Monday, April 1, 2013

My Two (Furry) Daughters

I have two precious daughters.  Olivia, the eldest of two years and three months, and Mina, two years, or maybe just shy of two years.  They are two of the most precious things to me in the world, and I love them dearly in their own, separate and special ways.

Of course, you probably already guessed that these daughters are not human since they are so close in age to one another.  And perhaps by the title of this writing which has "furry" in it.  If you guessed they are most likely cats or dogs, you would be correct in the former.  My daughters are my fuzzy kittens.

There are a great many people now who treat their animals as children.  I would never go so far as treat them as spoiled children, nor would I dress them up, carry them around in designer purses, or speak about them as if they were the only things in the world that I care about.  I do care about people, although I don't care very much about human children.  They have their moments, I will admit.  Hidden smiles behind Mom's legs, a wave or a "Hi!" from a cheerful one at the store, or the way they're always curious about things.  But then, so are cats.  Cats also don't scream and yell at you that they hate you.  They don't require your attention 24/7 (well, some do) but especially they don't require schooling, helping with homework, separate rooms for themselves (they don't, trust me on this) and they don't need clothing which has to be in the newest fashion every other week.

I grew up with pets.  I didn't grow up around small babies.  My younger brother was born fifteen months after I was due to my mother believing that as long as she was breast feeding she didn't need to be on birth control as well.  Hello!  I was just barely out of diapers by the time he was, so I only had a few months of toddling around after the young one with clean diapers to help Mom change.

I had dolls growing up, but my favorites were always stuffed animals.  I had a duck given to me at a very early age by my grandmother, and by the time I was five I was naming my stuffed bunny "Morning" after the thought that mourning doves cooed outside during the spring and it was spring when I received my bunny, and also it was first thing in the morning when I was asked again what her name would be.

It's sort of rare for children to come up with names for toys nowadays.  I digress in my writing since I notice that if a little girl or boy comes up to me to show me their brand new doll or stuffed animal and I ask for its name I usually get, "I dunno," or "I haven't given it one yet," or in my most recent case, "Well, she is a Barbie, so that's her name."

All the way through my childhood and teenage years I liked horses.  If you asked me what my favorite real animal was, I would say "horse".  If you asked my favorite non-real animal, "unicorn."  But I was very rarely attached to actual pets.

My first two childhood pets were Sammy and Trapper, two orange stripe cats with bits of white on them.  They were indoor/outdoor cats so they were pretty wild as most of those kinds are.  After Sammy was put down when I was six or so, we had a bought with a fish tank.  When I reached about seven or eight I begged my parents for a black cocker spaniel I dubbed "Stormer" after a character in "Jem and the Holograms."  Stormer lived to the ripe old age of fourteen before dying of a cancerous lump under her tail.

By then I had already lost my father, and with his death, Mom felt it fair if I had a cat replacement since I'd been asking for one since I entered college.  Alex, a grey and tan stripe tabby, was found across the street from my aunt's house, so we adopted him.  Two years later near the end of college a guy I dated for a short time offered me one of his cat's kittens, and that is when I had black Neo.

Strangely enough, all three animals, Stormer, Alex and Neo were buddies.  Stormer would crawl up onto the couch to fall asleep, and in would come Alex, and finally Neo, all cuddled up together in a fluffy pile.  We're pretty sure both cats felt somewhat sad when Stormer died, but as they had one another, they seemed to get along fairly well.

Alex wasn't as much of a cuddler with other cats, however, so Neo would spend much of his time with me, as was right since I had adopted him and Alex, after my adoption had taken a liking to my brother instead.  Sometimes I think it was because of his mysterious closed bedroom door.  My brother would only open it on rare occasions when the funk was too much to bear and Alex would high-tail it in there and find himself in a wonderland of smells and sights.

When I moved away from home four years after graduating college, I was unable to take my cat with me.  I regret that decision even now, seeing as though not long afterward a disease took him and he died of kidney failure.  Neo wasn't very old, only seven or eight years, which is a relatively short time for an exclusively indoor cat.

So I vowed, as did my husband, that we would do our cats right in the future.  Both of us had grown up with cats in the household, so when we moved away from home into an apartment complex that refused pets, it was a shock to our systems.  We could see our cats in pictures, visit them after a four hour drive, but could not bring them with us or even adopt new ones.

