Friday, October 21, 2022

New Friends

As hinted in my previous post, the composition of our household has changed since I last wrote. This was a planned expansion, and a happy one. In fact, we’ve been waiting six weeks for the latest additions to our cat family to grow to an age where they could leave their mother. But on Saturday, Sir Percy and I drove south to collect them. It was a beautiful fall day, the leaves just starting to turn, and once we left the highway, a lovely drive along quiet country roads. We met the breeder and her cats—until then, Covid and distance meant that all contact took place through text messaging and video calls—and an hour or so later were back in the car, heading home with two silent kittens in a carrier.

Now, those who follow my Instagram and TikTok posts will know that I am currently enjoying a mystery series featuring a large orange tabby named Max, who with his friends solves a series of crimes and has the capacity to communicate with some of his humans (as well as many other gifts not shared with most cats, such as the ability to read and even to surf the Web on a touch screen). It’s a delightful series, however improbable, and one of the books features a trio of kittens left in a box on Max’s doorstep, to the great dismay of him and his pals. Kittens are so cute, you see, and so rambunctious and unruly and disrespectful of older cats and their body parts, especially those delightfully twitchy tails. Of course, by the end of the novel, Max has made his peace with these tiny invaders. What happens beyond that, it would be unfair to reveal.

I read this novel twice during the six weeks of waiting, as a way of mentally preparing myself for the possible effects of introducing two newcomers to my adorable but aging matron, Mahal. Would she welcome the arrival of the kittens she had never had the chance to have? Or would she feel threatened? Either was possible. This isn’t the first time I’ve brought a kitten into my family, but the last introduction was Mahal herself, almost fourteen years ago. And I’ve lived with enough cats over the years to know that each combination is different.

What I hadn’t quite counted on was that these two kittens are nothing like their unruly fictional counterparts. They are certainly lovable and cute as the proverbial buttons, and as each day passes they are warming up to us a little more. But they are not rambunctious, and they don’t act as if they own the place—at least, not yet. They are brothers, the only two in their litter, and within moments of their exit from the cat carrier I realized that from their perspective what happened on Saturday was an unmitigated disaster.

One can hardly blame them for seeing it that way. They woke up that morning with their mother and another female cat who acted as a second mother, as well as a human they had known since birth. Then two strangers showed up, and before long they were stuck in a cage, heading who knew where. And when the cage door opened, there they were, in a place they didn’t recognize. No mother, no second mother, no familiar territory, no people except those two strangers. They had only each other, and until this morning, when the seal point ventured out of the small room that has housed them since their arrival, each of them has stayed within sight, sound, and (mostly) touch of his twin. Meanwhile, Sir Percy and I have made frequent visits, done our best to ensure their comfort, induced them with little success to relax enough to play, and supplied as much petting as they will accept. We can guess that at night they come out and run around, because the food gets eaten and toys mysteriously change their locations between midnight and morning, but we don’t hear them or see those nocturnal activities. (Cats are, of course, nocturnal by nature.)

What they don’t know is that at the place they left their second mother has given birth to another litter, and their own mother, after a couple of days of calling for them, has turned her attention to the new batch of babies. But since we don’t speak cat, as Max’s human does, that bitter truth will remain forever hidden from them.

Mahal, so far as we can tell, doesn’t yet know that her three years of solitude have ended. We’ve kept them apart because the kittens have enough to deal with—although if Mahal accepts them readily, she can offer the kind of comfort that only another cat can provide. And she may, because she spent her first eleven years with our sweet Jahan and has shown signs of loneliness ever since his passing. That bridge has still to be crossed, but we can hope that the introduction, when it inevitably occurs, will go well. Siamese love to snuggle together, and that’s exactly what the little ones need right now.

So stay tuned for updates. Meanwhile, I will continue to follow the adventures of Max and his friends—even as I monitor the very different situation developing in my own home.

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