Thursday, December 11, 2014

Every Day Is Kitten Day

Okay, as always I don't have any time, but I've just got to share a few cat stories. I'll go way back to the beginning....

Wednesday, October 22nd was the big day when we got to pick up CiCi. That week of waiting was torture for Allyson, who counted down the days to Kitten Day several times per day.

At long last, the day arrived. We brought our 1.5-pound kitty home in a carrier, lined with her favorite blankie. Tucked under my arm was a spiral notebook with frantically scribbled notes that I probably never actually referred back to.

I was most nervous about introducing CiCi to Arwen. She made wide circles around the carrier, nose twitching. When Ethan opened the wire door and CiCi stepped out, I heard Arwen hiss for the very first time. Over the course of a few days, the cats approached each other cautiously and even touched noses, but it usually ended with Arwen hissing. I had to keep them apart, which is how CiCi ended up taking over my master bathroom.

On the first morning, I crept into Allyson's room and snuggled up to her. "Good morning, beloved princess, daughter of the Most High."

Her brow furrowed, and she turned her back to me.

"Good morning, Kitten Mama. Happy Kitten Day."

She grinned.

"You said Wednesday was Kitten Day," she murmured.

"It was. But now every day is Kitten Day," I said. "Okay, Kitten Mama. Your baby is crying for you."

It was true. CiCi cried plaintively, stretching her tiny front legs through the bars of her carrier to touch Allyson's arm. (Every night since CiCi came, Allyson has slept on her roll-out mattress on the floor, with CiCi's carrier next to her head.)

At first we fed CiCi a revolting blend of kitten formula mixed with wet cat food, which she sucked greedily from a medicine syringe. She chewed the tip of the syringe, turning her head from side to side so that much of the slop ended up in her fur, leaving her smelling perpetually like tuna. Worse, she clawed frantically at the syringe, scratching our fingers in the process.

So we quickly abandoned the syringe in favor of a saucer on the floor of my bathtub. In her excitement, CiCi walked all through the food, tracking it all over the tub and smearing it over her belly, so that she still smelled perpetually like tuna.

Gradually, we phased out the kitten formula and just gave her the wet food. And on the first day that she dove into Arwen's full bowl and stole some food, we started dropping a few pellets of dry food onto her plate.

Since then, we've had to lock her up when Arwen eats. Otherwise, she makes a beeline for the bowl. While Arwen stands back politely, CiCi climbs right into the bowl and growls menacingly as she gobbles as much as she can get down before I gingerly pull her out, holding her by her chubby belly and trying to avoid her razor-sharp claws.

Allyson and I had to watch Gremlins recently so she'd understand what I meant when I said that our sweet little CiCi turns into a mean Gremlin any time she gets around food. Even when she's alone in her bathtub, she growls quietly and kind of mutters to herself while she eats.

CiCi's not the only cat who's obsessed with food. Arwen is always on the lookout for any wet food CiCi might have missed. The moment I open the bathroom door to let CiCi out, the two cats pass each other on the way to check each other's bowl for leftovers.

They've become pretty good buddies, mostly. They love to tussle. CiCi seems to be the aggressor, but Arwen subdues her with a well placed bite now and then. Sometimes a sharp little cry from CiCi sends me running to separate them. Arwen gives me a guilty look, as if to say, "What? I didn't do anything."

Early on, Arwen started grooming CiCi, which always warms our hearts. CiCi isn't sure what she thinks of that, especially when Arwen holds her with both paws and gives her a good bath. CiCi kicks at Arwen's face with claws extended, and then the grooming session usually turns into a wrestling match.

The cutest thing is when they sleep side by side on Arwen's favorite perch on the back of the couch. That cushion has seen better days, but do you think I mind? I have become such a cat person!

Both cats are very nice nap buddies. We discovered this when Allyson and I were in bed for days with the flu recently. CiCi slept on Allyson's chest, which surely was good medicine. On the day I thought I was up to returning to work but ended up taking a five-and-a-half hour "nap," CiCi and Arwen were with me nearly the whole time. CiCi made a nest between my knees, and Arwen slept on my shin. 

This past Sunday, I was feeling particularly exhausted after church, still sapped from the flu, I think. We'd be putting up the tree that night, and I told God I really didn't feel up to that. We couldn't put it off any longer, though, because Allyson would be at Bill's for the next two days.

"Oh, Father," I prayed silently, over a sink full of dishes. "I'm so tired. Please give me strength to make it through this day. Help me to enjoy decorating the tree, for the kids' sake. Okay, for Allyson's sake." (Ethan had been less than enthusiastic about decorating the tree last Christmas, so I wasn't expecting much.)

