So, for Christmas we got our kids two kittens. And what a story...
For those who hate cats or who couldn't care in the least, I'll just break here so you can leave quietly to go pet the dog.
I had a plan. Christmas morning, I'd sit the kids down on the sofa and place in each of their laps a festive box. They'd simultaneously open the lids to find adorable balls of fluff. The kids would be surprised and thrilled and we'd videotape the whole things for posterity and so we could smile when we remembered the Christmas We Got the Kittens. Could it get any cuter than that?
The reality. Sadly, the inhumaneness of humans towards animals these days means that giving kids a pet as a surprise gift is next to impossible unless you purchase a puppy/kitten mill-generated animal from a
However, luck was on my side. I found via petfinders.com a local woman who did cat and kitten rescue. I spoke with her on the phone three weeks before Christmas, happy to learn that a) she didn't need to meet the entire family - me and/or my husband would be sufficient and b) she was heading down state to pick up 5 kittens that very next day. We made an appointment to meet the following Monday so I could check out the kittens and she could check out me.
The meeting went great. The kittens were adorable. I mean, I wanted all five. I settled on two - a black and white tuxedo boy and a tortoise shell girl. We agree I should wait until that Saturday night to pick them up so that she could take them in for a vet check and keep an eye on them for a few days to make sure they were doing all right.
I wasn't going to get to surprise the kids on Christmas morning. But I was going to get to surprise the kids two weeks before Christmas. Good enough. I was thrilled. All week I walked on a cloud of anticipation, that high you have when you can't wait to see the look on a person's face when you know they will just love the gift you've gotten them. Truly, I was in the purest state of giving is much better than receiving.
Saturday I picked up the kittens. The kids waited at home, clueless. I put the kittens in the large Christmas boxes I'd purchased and padded just for the occasion. I headed into the living room. The kittens were meowing. Loudly. Really loudly. So loudly the kids knew immediately that something living was in the boxes. So much for the "open the box to find a bundle of fur" illusion. The husband got the "record" and "stop" lights mixed up on the digital camcorder and recorded the floor both before and after the Big Moment but not a single second of the actual Big Moment. In short, the whole scenario didn't quite live up to the one I'd staged in my imagination.
But the kids were thrilled. Astounded. Totally surprised. My son kept saying "I'm dreaming!" It was all so good.
They named the boy Ringo (my son is going through a massive Beatles phase) and the girl Mocha (she's brown and black, chocolate and coffee mixed together). The dog adjusted. Sort of. For a week, we adapted to having these silly balls of fur underfoot and to feeding routines and emptying litter boxes in a timely matter. It was all so good.
Then Mocha got sick. The Monday before Christmas, she wouldn't eat. The Tuesday before Christmas, she wouldn't eat and she wouldn't play. I took her to the vet where they suspected she had Feline Panleukopenia. This virus is about 95% fatal in kittens her age and is very contagious (thus meaning that it was probably only a matter of time before Ringo came down with it). I called the woman whom I'd gotten the kittens from to learn that two of the other kittens in the original litter of 5 had died over the past two days. Things did not look good.
We were devastated. What started off as the Christmas We Got the Kittens was turning into the Christmas We Got the Kittens That Died. I wanted to cry.
We put Mocha in the animal hospital where they would give her antibiotics to fight off infections, keep her hydrated and try to feed her. Then we would just have to wait and see if she could get over this on her own. I headed home to treat Ringo for the fleas we discovered he had via the fact that Mocha had fleas. I also scrubbed down every surface with bleach cleaner to hopefully kill the virus that causes Panleukopenia in the hopes Ringo would be spared. And I watched him like a hawk for symptoms while the third cat succumbed to sickness - out of 5 kittens, only Ringo and Mocha were still alive.
But the Christmas Miracle Fairy stepped up to the plate and delivered us a most wonderful gift. The Wednesday before Christmas the vet called. Mocha was doing well. She was eating. And she was feisty. They wanted to keep her one more night just to be sure, and we'd have to quarantine her for a few days, but I could pick her up on Christmas Eve.
Today I took both Ringo and Mocha to the vet for their first round of vaccinations. Ironically, feline panleukopenia can be avoided by getting a vaccine against it, but both kittens had been way too young for their shots when Mocha first got sick. In fact, what we believed were 8 week old kittens turned out to be only about 5 weeks old. Clearly the owner of the barn cat who'd given birth to the litter had been mistaken about when these kitties had been born.
Mocha's not so happy about her shots. She's meowing a lot, and I suspect she's very sore since she doesn't seem to want to cuddle which is not like her. This is not an unusual reaction to getting vaccines, but I'm still prone to worry about her. She's used up one of her nine lives already and she's not even two months old!
My poor husband is still trying to come to terms with the expense this adventure has already cost us. Turns out animal hospitals and antibiotics and medical tests are only slightly less expensive than human ones. I keep reminding him that these little critters will give us years of love and enrich our lives in a way that is priceless. He's not quite convinced yet.
So, that's my kitten story. It has a happy ending so far, and it proves that Christmas Miracles do happen.