The joys of kittenhood

 
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The joys of kittenhood

Tig sits staring up, her gray and white face tilted quizzically. It could be a moth or even a spider on the ceiling. But it isn't. It's the kitten. The kitten is on top of the curtain rod. How the kitten got to the top of the curtains is a mystery, but she seems very proud of herself. She fluffs her tail to full pipe-cleaner capacity and hops in sideways fashion along the top of the decorative curtain balustrade. The kitten is amused. Tig is not.

The kitten, Zatoichi (Ichi for short) was unexpected. I was taking Yuki to the vet for her booster shots when the receptionist handed me a carrier. Inside was a tiny white kitten with a single black spot on her head. "Here's your kitten," she said. "My kitten?" I asked staring at the small creature with huge green eyes. Apparently, months ago, I had told the vet that if any spare kittens turned up, I was in the market for one. This was right after my beloved Lo had died. Since that time, I had forgotten all about the kitten. My vet, apparently, had not. This kitten, Ichi, was found in a haybale by a local farmer. Whether Ichi's mother forgot her, she climbed into the bale on her own, or someone put here there, no one would ever know. But, since her third week of life, Ichi had been in the care of the vet techs at White Oak Clinic. And, now, it seemed, she was mine.

Yuki took an immediate dislike to Ichi. Ichi is a yowler. She also likes to bite, scratch, and destroy things. Lots of things. Shoes, books, curtains, pieces of lint, and coat sleeves. If it is within reach, Ichi will chew it. It has been a long time since I've had a kitten. True, my house is child (read "kitten") proofed. But, my other cats, the youngest besides the kitten being Yuki at three years of age, do not tempt the system. They don't actively try to open cabinet drawers, pull open doors, or chew my book spines. They like peace, order, and catnip-flavored snacks. Ichi cares for none of these things. Ichi likes to jump onto other cats' backs from the top of the coffee table. Ichi likes to climb curtains, shred book jackets, hurl bookmarks across the room, and attack under the cover of darkness. Ichi cultivates chaos the way my mother cultivates roses. Ichi is a bad kitty.

Lo and Tig were both wild kittens. They chewed things while they teethed and the bit much harder than I thought kittenly possible. Tig used to lay on Lo's back and chew his ears while he yowled. The idea of throwing off the little Maine Coon was obviously beyond him. But, neither Lo nor Tig had the furious intensity of Ichi. Figuring that she was teething, I tried giving her things (other than my shoes and books) to chew on. I even bought her some of the freezable toys that eased Pepper's gums after having one of teeth pulled. But Ichi didn't seem to like her new toys. After battering them for about ten minutes, she took to chewing on Tig's tail. True, Tig didn't seem to notice and the spiderweb like quality of Maine Coon fur soon had Ichi smacking her gums like her mouth was full of peanutbutter, but the toys remained unused.

The control devices that I used on the other cats, spray bottles, "No!," removal to the bad kitty room, and 'the showing of the broom,' also have no effect on the incorrigible Ichi. Ichi fears no water—she's hurled herself in the bathtub twice and seems willing to go for another surprise swim. All rooms are equally fun for Ichi—whether they contain other cats or not—just so long as they contain things to rip. And, THE BROOM that holds some ancestral terror for all my other cats is another opportunity for scaling for the intrepid Kitten of Doom. Tig seems most amused by Ichi. She likes to follow her around the house cocking her head at Ichi's attempts to climb the mirror. However, Nonny, my Siamese, is an Ichi-hater.

Nonny cannot take her eyes off the kitten. She works herself up into a Siamese fit that consists generally of running around the house in circles and eating things made of wool (including pieces of lint). Nonny has her own plans for the kitten as is evident from her three attempts to hurl the kitten down the stairs. Ichi didn't seem to notice and since she is growing at an astounding rate, Nonny's Ichi-flinging days are numbered. Ichi's ears (and feet) are huge. If this kitten plans to grow to match her ears, we are in for a Lo-sized (eighteen pounds and counting) cat. And Ichi's claws grow very, very quickly. I cut them once a week and each time they are tiger sharp (the better to rip things with). Oh this kitten! What am I to do?

Kitten books and my own kitten experience, advice giving the kitten toys and distractions to divert her from unwanted behavior. But nothing distracts Ichi. If her eyes see it, then her claws will tear it. Ichi's motto is bite it until it runs. Her plan seems to be working. All the other cats (except Tig whose Maine Coon fur shields her from attack and Nonny who's planning something dire for the kitten) run when they see the approach of Ichi. You can tell when the kitten is ready for attack. She puffs her tiny white tail up and hops sideways with her head bobbing. This is not particularly frightening coming from a two pound cat, but it is a bit disturbing.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE this kitten. It has been a long time since I've been kitten-scratched and kitten-bitten, but I do have a vague memory of Tig sitting sweetly in my shoes and Nonny looking up at me with huge blue kitten eyes. Could it be that I've actually forgotten the true nature of kitten? Perhaps in the years since my other cats' kittenhoods, I've romanced them a bit. I certainly don't remember food dishes hurled across the room in games of kitten hockey or ripped curtains and mangled sweater sleeves. I do remember how cute they all were and how sweetly they slept right under my chin. Ichi does that—sometimes—once her marauding has finally exhausted her. Perhaps in a year or two I'll only remember the sweet purrs, the tiny face, and the perfect pink paws. I'll have forgotten my scratched arms, the piece of wallpaper she removed (somehow) from my bedroom wall, and my lost pair of earrings. I'll just look at the pictures and say, "What a sweet little kitty Ichi was!"

Give me a year. As I write this, Ichi is biting my toes. I keep saying, "No!," but this blandishment has about the same effect that as telling the rain to stop. I rattled a piece of paper at her. She seems intrigued. I throw it and the kitten runs off. I have five minutes—ten tops—before the paper loses its appeal. Oh, kittens! So cute, so cuddly, such pointy little claws and sharp little teeth! I wouldn't miss this for the world—I only hope I survive.

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