Neither of us regretted the apartment we lived in when first moving to Ohio.  It was a spacious two-bedroom, two bathroom, ground floor with a nice large patio and space for me to plant.  It overlooked a beautiful pond that always had ducks floating around on it, and it was a short walking distance to the pool.  The only times we really wished we had cats in our lives during that time was when it got super cold outside, and when we'd occasionally see a stray running around outside chasing the mice and voles our bird feeder encouraged up to the building.

Then our neighbors moved upstairs and in came the loudest couple we'd ever encountered.  They'd yell and fight all hours of the night.  We were never quite sure what their problem was, but then the neighbor beside us moved and in came a hoarder.  In came the mice too.  Up came our lease and out we went into our new home on the other side of town.

We spent about a month repainting everything, cleaning carpets and putting in new appliances.  Washed windows, hung shades and curtains, moved in a few weeks before we were even due out of the apartment.  Spring was just starting to arrive when we said goodbye to our first home in a new state.

I promised myself that I wouldn't ask for a cat until my birthday in June.  I really only made it until about April before I was begging for a cat.  We went to every shelter, Humane Society and pet store in the area.    I wanted that beautiful fuzzy grey ball of a kitten at the pet store where they kept cats from local shelters.  I filled out that form with my heart beating heavily and we waited.  We visited that little ball of fur every few days thinking we'd get a phone call.  Nothing ever came.  My husband called the shelter.  "Oh, that one was adopted already.  Did you submit a form?"

Heartbroken, I found out the big box pet store had never even faxed in the form for the kitten, instead losing it in the shuffle somewhere.

Almost the very next day we were at the Humane Society.  We had only fifteen minutes to look around before they closed for the day.  I raced in, heart pounding again, this time we'd find one, I knew somewhere deep down.  Right in the front display were kittens.  I didn't want an older cat, although I had thought about it a few times, and was just about to settle for one we saw the week before if she was still in her cage...  I rushed in, not even asking to open the display door, and immediately this little gray ball of fluff ran right over to me and I scooped her up.

"Yata!"  I proclaimed, and even though neither I nor my husband are Japanese, we both knew the "We did it!" proclamation.  We retired into one of the play rooms and she skittered around the floor chasing after balls and fuzzy things like a pro.  She calmed down when I held her in my arms, and my husband ran out at the closing call to grab the adoption forms while I held my kitten in my arms unwilling to let anyone else even see her until I knew she was mine.

Olivia was brought home April 29, 2011.

Olivia was princess of the household for six months all by herself.  We followed a routine of getting up first thing in the morning, running downstairs to play with her for ten or fifteen minutes.  Then she'd eat, then she'd ask to play again.  She asked constantly.  She loves playing with humans.  She would play with herself from time to time, but more than likely, she'd run over and run back to wherever it was we were keeping her toy that week until we finally followed and started to play with her.  It was, quite frankly, pretty exhausting.

Our little ball of fur, however, had very few quirks.  She liked to climb under cabinets, and up on things.  She liked to explore and loved anything new.  She still does.  Most cats like routine, she likes new.  She likes to play the game of "cleaning the house" or laying on new laundry.  She has a strange obsessions with yowling at us as we've gotten out of the shower.  If you bring a new box into the house she'll want in that one rather than the five others she has around the house.

So, we thought a few months later, maybe she would like a new kitten.  But only after we had finished up our convention that year, since it took up a lot of our Olivia play time as it was.  And strangely enough, even after I had just had a conversation with my husband that we would wait until one just sort of 'showed up', the week after the convention took place a co-worker told me she had found a kitten and would we want to adopt her?

Mina was brought home on October 15, 2011.  The vet, at the time, said she was probably born sometime around June, and thus would have some time before she could be spayed.  Okay, thought I, we'll let her settle into the routine and then get it done in another month.  Only we found out in November that she'd already gone into heat, putting her closer to six months of age at that time.  Strangely enough, our daughters were only a few months apart.

