I stared at the notice, memories of my beloved flame point Marina, who died of leukemia two years ago at the age of only three-and-a-half, came flooding back. Marina was the only cat I've adopted who wasn't a kitten, but a young adult. She had been given up by two families complaining of her emotional neediness. But Marina not only needed love and attention, she also gave at least as much as she got. She sang and trilled with joy when Bob and I got home from work. She slept on my pillow. She worked with me in therapy with conflicted families, soothing them with her warmth and making them smile with silly antics. Once relaxed, they began to resolve their problems with new calm and cooperation.
No cat can ever replace another.
Still, another flame-point, a kitten....
It was just too tempting.
Bob and I adopted him a week ago and are totally immersed in the joys and challenges of living with a kitten.
We're kitten-proofing the house again and discovering that this one is more athletic than most -- taking pleasure in weaving himself through wood blinds, jumping into the entertainment center shelves, and, impossibly, squeezing under the bureau drawers in our bedroom. We're constantly on the lookout for something small and white streaking past us or playing with our shoelaces as we walk around the house.
We're on the happier end now of the tedious ritual of kitty introductions and integration with our older cats in residence -- with much growling and hissing under the closed doors as our female cats Maggie and SweetPea adjusted to the idea of another little life around the house. Gus, a veteran of new kitten companions, mostly ignored the psychodrama.
We've spent a lot of time watching him and trying to imagine a name, deciding to hang onto the Prince part of his shelter name and then add an at-home name with a myriad of variations. That name is Hamish -- Hammie or Ham for short. We're waiting to see if it suits him -- and if, eventually, he will answer to it.
When we took the big step of letting him out to roam freely around the house (closely watched) three days ago, our sweet 14-year-old Gus was there immediately to groom him, hang out with him and play with him. Hammie has since won everyone over with his sweetness, his ready purr, his curiosity, his affection and his boundless energy.
Yesterday, when Bob was sitting on the couch, struggling with another epilepsy-related bout of severe depression, Hammie jumped into his lap and, uncharacteristically, settled in for a good amount of time. Bob's spirits lifted almost instantly.
And as I work on the computer, struggling with the proposal for my book about my therapy cats Timmy and Marina, I feel a gentle tap on my ankle. I look down. There is Hammie, looking up at me, trilling softly. I pick him up and cuddle him as he purrs. An outgoing, loving little kitten -- not unlike Timmy, a creme Burmese/red tabby mix, who was my therapy cat when I added animal-assisted therapy to my practice. Timmy, who was Gus' more extroverted littermate, died of melamine poisoning from tainted cat food in 2007.
Hammie purrs and rubs against my cheek, reminding me, in his own way, to be present in the moment.
This soft bundle of fur in my arms is not Marina nor Timmy, even though my memories of them are close and warm as I watch him. He is very much himself -- the quintessential Hammie. And he is a delight.
One of the greatest joys of raising a kitten is watching the unique personality of a young cat evolve, day by day. Kittenhood is one of the most brief, precious, fleeting experiences we share with our companion animals. But even as we enjoy romping, playing and laughing over their antics, we anticipate years of the pleasure of their feline company.
After losing Marina and Timmy at relatively young ages, I no longer assume that a new kitten will invariably be a companion for many years. I feel gratitude for whatever time I will have with a baby Hammie and the cat he will become.
We've been fortunate with our cats. And Hamish is our newest treasure.
Each cat we've had, for however long, has been a joy. Through the years, our kittens have became wonderful cats... warming our memories, blessing our days.