New life at spring’s first blush

by Brian Clarey

They venture our from under my daughter’s bed last week, toddling on their wobbly, weak legs: three tiny kittens in their third week of life, their eyes just now opening to the wide world around them.

Their arrival has caused a great disturbance in our house, particularly among the womenfolk, who have been itching to cuddle with the wee, furry things since we realized they were coming just a few months ago.

And that is a story unto itself. It really begins when we decide that my youngest child demonstrates a powerful affinity for all animals, particularly household pets, and specifically the two cats, Henry and Blaze, that live in our house.

Henry and Blaze have been with us a long time — more than 13 years, predating this house, our children, our marriage and our move to Greensboro from New Orleans — but it’s not difficult to remember when they were busy little fuzzballs sliding across our hardwood floors and tearing up the drapes. Still, they’re old now… too old, anyway, to spend their days running from a cat-crazy 5-year-old girl who wants to lock them in her room and put dresses on them.

When the girl turns 6, we feel she is old enough to be the principle caretaker for a kitten of her own, and that is how Marcie comes into our lives, a short-haired tuxedo cat with a sweet, albeit slightly wild-eyed, disposition. And love blooms between the young girl and her cat, who does not seem to mind being locked in that pink and purple bedroom and subjected to wardrobe changes and fur brushings. At the same time, the older cats have taken to hiding from the younger, more energetic pet, scampering out the cat door to the garage or dashing from the house every time the front door is open. And we don’t blame them, because Marcie is an ear-biter, a chronic frolicker, a hyperactive presence that we can tell these elder felines find extremely annoying.

And I should say here that we are responsible cat owners, that we keep the litter boxes relatively clean, that we keep our pets up to date in their vet appointments and have given them prescription-strength cat food ever since Henry developed a kidney stone and needed more than $1,500 worth of cat surgery. Naturally, we had Henry and Blaze fixed when they were old enough to take the procedure. And we planned to do the same with Marcie when she reached the proper age, which we figured was about 2.

So anyway, right around Thanksgiving I start hearing noises in the house at night while I sleep, normally a terrifying thing, but I’ve learned over the years what humans sound like when they break into a home, and these aren’t human sounds: crashing and scurrying and the cats just going nuts. And I’m thinking maybe a raccoon or something has wedged underneath the garage door and come in through the cat entrance.

Then, just before Christmas, I see it: a big gray and white tom underneath the kitchen table. I chase him away, noting that he’s familiar with the layout of our house and the various exits. We go to bed, and the next morning our daughter comes from her room and says, “I dreamed that a big gray and white kitty slept on my bed with me.”

We start calling him “Dirty Paul,” and sightings increase: through the kitchen window as he skulks from the backyard, frenzied episodes in the garage with howls and flying fur, a standoff on the kitchen counter that necessitates use of the sink’s spray-gun feature. I should note that Paul has no fear of me, not in the least. The last time I see him, sleeping under my son’s bed, sullying a pile of otherwise clean school uniforms in a bin, the look he flashes me as he makes his escape is pure scorn.

We start locking the cat door. But, of course, we’re too late. “Paul makes Marcie act really crazy,” our daughter observes one afternoon, before the episode with the spray gun. Indeed, he does. This kitten, not even a year old, is rubbing on the floor and walls, popping her butt up in the air, loosing sounds that cannot be misinterpreted.

“I think he’s her boyfriend,” I say to our daughter, though Paul has yet to reappear in our neighborhood.

And then Marcie begins to grow… outward. The rest of the house is in denial, but I know a pregnant female when I see one, so I call it in January, and as in any home expecting a birth, things are put in order.

It happens one Saturday morning: My daughter and I discover the wet little things under her bed just moments after they are born. First there are two and then there are four and then, after a beautiful little grey doesn’t last the first day, there are three: curious little bundles of new life, each one pure as water and innocent as a tree.

And now they’re coming out to say hello, just in time for spring. I don’t know what will become of these new occupants — if we keep them, that will bring our grand total of cats to six, which anyone can see is far too many cats for one household. We can maybe keep one. But which one? Believe me when I say the womenfolk in my house are not ready to make that kind of choice.

For now we’re content to creep into our daughter’s room and entice them to come out from under the bed, let them crawl on our legs and nibble our fingers. They’re getting stronger by the day, these little guys, and will soon be ready to inspect the rest of the house.

And while I fear for Henry and Blaze — neither of whom, I am sure, has any clue that there are three baby kittens behind my daughter’s bedroom door — I am also eager to see how the little furballs do on the hardwood floor.