I handed a glass of apple ale to Niki. My daughter took a sip and said, “I’ve been meaning to ask…would you like to have a kitten? My neighbors across the road have a mama cat with a litter. They’re giving away the babies.”
Sitting down at the dining room table, I shook my head. “Kittens are fun, but I own a fat, crabby old cat that doesn’t even like the other cat who lives here. That mean old biddy would have a hissy-fit, or as some people would put it, she’d have a kitten, if I brought home another cat!”
Niki persuaded, “Jonah will be fine. She keeps to herself. You said Louie loved Basil, your last kitten.”
“You’ve just mentioned the main reason I don’t want another kitten.” I sadly pointed out, “Basil slipped out of the house one night and I couldn’t get him to come back in. Because that had happened once before and everything worked out, I didn’t worry. Do you remember what happened that night? Basil was hit by a car and died. I’m afraid of having that happen again.”
“You’ve had cats ever since you moved to this house thirty-nine years ago.” Niki protested, “Basil was the only one that has ever got on the road and hit by a car!”
One day two weeks later my daughter, Niki called. She said, “My neighbors found homes for three of their kittens. The only one without a home is a tuxedo-colored male. I know you have a special affection for cats with those markings.”
My heart softened. I sighed and asked, “How much of the kitten’s fur is white?”
Knowing she had gained access to my heart, Niki happily reported, “His four paws are white. There’s white on his tummy, chest and on his face around the mouth. I’ll text a picture of him to you.”
A moment later, examining the picture she’d sent, I commented, “There seems to be a shadow around his white breast fur.” After a short pause I asked, “Would it be alright if I came to pick him up tomorrow morning?”
Introducing Shadow to Jonah, the fat, crabby old tabby and Louie, the cat with can-opener-claws, went pretty much like I suspected it would. Jonah hissed like a cobra when the curious kitten approached her. At first, Louie’s tail turned into a huge bottle brush and he hissed, too.
As Niki predicted, Jonah kept to herself. She wants nothing to do with the kitten. Having been abandoned near my house as a young cat, Jonah refuses to stay in the house unless it is freezing or we have deep snow. When inside, she likes to stuff herself at the food dish and then hide in the basement.
Louie is different. I have often thought how lonely he seems. Louie needs a kitty friend. All of his overtures to Jonah have been rejected. That doesn’t stop him from looking out for her. His affectionate licks only earn snarls and hisses, though.
When we had Basil, Louie loved to play with the small Siamese. Would he enjoy watching over and playing with the new kitten? The second time I introduced them, Shadow saw Louie’s black and white tail twitch and tentatively reached his small white paw out to touch it.
In the following days, Shadow became more and more playful, attacking Louie’s ears and tail. Even when Shadow nips too hard or pesters Louie too much, the older cat seems to enjoy the interaction. Having a friend makes Louie mellow. Returning nip for nip, he does so with restraint. This pleases me, because Louie is a large cat. His wicked, dangerous claws could do great damage if he wanted.
One afternoon Shadow was being naughtier than usual. The large old cat got up as if he was going to walk away from the little beast. What he did instead made me laugh. As he was stepping over Shadow, he stopped and sat down on top of the kitten. As Shadow squirmed and struggled, Louie glanced apologetically at me over his shoulder.
Wrestling matches between the big old tom and the little guy take place several times every day. What makes me stop to watch, filled with wonder, is when Louie stops to lovingly lick Shadow. Sometimes, just for a few minutes, Shadow stops nipping and grabbing, enjoying the attention and even returns lick for lick.