One of the things we wanted to do after we got married and settled in to our new digs was eventually adopt some cats, and now we are the proud ownees of two eight-month-old black polydactyl cats, a brother and sister. The girl is named Hestia after the goddess of home and hearth; she is also called X: The Unknown after our first visits to her foster home when we had absolutely no idea what kind of cat it was going to be. By the looks of it she is going to grow up to be like her mother, cunning and sleek with lovely almond-shaped orange eyes. Her brother, the seven-toed fellow we once thought was the runt of the litter, is Autolycus, after Hermes' trickster son and Shakespeare's rogue. He has sad-looking eyes which are turning green, and is learning how to get around on his extra-wide paws. I'm trying out Otto as a nickname, but that may have to wait until he gains fifteen pounds. Even then, we'd probably still keep calling him The Runt.
Neil kindly drove Sonya and I to Angell today to pick up the pair. They'd been spayed and neutered that morning--since when has that kinda stuff been outpatient?--and once we confirmed that yes, those were the two black cats out of the litter of black cats we wanted, we paid Angell a ton of money and got a ton of paperwork and promised never to feed them chocolate and left with the World's Most Pink Cat Carrier (And The Only One Left on the Shelf at Petsmart) full of four pounds of kittens.
The two were groggy from the sedation for most of the afternoon into the evening. They stayed in the carrier for an hour or so after we got home and then the Runt tentatively poked his head out, took a few courageous steps and began to explore his new digs. Hestia followed shortly thereafter, and we were entirely charmed and ready to take pictures. But the two discovered the under-the-couch and the behind-the-couch areas and promptly claimed that land in the name of Cat Forts. You cannot take pictures in Cat Fort Land; there is not enough light.
Our new little curtain-climbers take after their mother in color, build, and the fact that they'll ritualistically scratch at the floor by the food dish before eating (semi-feral Mama had to bury her food to keep it from the other cats, see) so I know they're both going to grow up to be insanely clever. The two did some research and determined that the best way to climb up onto the couch was to climb up the wooden frame in back. This research I might add did not include the reports on the front of the couch, which is much easier to climb. However, they were having fun enough behind the wood frame couch that ascent didn't seem to be the goal. They're small enough that they would get as far as propping up their forepaws on the crossbeam in the back, standing on their hind paws, and moving back and forth like a ballet dancer at the barre. If they're learning to walk on two legs we really are doomed.
The Runt is one of the biggest charmers ever, eight weeks old and already purring like a motorcycle. He fell asleep on my shoulder and he fell asleep under Sonya's button-down shirt. He loves his naps and if you're mostly stationary and mostly warm, you are the perfect nap spot. He's bright and gregarious, he'll run up to us when we come into the room, and he is one of the most affectionate nuzzlers I've known.
Hestia got off to a shaky start. She was already shy and nervous to begin with while exploring this new and unfamiliar environment. When I tried to pick her up (staying extremely conscious of her surgical stitching) she leapt out of my hands, drawing first blood. She gave me some very nice scratches on my wrist and my palm and near my eyebrow I don't know how. I do know that it wasn't even in self-defense, it was a side effect of the flight response. These kittens are still learning their abilities, their strength, their balance.
Poor little Hestia kept up the nervous defense. When Sonya's father tried to wrap up her in a towel (all we wanted to do at that point was cut the shelter collar off!) she yelled a lot, bit him, and ran off behind the couch. We decided it'd be best not to pursue picking up the cat any further--we clearly weren't doing her belly any favors--and let her be. She stayed under the couch, occasionally venturing up to the edge but backing away if we so much as made eye contact with her. Sonya was extremely worried that we'd traumatized the poor dear to the point of neurosis. I remembered several cats from long ago who had grown up paranoid and in hiding; they turned so after considerable cruelty over a period of time. Hestia was upset, but I believed that so long as she was not injured, she would regain confidence and trust if left to recover.
The kitten turned out not to be injured and grew more social in stages. She grew playful behind the couch, jumping around on the crossbeam, and then started vocalizing. I've heard both kittens chirp and peep; Hestia also squeaks and mews. She'd stop mewing when she got the right kind of attention--people seated on the couch peering down behind it was just fine. Standing people with hands still weren't.
Several hours later Hestia had grown much bolder. We were able to make eye contact with her again, and she started making longer and longer forays out from under the couch. Eventually she began exploring the rest of the living room with her brother. Since then she's shaken off most of her anxiety and grown sociable; she's let me pet her and has played the bite-and-lick game with my hand. I was happy that she grew tolerable of hands again. We haven't tried to pick her up since, and I don't think we will for a while yet.
Hestia is now sleeping on the window sill next to me. She discovered birds and the rest of the Great Big Moving World Outside, and stared for a while, ears twitching as she taught herself how to Listen. Then she ran out of steam and fell asleep. The Runt is asleep somewhere else, having tired himself out finally by chasing a sock around the room. I watched him pick the damn thing up with his super mutant paw and stick it in his mouth. These kittens of destiny have shown that they are adorable critters, holy terrors and bright learners, and we haven't even had them for twelve hours yet.