Tuesday, August 9, 2011


I saw these little guys peeking out of the SPCA Pet of the Week column in the Sentinel last week. The SPCA and Santa Cruz Animal Services remind us that it's now kitten (and puppy) season, with many spirited and adorable furry critters now available for adoption to loving families. I advise you to surf over there right this minute and pick out one or two.

You absolutely won't regret it, and I speak from experience!

In 2007, Art Boy and I had been cat-free for two years, after losing our wonderful tortoiseshell, Sheena, the Best Kitty Ever, at the ripe old age of 20. (As lovable as any dozen kittens, even in her dotage, she adored people, and was always the star of our annual Oscar parties.) During the intervening time, we traveled, tented the house for termites, put in a new front yard, and Art Boy weaned himself off his asthma inhalers. Still, it felt weird being catless in Cruz for the first time in our marriage.

There are many compelling reasons not to have cats. No grundgy towels all over the furniture. No cat fur clogging up your keyboard, no crunchies underfoot in the kitchen. No furry tails circling the bed like shark fins at five in the morning to remind you it's time to fill the kitty bowl. You can leave things lying around the house (food, doll beads, art projects) without fear of them be eaten or slept on the minute you turn your back. You can sit wherever you want, whenever you want, without having to dislodge 14 pounds of meatloaf with fur (which will immediately crawl right back into your lap and bolt you in place for the next four hours).

Can you tell how much I missed them?

People who don't keep animals don't understand pet lovers. Why burden oneself, they wonder, with some needy living thing that takes so much energy, and whose true temperament may not be apparent until it's too late? But, hey, that's how I feel about plants. Animals, I get. Especially cats. You feed them, you shelter them, you water them daily with tons of affection (which they may or may not appear to return). And in return you get a connection to a wild, natural world beyond petty human affairs, a deliciously pagan bond of instinct and empathy and alliance with an alien, yet simpatico fellow creature. Opening your heart to an animal is like unlocking a valve in your soul that might otherwise remain shut tight, an optimistic act of embracing life, a commitment to the future.

So there I was, back in 2007, reading the paper one day, when I saw them: two sisters, so entwined you couldn't tell whose paws were whose, gazing out with feline aplomb from the "Pet of the Week" box in the Sentinel. Pagan love drums began pounding in my heart: the call of the wild.

Miraculously, both sisters were still available, when I contacted the foster cat mom; most people wanted kittens, she explained, or were unwilling to take both cats. But they were just exactly who we'd been longing for. Bella and Roma, mellow, paint-splashed torties like Sheena, were one year old exactly on the day we brought them home from Animal Services in Watsonville. So they're not kittens any more. Who is?

Four years later, now five years old, Roma and Bella continue to provide us with entertainment value, companionship, and extreme purring. Sure, our friends sometimes call them the "Invisible Kitties," since they tend to dash out the cat door as if the Fiends of Hell were after them whenever anyone walks into the house (including Art Boy and me, half the time), but they make us insanely happy most of the time, whether romping out on the back deck (or sleeping in the succulent pots), or piling on top of us in bed in the morning, purring like maniacs.

Yes, Art Boy has had to start using his inhaler again. But we still wouldn't trade the joy of kitties for anything. They make us a family again.

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