Cat Tales: Kids and kittens

I have a full-time job, two small children and an overweight dog that's slightly neurotic and has nightmares and an overactive gag reflex.

I know there are people who have way more going on in their lives than I do, but still, I feel like my plate is piled right to the edge. Every minute is a battle to ensure that nothing spills over, which is why I've been deftly avoiding any conversation that includes the words puppy, kitten or gerbil.

I'm not opposed to additional responsibilities, per se. It's the responsibilities that depend you depend on for, you know, important things like food and water. I have a hard enough time keeping my plants alive.

My problem is that "I want" headlines most sentences when you've got a 5-year-old and a 6-year-old. And there's nothing more appealing than a furry creature. Just to mix it up a little, they also throw in horsey and goat (which actually make kitten and gerbil sound a lot more appealing).

I've been holding my own in the face of mounting pressure, but the walls came tumbling down last weekend when the resident ranch cat (quite the libidinous creature, if you know what I mean) left her litter of kittens to fend for themselves (mostly because she's pregnant, AGAIN).

The three kittens have been adopted, sort of, by a ranch hand and are quite content to be spoiled by him. But, you've got to love those relatives who tell you, while your children are standing there, "We've got kittens, you should show them to the girls." (Those are the same relatives who think a drum set is an appropriate Christmas gift).

So, out come the kittens and the begging begins. Actually, there was little begging. The girls just assumed that those kittens were made for them.

And, when you've got an adorable fur ball purring on your lap, you start to assume the same thing.

I asked the girls, "What would you name them if they were your kittens?"

Duh. It's like I've learned nothing about parenting in the past six years.

Nikki responded instantly, pointing to the adventurous grey kitten she'd already claimed as her own.

"That's Whisper."

I almost loaded the cat up that second, I was so impressed with the name.

Katie attached herself to the black and tan "Kali." And Nikki dubbed the pie-faced third "Ceya."

I could feel the pit I was digging deepen. Now they had names.

Katie told me she wanted to buy a kitten (or three).

Buy?

Not on your life. I told her (and repeated it several times so she'd get it right) to go and ask her grandfather how much he'd pay her to take a kitten. I was hoping grandpa would somehow nix the idea.

Duh. It's like I've learned nothing about my father in the past ... let's just say since birth.

Plus, my repeated dictations to Katie didn't quite come out the way I'd expressed.

"Papa, how much would you pay me to buy a kitten?"

So Papa, prince that he is, gave the girls each $2 and told them to go buy a couple of kittens.

"Honor thy father and thy mother." God didn't mean ALL the time, did he?

So, my girls went in search of Ernie to make an offer for "his" kittens.

Well, Ernie wasn't about to take money from children, but he didn't really say they could just have the kittens, either. So, the girls returned to Papa, who sent them back to Ernie.

Those poor kids. They had money to spend and no one willing to take it.

Mom didn't help because mom doesn't care whose money it is, YOU DON'T PAY FOR A RANCH CAT!

They're literally a dime a dozen. Mama cat should have "take all you want, I'll make more" shaved into her side.

Besides, I wasn't sold on the idea of having one cat, let alone two, which became three because, "you can't leave the third out here all alone."

And then the ever-helpful Papa puts another two cents into the pot by suggesting that we take all three until they get big enough to fend for themselves and then bring them back out to the ranch. Katie, who already had planned to return the cat when it was no longer a kitten, thought that was a great idea.

Seriously, God really meant to say "Honor thy mother and thy father except when they're trying to make a patsy of you," right?

I managed, by telling the girls that the kittens needed to grow up a little, to leave the ranch fur free.

But I know that's not the end of it. The girls have already told friends that they're getting kittens (which prompted those friends to kidnap a stray cat and tie it in their yard, so that they'd have one, too. I'd feel bad, except these are the friends with the gerbil that prompted that particular "I want." They also have a goat and a baby buffalo. We haven't gone there yet, but it's coming. So, no, they totally deserve the cat.).

I told the girls that if they could find a good place for a litter box, they could have a cat.

Then, I started shoveling sand into their new super-size sandbox.

They'll make the connection eventually. I'm just hoping by then, Whisper, Kali and Ceya are too big to be cute.

Of course, by then mama cat will start the entire thing over again.

Really. There aren't that many mice in the entire county!

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