Laura Wilkerson

Laura Wilkerson
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USA
Birthday
July 27

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Salon.com
JUNE 11, 2012 10:38AM

Looking at Kittens

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            “Let’s go look at kittens this weekend, my husband said, much to my surprise.
            A little over two months ago the Vet had predicted our cat, Nipper Lumpurr, had only about two months to live and J. doesn’t like mentioning that fact, especially in front of Nipper.
            At first she seemed to be responding well to the steroids but she’s getting puffier and slower. She’s sleeping more and eating less and on Thursday she refused to take her pill at all when before she had been very good about it.
            “OK,” I said.
            Later in the week my husband said, “They wouldn’t have the real little kittens there would they? I mean the ones that are still nursing would probably be in foster homes, right?”
            “Probably,” I said, “Why?”
            “Well,” he replied, “I was thinking we could put dibs on two little ones so they will be old enough to take when we want to take them.”
            “I don’t know,” I said, “I think we need two good, sturdy kittens for Buttons. I would be afraid to have really small kittens around him.”
            “Do you still want to go?” J. asked.
            “Yes,” I replied, “after you got me all excited about seeing kittens.
            The Owen County Humane Society’s website had expired and the only information on the Web said they opened at 8:00 a.m. so we set out early Saturday; arriving around a quarter to nine.
            Dogs barked from the kennels that lined the drive and then took an L-turn at the Shelter’s door.
            “You’re a little early,” the Male Attendant said, a short, wiry, leathery man who was probably in his fifties.
            “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know.” I said as I noticed a White Board hanging next to the door that announced, ‘New Hours!’ Followed by 9 a.m., “We were going off of old information.”
            “We can wait,” J. said, “We just wanted to have a look at the cats.”
            “That’s fine,” the Attendant said, “Come on in and have a look.”
            We went to the back room where cats were lined up in two rows of cages on either side stacked two deep, one on top of the other.
            Immediately on the bottom left were two fat little kittens; a gray and white one with a face full of freckles, and his tiger striped brother. The freckled one meowed at me and climbed up on the cage and let me tickled her belly for a good long time.
            Across from was a large litter of baby kittens, probably only five or six weeks old. Their mother, a Dilute Tortoiseshell, was very thin and still looked like a kitten herself.
            “The girl who really knows the cats and can tell you about them isn’t here yet,” The Attendant said, “I mostly take care of the dogs,” As this magnificent black cat named Molder, who J. had earlier worked into a tickle frenzy, grabbed the Attendant through the bars of his cage. The attendant freed himself.
            “I’m really a dog person,” he admitted as he scratched Molder’s big head, causing Molder to melt alongside the front of his cage until he hit the floor.
            “Everyone has their preferences,” J. said as Molder caught the Attendant again.
            “Cats can be peculiar,” the Attendant said as he loosened himself once again, “they either like somebody or they don’t.”
            “Cats can hold a grudge,” J. admitted as Molder made another lunge at the Attendant but missed.
            “Well, I’ll leave you all here to look around,” the Attendant said, “There’s more cats in the back.”
            Three lean black kittens about three or four months old threw themselves at the sides of their cage, stepping on each other as the climbed frantically to the top, trying to squeeze the heads through the bars on top before they would go crashing to the ground.  
            “These would be far too wild,” I said, “They’d be climbing up the curtains.”
            Above them were three little kittens, newly weaned, a fluffy back one, a smooth black one and a solid smoke gray shorthair. I stopped to acknowledge them as they clamored to the front of the cage, trying to suckle my fingers as I wiggled them through the wire.
            “I like you.” I said, “You have a lot of personality.”
            “That because I fostered them,” said the newly arrived Cat Attendant, a young lady in her early twenties.”
            “They are very sweet.” I said. The lovely gray cat in the next cage was reaching through the bars trying to get my attention.
            “We won’t ignore you, Sasha,” I said, using the name on her cage and scratching her head through the bars,” You’re a sweet girl too.”
            “That’s their mother,” the Cat Attendant said, “We put them right next to each other.”
            J. had caught the attention of a group of kittens in the last cage on the left, six of them in pastel colors and their mother, a light gray tiger. He was moving his finger back and forth while the kittens sat perfectly still in a line, their little heads moving in metronome.
            “Aw, they’re following your finger,” the Cat Attendant said.
            “These seem a little shy,” J. said.
            “I think it’s because their mother is a feral cat,” the Attendant hazarded, “but she’s real sweet. If you open the cage she’ll come to you and interact. The kittens were born here,” she added,” and those kittens in the front cage and the kittens I fostered. There were four of them but one died. They were all born here.”
            Below them was a cage full of kittens, probably at least nine of them, about two months old. "That’s one’s a beauty," I said, pointing to a fluffy orange and white kitten who had a really calm energy.
            “If I were picking kittens today I would lean toward that one,” J. said, pointing to the orange-and white one,” and the gray and white one,” J. said, indicating a little spitfire gearing up to leap on a fellow kittens unguarded tail.
            “That way,” he said, we would have one beautiful mellow cat for petting and a livelier cat who could engage Buttons.
            “I could agree with that reasoning,” I said, “If we were getting kittens today.”
            As we prepared to leave the two mother cats who were with their kittens herded their babies to the front as if to say, “Choose my baby,” like they could sense they would be going to a good home.
            I stopped to pet Molder again. I really connected strongly with him but I know he and Buttons would not get along. Buttons is an aggressive cat but the way he was dominated by Gypsy during her short stay with us makes me certain that Molder would be a disaster if paired with Buttons. Babies will be the way to go with Buttons, we think.
            “And I don’t want to forget you, Kimmie,” I said as I petted the cat two cages down from Molder, a large, pretty, long haired caramel tiger with the sweetest face and a gentle vibe that is a stellar indication of a cat that would make an exceptional companion. Across the way was Mary, a pale, shorthaired tiger who was huddled in the back of her cage. Listless, she seems to have given up on life entirely.   
            “It’s really hard to leave,” I said, pausing at the door, “I just want to bring a beanbag chair in here and hang out with cats all day.”
            “Should we go back and get those two?” J. asked when we got to the car.
            “No, not yet,” I said. We have to spend our time making Nipper’s last days as comfortable as possible as she eats and sleeps and interacts and sometimes goes outside where she rolls squirming on the concrete like she likes to do.

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