Credit the recent adoption of Casey, my orange tabby kitten, for inspiring me to address this topic for the monthly pet column I write for The Coastal Star, a must-read monthly in Palm Beach County.
By Arden Moore
Did you just adopt a kitten? To maintain your sanity, please repeat after me: I will survive.
Yes, you will survive all the fun, folly and frustration that characterize a feline in his first year of life. I promise. And I’m living proof.
Recently, I adopted a spirited and affectionate male orange tabby from my local humane society. Casey is just 4 months old and weighs less than 5 pounds. As I was bringing him home, I realized that is has been 15 years since I’ve adopted any feline well under 1 year old.
The last time occurred in 1999 when I rescued an abandoned kitten from an apartment complex and named her Murphy Brown (she is now a spry 15 years old). To put that time duration into perspective, consider that in 1999, gasoline averaged just $1.22 per gallon, Mattel’s Barbie Doll turned 40, the hot movie was American Pie, and impeachment proceedings were being brought against President Bill Clinton. Facebook and selfies did not exist in our vocabularies.
Paralleling my crazy kitten antics are The Coastal Star’s publishers, Mary Kate Leming and Jerry Lower, who recently plucked a tiny orphaned kitten from a street near their Ocean Ridge home.
After being given a clean bill of health at the veterinary clinic, this 4-month-old brown-striped tabby named Pippi has soared up the ranks from mere office cat to become the newspaper’s CFO (that’s Chief Feline Officer).
For Leming, Lower and me, life for the next year will be anything but boring. Welcome to what I call the Wonder Year.
During the first 12 months of a kitten’s life, you will wonder where your tabby gets so much energy, why this surprisingly agile and athletic youngster decides to leap from the sofa to the recliner and, most importantly, if you will be able to maintain your sanity.
Repeat after me: I will survive. This magical first year may be filled with feline mischief and mayhem. But kittens do a body (and mind) plenty of good.
Among the benefits kittens bestow upon us:
• They tap into our nurturing side. Fast-growing kittens need us to feed them healthy meals many times per day and to tutor them on proper litter box etiquette. In the case of Pippi, it has meant thinking literally outside the (litter) box for Leming, who has resorted to using a deep plastic storage tub as Pippi’s bathroom because of the feline’s quirky habit of standing up while urinating. The walls of conventional litter pans would not be high enough to contain this odiferous spray.
For Casey, I quickly switched to litter boxes with lids to keep him from gleefully creating litter confetti all over the floor.
• They are not influenced by affluence. Anything and everything seems to be a prized toy for Casey. Sure, he enjoys the store-bought feather wand and trackball (a ball is inside a donut-shaped plastic toy with openings for a feline to paw to push the ball around in circles). But Casey equally loves flying in and out of a brown paper grocery bag and swatting any ice cube that drops onto the kitchen floor with the moves that would rival an all-pro hockey player. A crumpled paper wad is fetching fun for Pippi. She snoozes in a wicker basket under Leming’s office desk.
• They embrace the power of play. Good luck trying to work for hours on the keyboard or engaging in marathon texting sessions on your phone. Kittens like Pippi and Casey will have none of that. Often without warning, they will dance across the keyboard, interrupting our thoughts and displaying gibberish on the computer monitors. But it is their reminder for us to not be all work.
As Leming notes, “I think Pippi is good for me because I have a tendency to stare at the computer screen intensely for a long time. I can’t do that anymore with Pippi around. She reminds me that I need to take breaks away from the keyboard.”
• They make us tidier in the office and at home. Since Casey’s arrival, my kitchen counters and office work spaces are void of any lightweight object that can be swatted and sent soaring. Bathroom doors are kept closed to prevent Casey from unrolling the toilet paper down the hallway.
And in Leming’s case, she can no longer enjoy the simple pleasures of sipping water from a glass or trying to eat a sandwich at her desk. “If you aren’t looking Pippi will stick her nose in my water glass or try to steal my sandwich,” notes Leming. My advice: Switch to spill-proof beverage containers with lids and feed your kitten before bringing out any lunch food to limit this feline thievery temptation.
Pippi, Casey and frisky, fun-loving kittens everywhere view each day — heck, each moment — as opportunities to be enjoyed and embraced. The biggest lesson I’ve learned from Casey is to live in the me-now and not fret over past mistakes or ponder future possibilities. Thinking like a kitten offers more values than one may realize. And I promise: You will survive the Wonder Year.
Arden Moore, founder of FourLeggedLife.com, is an animal behavior consultant, editor, author, professional speaker and master certified pet first aid instructor. Each week, she hosts the popular Oh Behave! show on PetLifeRadio.com. Learn more by visiting www.fourleggedlife.com.