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The fourth kitten

I am a longtime cat owner. My family always had cats, starting with Kitty Boo, acquired as my oldest sister’s cat when she was small. We also had dogs, but they don’t figure into this much.


Don't call her Princess

We had a big property, and back then, people generally didn’t get their cats neutered. So we had kittens. Lots of kittens. And in our family of five kids, we all got to have our own cat at some point. Our own cat came when we were in need of a confidant and ally.

I needed exactly that when I was in kindergarten and saw the box of kittens one of my classmates had brought and put in the

courtyard of our elementary school. I ran home at lunch and pleaded. I really, really needed that funny-looking little kitten. My

mom said yes, so I left the school proudly carrying the kitten in my arms that afternoon. Cat carrier? Who needs one?

I hadn’t come up with a name yet when a boy came up next to me and asked her name. I said I didn’t know yet. He said, “Call her Princess.”

Never was a less suitable name chosen for a cat. Through various iterations, we ended up calling her Ton and she became my confidant and ally.

When my son was born we had two cats, the siblings I’d adopted right after I graduated from college. The male soon died, and we had only one cat, which was not a reasonable situation for me. So we got a pair of kittens. When my daughter was born, then, we had three cats, but soon the female of my original pair died, and we were left with two, which seemed just right.


Don't laugh! I eventually did grow into my ears.

But one day it hit me that my mother had passed on a piece of wisdom to me. My son, now six and the big brother of the Queen of the Terrible Twos, really needed a confidant and ally. Our fluffy sisters were rather aloof, on better terms with the squirrels than him. So we got him a little orange kitten named Mauen, and the kitten became his confidant and ally.

Now, as a longtime cat owner, I know some cat-owning wisdom. One piece of cat-owning wisdom is that if you’re going to get two cats at once, they should probably be siblings. Another thing I know is that it’s possible to introduce a third cat into a household with not too much trouble.

It’s the fourth cat that causes problems.

Now somehow, we always managed multiple cats in my childhood home without too many fights. Only one or two of the cats would be “indoor cats” for a good part of the time — most of them just hung about the property. And it was pretty chaotic anyway, with a dog or two, five kids, a tank of unfortunate fish, and a bird that was about to die.

We like our house a bit more orderly, or at least we pretend we do, so when our daughter started asking for her own special pet, we kept putting her off. Then we started to weigh options. No fourth cat, I said. Too dangerous. We considered everything else. We’re not dog people. Rats are bad for kids with asthma. She wanted something warm-blooded. Had to be easy to take care of.

And here we are, where I always said I’d never go: Four cats in one house.


Do I look so threatening to you?

The new kitten, Sawasdee (which means hello in Thai, and thus he’s “Hello Kitty”, get it?) is adorable. He’s half Siamese and a real charmer. He follows his girl around like a puppy, comes when she calls, plays like a maniac, purrs so loud you can’t sleep.

Our adult cats have had the whole variety of reactions. Nisene the surrogate mommy loves him just like she loved kitten Mauen. She lets him play with her long, fluffy tail. Maxine the aloof is pretending he simply doesn’t exist. Kitten? What kitten?

And then there’s Mauen. I thought he’d like having a friend, another boy in the house. Or rather, I hoped. But I bet you know what’s coming: I was right about the fourth cat. Mauen is very definitely not happy.

We’re working on it, but haven’t come up with any bright ideas: Kitty tranquilizers? Meow therapy? How do you make a big orange love muffin love a little Siamese dynamo?

It occurs to me that we’ve got parallel cats to kids: the big orange love muffin is paired with the boy who needed a friend because his sister was driving him crazy. And the wild sister? She’s found her match in a funny little Siamese boy she’s taken to calling Ton.

What goes around comes around!

Posted in Parenting.

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