God told me to leave those dishes and go take a nap. I set the microwave timer for 35 minutes, allowing 5 minutes to fall asleep and 30 minutes to sleep--which is my maximum, if I don't want to feel groggy for the rest of the day. 

The moment I fell into my nap chair, Arwen climbed onto the ottoman and curled up in the crook of my knees. Ah! And then CiCi climbed into my lap and curled herself around my belly. I smiled my thanks to God as I felt an infusion of joy giving me strength even as I slipped out of consciousness. 

When the beeping timer pulled me out of sleep about 33 minutes later, I was ready to face  both the dishes and the Christmas tree.

God had a wonderful surprise in store for me. After Allyson and I had put up the tree, Ethan came right out when I called him. He cheerfully hung all of his own ornaments and a bunch of the others, even the boring red and green balls (most of which Arwen and CiCi removed over the course of the next few days).

We drank some eggnog and then all three of us sat on the couch to admire the tree while I read the first few stories from our Jesse Tree book, which outlines Christ's lineage. 

Next, I read The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, which never fails to make me cry. This year was no exception. 

What a delightful evening! This Christmas season, God has been blessing me with so many little joys, filling my heart to overflowing. When I think back to last year, I remember how lavishly He showed me his love--with the scripture-stuffed stocking from my friend Gentle and the cross painting from my sweet niece Hillary. This year, I want to give out that lavish love. God has put many ideas in my heart, ways to share His love with friends, family, and strangers. What a sweet pleasure. 

So, back to the cat stories... 

Within 15 minutes, the cats had run off with the tree skirt. I remembered last year, when Arwen drug it all over the house. This year I'm not even bothering to put it back. It will just lie in random places until Christmas Eve, when I weight it down with presents. 

We keep a big spray bottle with water and a bit of vinegar on the hearth, right by the tree, and I spray the cats liberally if they touch the tree. The temptation is too great, though. Every time my back's turned, CiCi bats at the branches or even nestles on a branch halfway up the tree. When she spots me, she tries to flee the scene, but I chase her down with the spray bottle. It's actually pretty fun. 

A Confusing Family Tree

Allyson considers herself CiCi's mama, which makes me... Grandma. Yes, Allyson calls me grandma when she's talking to CiCi. Ethan is Uncle, but sometimes he's Brother. And Arwen is Big Sister, which kind of makes her Ethan's sibling.

It's weird family dynamic, but it works!

Some Weird Cat Psychology

Okay, now for the stories I've been dying to tell you. First, a strange cat has been hanging around our backyard for the last week or so. The first day it showed up, Arwen cried like a baby as she watched it through the window. "How sweet! She wants to play," I thought. 

And then she started hurling herself against the window, rattling the blinds. She screamed and hissed, struggling to get to the other cat, who was hissing at her from the other side of the glass. 

If you don't find a cat's screams stressful, take a look for yourself...

Before this, I'd had no idea that our mild kitty had such a temper. It was pretty amusing until Arwen turned on CiCi, arching her back and hissing. I quickly separated them.

I've watched them closely since then, and Arwen seems as motherly as ever. But tonight a high-pitched shriek from CiCi brought me running to the living room. I found Arwen crouched at the back door, moaning piteously. That stupid cat was back. 

I don't know what Arwen had done to CiCi, but she seemed pretty spooked. When Arwen took a step toward her, she arched her back, all her fur standing on end. Allyson scooped her up and cradled her like a baby. "I won't let Arwen hurt you," she crooned. 

Arwen isn't the only cat acting weird. A few days ago, I was sitting at my desk when I heard loud purring coming from the bathroom. CiCi was sitting on the fuzzy bath mat alone, sounding like a vibrating engine. 

"Why is CiCi purring?" I asked Allyson. "She's just sitting on the rug by herself." 

"Oh, she always purrs when you put her on the mat," Allyson said.


"I don't know. She just likes it."

I went into the bathroom for a closer look. CiCi was sucking noisily on some rug fibers, kneading the rug luxuriously with her claws spread wide. "Allyson, she's trying to nurse the rug!" I said.

I grabbed my phone and took a video. If you turn up the volume, you might be able to hear CiCi purring.

Because I usually drape the mat over the shower door to keep CiCi from tracking kitty litter onto it, she doesn't have much time with it. Every time they are reunited during one of our showers, she purrs and nurses.

Have you ever heard of something so bizarre? 

It's humbling, actually. I'd been feeling so loved each time CiCi greeted me in the mornings with her loud purring. Now I realize that she feels the same way about my bath mat!

It's never a dull moment around here. Every day is Kitten Day. 

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