back out to the barn to see if “his” cats had seen the light and given up Life with Mother to come back and live with him.

“I'm going to go look for my cats in the barn," he said last week.

"They're not there anymore. You're not going to find anything out in the barn, except mice maybe." 

But of course I was wrong. He came floating back from the barn, his face like May morning, cradling a tiny baby cat: “He just walked right up to me and put his foot on my foot and said meow.”

Ugh. Now there is a faint whiff of cat whenever I come in the front door.

But Son cuddles the cat around with him everywhere, cooing over it cuteness.

"It's almost as good as having a brother," says he.  "Do you think it might be like this when I'm a Dad?"

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