Our new black cat with the semi-long fur that resembled a "Chantilly/Tiffany" cat to nearly a 't', was full of affection and curiosity.  She didn't like being picked up, and she'd make it known by a deep, blood curdling growl.  But otherwise, she was quiet and she liked to sit on your lap.  Loved to purr and wanted attention all the time.

Olivia hated it.

She didn't, I should clarify, hate Mina.  She was curious about Mina, sniffing her any time she could and wanting to be near this strange creature at all hours.  She kept an eye on her.  I sometimes think that Olivia didn't know she was of the same species.  Mina would growl and hiss and act very catlike to our spoiled princess, but Olivia didn't know any better.

What Olivia hated, was the fact that this new, what-ever-it-was swooped in and played during her play times.  She didn't get a chance to go after the feather on the string or the little mice we'd throw about.  Olivia didn't get a chance with all of the tassels and balls and spinning things because the moment any of them would come out, Mina would be on them instantly.

Eventually Olivia stopped playing all together.  We could sometimes lock her up in a room by herself to play for short bursts, but eventually she started looking for Mina even in a locked room.  And forget about the old toys, because those didn't hold her attention at all.  Only something new would do.  So we bought a laser pointer.

It was with the advent of the little red dot that both cats would play at the same time.  Olivia would find herself so intrigued by this strangely elusive fly that she would completely forget about Mina.  It worked for awhile until the battery wore out and the cats couldn't see the dot anymore.  Even when we replaced the thing, Olivia had then realized it was an 'old toy' and only Mina would go after the mysterious bug.

If we zip forward to today, things are still fairly similar.  Olivia doesn't like to play when Mina does.  But she has gotten into the habit of asking again.  Mina learned to meow like Olivia, but she does it for generally more odd requests than food and play.  She likes to bring us "hazardous-things-to-step-on".  She totes it from the basement or some corner of the house, sets it down on the floor in the living room and goes, "Meep!"  To which we rush over thinking she's going to swallow it and realize it's a piece of broken mirror.  Or maybe it's a shard of cement.  Today, for example, it was a very sharp wood screw.  I have no clue where she got this screw, but it was her most recent find and she received a treat in return.

Mina doesn't like jumping very much.  She's not exactly a heavy-weight but she does have rather short legs.  She shakes as she goes up the cat tree, and she's never attempted to get up on a countertop, and I sometimes doubt that even if she wanted to jump straight up onto the bed that she would be able to without the aid of the wicker trunk that sits at the end. She makes up for the short legs with big ears.  Those ears can hear us coming from a mile away and she's always there at the door to greet us home.  Or they're causing her to run in fear from a thunderstorm and send her hiding beneath the television cabinet.

Olivia, on the other hand, has small ears and long legs.  She's hurt herself a few times jumping up too high, but we've found her up in the basement ceiling on occasions, or on top of the kitchen cabinets near the ceiling, oftentimes confusing us as to how she even got up there.  But a loud noise doesn't affect her at the least.  She'll follow the vacuum cleaner around, brave the sound of the loudest train or thunderstorm, and barely flinch when I clap at her for scratching up the furniture.

My two fuzzy "daughters" bring me joy every single day.  I do understand sometimes how people get so caught up in animals they tend to forget about humans.  I'm not like that, don't get me wrong, but I also don't have an inclination to go out and have young humans around me for extended periods of  time either.  I wouldn't carry them around or dress them up or treat them like people.  Well, except of course for talking to them when they are around and of course scolding them like they would actually understand what was coming out of my mouth.  It would be nice, but I know deep down they don't completely comprehend what I'm saying.

And most recently I've worried about what adding a third child to the mix would do to this family unit.  My mother of course, would like it to be a human child, of course, and so would the in-laws.  But there's a slight possibility of a new kitten being added to the mix in another month or so, and yet for some reason I'm hesitant.  I'm sure we would settle into a new routine, maybe the girls would find a common ground and maybe some of them would become buddies.  Who knows?  But what would happen to Mina's constant begging of human food?  Or Olivia's demanding play at certain times of the day?  What would adding another litter box to the basement do for the smell?  And what about cleanup?

I suppose I won't know until it happens.  And if it does, Lord willing, we'll be able handle it.  Why did I even want to add a third to the mix?  I'm not even sure now, so I suppose we shall have to wait to see.

No comments:

Post a Comment