WE HAVE EIGHT cats. Some say that’s a lot and others say that’s not enough. Eight is definitely not enough.
We also have four dogs. Four dogs is four more than enough, which brings me back to the cats.
Two weeks ago we welcomed a black kitten duo into our family, brothers we named Juniper and Jasper. They were born in someone’s car on the one night the owner forgot to close the windows — and thankfully the very nice man who owns the car took wonderful care of them until they all found new homes.
We are one of those homes.
Juniper and Jasper are like precious little bear cubs. They are adorably sweet and very yin to the other’s yang. I love this balance in their kitty personalities.
Juniper is my writing buddy. He loves nesting between my hands on my desk when I’m working on my book or one of my essays — just as he’s doing right now. And every morning when I open my eyes, I find him folded into a little ball on my chest, sound asleep and purring.
Jasper is a lot like me. He loves being loved, but he doesn’t need lots of mingling to feel or give this love. Instead, he’s quite fond of draping his head and front paws over the edge of a bookshelf up high, as he quietly watches the escapades of the other animals on the floor below.
He finds this to be very satisfying, and when he’s done he saunters into the closet and takes a nice long nap.
WHEN I WAS a kid, I loved when it was my classroom’s turn for library hour. We’d excitedly try to guess where the fuzzy bookworm was hiding for that day’s reading and run around the stacks in search of his rainbow pompom body, peeking out from the book the librarian was going to read to us. I wanted to be that bookworm, to spend my days high up on a bookshelf amongst all those books and never have to talk.
But even when I was little, I was too big to recline on a bookshelf. And so, no. Jasper didn’t learn this behavior from me. But I did take a nap in my closet not too long ago.
My husband and I don’t have beds, and we sleep in separate rooms. Every morning we fold up our sleeping nests and store tidy stacks of pillows and cushions in our closets.
And on one especially hot day — a day I told my mom was 107 Ezzies instead of 107°, when my cat Ezra stood between me and my laptop and I couldn’t find the keys for the degrees symbol — it was so hot that wearing clothes inside my home wasn’t an option, and so I went without.
By early afternoon I was so distracted and sleepy from the heat, I aimed a fan at my partially open closet, followed some of the cats deep inside, sunk down into the cool comfort of the freshly washed bedding, and napped naked.
It was awesome, and you are jealous. I know this because you’re a grownup, and grownups only dream anymore of doing the kinds of things they wouldn’t have hesitated to do as kids.
Well, welcome to the Moose Homestead, where grownups aren’t allowed.
FIVE OF OUR cats are black, and this includes the bear cubs.
I only ever intended to welcome black cats into our home, as a matter of narrowing down the options so I don’t turn my home into a cat depository. If it’s not black, I promised my husband — and if there isn’t a vacancy from one of our departed darlings — it simply doesn’t come home with me.
Well, we just happened to have had two vacancies open up, a couple of months apart when my elderly cats Maraca and Zhabie died. And then one night, as we were driving downtown near the train tracks, I saw six teeny glowing eyes on the sidewalk and stopped the car — ha, I wrote that as cat and had to swap the t for an r — and rolled down the window and turned on my headlamp. Three adorable orange kittens stared back at me and then darted off into a scary alley and scattered in different directions.
The next day my husband and I borrowed a trap from a neighbor, and, armed with wet cat food and a lot of patience, we set up camp that night in the alley and in just 20 minutes had trapped ourselves a teeny kitten. We named him Ezra, who became Ezzie, as in 107 Ezzies.
The following night we caught a two-for-one and brought home Apple and her super feral kitten Turtle. Apple was still a kitten herself, and Turtle was almost twice as big as Ezzie, so we concluded that little Apple must have had multiple litters. We went back a few more times and carefully scanned the entire area for more kittens until we were sure we hadn’t left anyone behind.
Much to my husband’s relief, it seemed we had gotten them all, and Operation: God Save the Queen (and Her Litter) was declared a success. We fist pumped, chest bumped and treated ourselves to some Starbucks chai lattes.
This was about a year and a half ago. The two vacancies were filled by three cats, the third of which I referred to as the spare cat: two plus a backup, just in case. It made it easier on my husband. Our cat population was now three blacks and three oranges — and this is how orange became the new black.
And then I stupidly but not regrettably browsed the free section on Craigslist one quiet night, when all the animals were settled and sleeping and looking like lovely little fur angels, and now we have five black cats and eight in total, and really that’s all I wanted to share in this essay.
Next week’s essay is already in the works: How my cat is teaching me piano. I know. It sounds like Granny Moose has taken over my website.
Don’t worry, there’s balance to my writing. I just sent a political Top 10 list to McSweeney’s, my first ever pitch to them, and it’s very potty mouth. It even has an F bomb, and I never, ever drop F bombs.
It won’t get published. So, you’re going to have to put up with more Granny Moose cat talk.
JUST TWO MORE notes before I let you go for the week.
Some of you may have seen my unedited essay from last week that has since been given a whole new life. Not the bookworm section; I’m talking about the opener.
It’s called backtracking on the overshare and replacing it with something less personal. I often publish essays on my website, knowing they’re not up to par just yet, for the sake of airing out some thoughts — and then tidy them up in a rewrite.
So, there’s that.
And what follows is me trying to warn my mother about my kitten news.
She’s really, REALLY bothered that I have all of these animals. When I asked earlier this year what she thought about us getting some chickens, she said, “Chickens are animals, too!”
Well, I did my best to prepare mom for this essay, by way of a flurry of emails this morning, and here’s how that went.
Oh, and about the pig (from below).
At 6 am yesterday morning, the dogs went into a barking frenzy, and there on our deck was the neighbor’s pig. My husband took a photo and sent it to everyone we know.
I tried leading the pig back home, but her snout suddenly folded back and I saw her teeth and ran. Did you know pig teeth are nearly identical to human teeth?
Man, was that weird.
Mom: I wanted to put this pig on my Facebook page but didn’t see how to do it.
Me: You need to download the pig to your laptop first. Then you can upload piggy to Facebook. By the way, you’re not going to like my new essay that I’m posting soon. You’ll know why when you read it.
Mom: OK got it. Oh dear, what won’t I like about your essay?
Mom: Oink is now on my FB.
Me: Your short story is so darn good, mother. It’s going to be published in a book this fall? It’s really, really good!! P.S. Meow!!!!!!
Mom: I forgot I sent you my short story. The police volunteers had a BBQ yesterday. I know the 4th is your favorite celebration day, so hope you have fun and eat picnic food.
Me: Well, you can’t blame me for trying.
And on that slippery slope of a note that flew right over my mama’s head, I’ll be seeing you next week, folks!