As if one kid wasn’t enough, we decided to bring more into our home.
This would mean more gear to buy, which means more trips to Montrose, and more time spent shuffling around all the gear we already have to make room.
More health check-ups to attend, and appointments therefore to squeeze into an already packed schedule. More messes to clean, specifically off of a living room floor that, with just one kid, sees more than its fair share of chaos.
More poop to deal with.
They are messy and noisy, exasperatingly inquisitive, occasionally stinky and almost always underfoot. So why, intentionally, choose to bring more youngsters into the house?
Aside from being downright adorable, their presence is supposed to elicit the exodus of the mice colony that has wreaked havoc on our sanity this summer.
So last week, Elle and I went to Ridgway to pick out the newest members of the family: two kittens, adopted from the Second Chance Humane Society.
The region’s no-kill animal shelter was hit hard this summer with an influx of new kitten litters, as well as the heartbreaking arrival of more than a dozen older cats made homeless by the death of their caretaker (who was killed by a bear earlier this month). The shelter is now over-capacity, its small army of volunteers doing what they can to care for these furry orphans while they wait for someone to bring them home.
Coincidentally, our house became the unsolicited haven for another, less adorable breed of furball this summer. Their arrival was nearly undetectable at first; just the spent leftovers of a sunflower seed snack under the couch, or the faint sound of diminutive claws clicking across a laminate floor during the wee hours of the morning.
Yet without an early, weighty crackdown on their cagey dealings (disposing of an occupied mousetrap is not a pleasant way to start the day), these interlopers soon became quite comfortable here at Chez Prohaska. I was irritated at the sunflower seed detritus, growing ever larger in its pile under the couch. We were grossed out when we moved the dog food bin and exposed a mouse latrine. But the final straw, the ultimate breaking point, were the peaches. After throwing out nearly a half box-worth of the summer’s best sun-ripened Palisade peaches, thanks to some very lucky mouse who found his way into our fruit bowl for a Grand Tasting, I drew the line.
We were at war, and I was prepared to call in all reinforcements. If that meant getting a cat, who would bring with it all the associated responsibilities of cat ownership such as cleaning litter boxes and paying vet bills, so be it.
To be honest, though, the new pet wasn’t acquired simply as a weapon of mass mouse destruction. I like cats, and have almost always had one (or two, or three.) Craig likes them too, especially when another member of the household will commit to a kitty lifetime of cleaning the litter box. But while we like cats, we also know what a big commitment they are – and that’s why we haven’t had one the last several years.
Our last few cats, all adopted from families who could no longer care for them or found as young feral kittens, gave us experience in the obligations of pet ownership. Shayna, who was big and fat and black and had asthma and was about as chill as cats come – even when I subjected him to things like acupuncture (for his asthma), disappeared at age 12. Days of combing the neighborhood and hanging “Missing Cat” signs yielded nothing, except a startlingly mean phone call from someone who had seen one of my signs and felt compelled to tell me my cat had “obviously been eaten by a coyote.”
There was sensitive, skiddish Lyla, who lived even longer than Shayna and was the first (and only) pet I ever had to put to sleep. Even Craig, who has always claimed he never really liked that cat, bawled as hard as I did when her tired old body went still after the lethal injection.
Then there was Chief Ouray, the hunter and wild man. We obviously couldn’t take him with us when we moved to France for half a year, and luckily he moved in with some good friends who have since gotten attached to his barbaric antics.
So it was something of a relief to return home from France and have no cats. We could leave for a week and not have to beg someone to stop by and check in on them. There were no sick or old or lost felines to worry about. We had a child to care for and worry about, after all, and that seemed like a lot of work by itself. (It still does.)
The escalating mouse problem was finally what tipped the scales in favor of adopting another cat, for Craig. For me, the tipping point was the knowledge that Second Chance was up to its ears in cats. So an ecstatic Elle and I visited Second Chance last Thursday, where after much difficult deliberation we chose not one but two kitties to bring home. (The “Two for One” deal Second Chance has going this month makes it virtually impossible to adopt just one.)
With our long history with cats, we felt pretty prepared for what we were in for. Errant grains of kitty litter in the carpet. The smell of canned cat food in the morning. The pitter-patter, or more accurately, the crash-bang-boom of rambunctious kittens fighting Matrix-style at five in the morning.
We were also in for the kinds of things that make us continue to adopt cats: The way they tickle your ankles when they weave in between your legs, the warm fuzzies you get when they curl up on your lap, the strangely wonderful sound of a happy, purring cat. And, of course, their ability to make mice go scurrying off to other, more welcoming abodes.
What we didn’t know was how much fun it would be to see our human toddler interact with our two new feline youngsters. She shrieks at the hilarity of a pair of kittens literally bouncing off the walls. She is remarkably gentle when they climb up onto the couch with her, like she’s already learning that rough and loud aren’t the way to act around animals. The best part is that they love to come visit when she’s getting her diaper changed, making this usually arduous process a breeze since she has something to occupy her during those agonizing two minutes.
Added to the chaos and extra work of two new pets is the deep and simple joy of sharing a home as an expanding family. A home where the living room floor is never tidy, but where there’s almost always something to laugh about. Like a kitten hanging from Eddy the Dog’s tail (sorry, old boy.)
As for the mice… their exodus hasn’t been as hasty as we had anticipated, since the deployment of our secret weapons. Our young hunters are, perhaps, too young yet to challenge this thriving mouse settlement.
One did catch a moth the other day. I guess that’s a start.