A fistful of kittens

I didn’t think we had room for more, but sometimes the physics of space, it seems, is relative.

We’ve usually been a two-pet household. Years ago it was Sophie and Kiwi; after Kiwi died, we brought Trixie, adopted for $100 from the SPCA, into the fold. Two cats were better than one, we reasoned. They provided each other company, gave our household balance.

Years later, when Sophie died, we grieved for several months, two humans and one cat. But our house seemed unbalanced, tilted into a triangle of relationships that needed another corner to maintain emotional equilibrium.

It was only a matter of time then before we adopted Zoey, forking over $60 to the SPCA for the 3-month-old bundle of dark gray fur. The price—a furlough Friday discount—included her spaying and the first set of shots as well as food, toys and other feline accessories.

So there we were, a family of four, perfectly balanced, with no room for more.

And then Baxter showed up.

My husband found him late one afternoon, playing beneath a pickup truck in front of our house. He was just skin and bones and crawling with fleas.

My husband texted me a photo of his discovery.

“I want it!” I texted back, half joking. I did want him, but it didn’t seem practical. By the time I got home from work, however, the little gray and white cat (temporarily quarantined in the basement for health concerns) had already mewed his way into the family core.

Living with three cats was OK, we decided; three cats—although creating that triangle once more—seemed like a totally rational number.

We plunked down $100 for a checkup, kitten food and a baby-sized litter box and brought him upstairs into the house.

Three cats were definitely enough.

And then, two days later, Baxter’s sister turned up across the street on a stormy afternoon, dodging rain puddles. She was charcoal gray with a serious face and impossibly small frame. They were both so tiny, 4 weeks old and weighing in a 1.2 pounds and 1 pound, respectively. They didn’t take up much room, but having four cats wasn’t rational.

Having four cats might officially push us into Crazy Cat People territory.

We sequestered her in the basement and set about to find a home, posted photos and pleas on Facebook. Finally, someone volunteered to foster her.

And that would have been that, except that the foster parent couldn’t actually pick up her new charge for two more days.

As the hours stretched on, the harder I tried to stay detached from this fistful of kitten, the more protective I felt. The night before the foster parent was scheduled to take her, I crept down to the basement for another visit. As I petted her, my husband joined us. I handed him the kitten, watched as she wriggled on his lap, purring and happy.

“We’re keeping her, aren’t we?” I said.

And that was that.

Four creatures in one house easily became five—why not six?

We took her to the vet, named her Little Edie and brought her upstairs into the house. Now, two months and several hundred dollars later, it seems like we’ve reached a new sense of balance, redefined our concept of space.

Of course, free kittens aren’t really free, so my husband and I aren’t buying each other holiday gifts this year.

“The kittens are our Christmas presents,” he said.

“Best of all, they’re already paid for,” I said.

Not really—they’ll still need to be spayed and neutered, there are more vaccinations on the horizon, and the cost of food around here has, effectively, doubled—but we’re certainly richer for it.