Twice now in a row I have blinked awake to start my day and found a cat curled up next to me. This is one of the three best ways to wake up as far as I'm concerned, and it's something that hasn't happened in ten months. I still miss Abbie every single day in ways large and small, and most every time we visit Sonya's parents in Lexington I go put a stone on his cairn and say hey there buddy what's up. Most recently, the dandelions are blooming around the stones. He is turning into flowers.
To say that I have missed a feline presence like the dickens is an understatement. It is amazing, after the loss of a cat, how many procedures of which one simply lets go and forgets. The kittens, however, are bringing back so many damn cat-herding instincts I had forgotten I knew. Settling squabbles and other assorted disputes. "Okay, okay, somebody needs a time out." Giving a firm NO when discouraging something they oughtn't do but they're doing anyway. Holding fast and giving that NO when they grab you with claws out or bite without licking after. Securing every single cord as they find 'em or you remember 'em. Making a specific set of sounds when feeding to encourage the right kind of Pavlovian response. Knowing nuggets of folk wisdom, such as making the feeding sound can lure out a cat in hiding or just plain around here somewhere but I can't see. (Advanced cat luring involves actually making good on your feeding sound and giving a treat to the nice, well-behaved, no longer behind the toilet cat.)
We're keeping the kittens confined to the living room and the dining room for now; our offices, the bathroom, the kitchen and most of the third floor are strictly off-limits. The kitchen is protected behind two sets of box barricades, the closest one two boxes high and just annoying enough to step over to warrant putting in a gate NOW. The other box barricade is at the other end of the kitchen hallway; the center where the office and bathroom doors are located has been officially designated a DMZ by the Authority on Kitten Control.
In No Man's Land, you enter and exit rooms at risk of invasion.
Hestia frequently jumps the smaller barricade and sniffs around the DMZ, and has been chased out of every room including the kitchen. A flaw in the two-box barricade construction or possible shifting from people stepping over resulted in a little stairstep for inquisitive kittens. She even cajoled T. Autolycus over into the kitchen, because it's no good getting in trouble if you're the only one involved. He hasn't shown interest in the DMZ yet, only the top of the first set of boxes, and even then it's usually because his sister's poking around there. A properly constructed and well-maintained two box barricade will keep them out for now since they can't jump that high, but we've thankfully now got a gate to install there. It requires a little more construction than expected.
Their skills are definitely improving. Hestia can make the jump onto the couch either from a standing position or with a running start; the Runt can't make it nine times out of ten and he hasn't learned how to do the running leap which might be best for all concerned. When you're on the couch and he wants up but can't quite make it, he'll putter around your feet making frustrated and annoyed chirrup sounds until you pick him up. He doesn't mind being picked up as long as you do it right, but he will not subject himself to the indignity of being cradled on his back like a baby. Martha loved that, and I'd have thought a cat who can fall asleep draped around your shoulders would enjoy playing otter. Maybe he'll get used to it yet. He's just so sweet and good-natured and a little rough-and-tumble.
There are old instincts you're glad have returned. Sonya couldn't chase Hestia out of her office so I got up, automatically grabbed the Jingly Feather on a Stick, and started rattling it out in the hall. Five seconds later there was one cat out in the hall trying to eat a Jingly Feather on a stick and a happier Sonya now able to shut her office door. Hurrah for misdirection and distraction! Seven seconds later there were two cats out in the hall trying to eat a Jingly Feather on a Stick, but that was to be expected. U always follows Q (exceptions noted thank you, pedants). Little Cat B always follows Little Cat A.
There are some instincts kicking in for habits these little guys haven't learned yet and with any luck, they won't be learning any time soon. Outside of their tendency to be nosy parkers no matter what you're doing (Sonya swears the Runt sat on her laptop and nearly bought her a subscription to the Atlantic Monthly) they have yet to mooch. Maybe I was just used to dealing with the King of Moochers, and the kittens haven't yet learned about the joys of people food--bless their innocence, may it last a very long time--but when I go into the kitchen for something I'm once again bracing for the pad-pad-pad of a Starving Cat onslaught, then feeling relieved upon realizing that's not going to happen.
Sonya and I also made faces and did stupid dances at Fate tonight by ordering out for sushi and eating it at the dinner table, right there in front of them. They showed no interest whatsoever. We would have had to fend Abbie off with Nerf bats or shut him in another room. Again, the kittens have yet to associate people food and the smell of fish with Things A Cat Should Eat I Mean Right Now, and we're not about to start feeding them from the table because why mess up a clean slate? Besides, they'll learn it themselves soon enough, so for the time being my wife and I gleefully basked in the sheer luxury of being able to eat raw fish (and cooked eel) in the company of cats who couldn't give a tinker's cuss. Sonya wants to put up a sign that reads "IT HAS BEEN  DAYS SINCE OUR LAST MOOCHING" and I for one am all for it.
(Seriously, in perspective, Abbie "You Gonna Finish That?" the Cat really put us through the wringer there. His overenthusiasm had caused him, at times, to literally bite the hand that was feeding him.)
This means we have two well-intentioned but overly energetic ten-week-old kittens (Angell records their birthdate as March 12th) who at least are learning good habits even while they're running rampant. Hestia's using the cardboard box scratcher, and neither of them are scratching up stuff they shouldn't. At least, not after you NO them away a few times. They even know damn well when they're misbehaving; Hestia ran guiltily out of the bathroom when I approached the open door. Looks like we have the advantage of guilt on their side, so we've got that going for us.
They also love to playfight and that means sometimes things get a little too aggressive and one of 'em squeaks Uncle which invariably brings Noyes & Taaffe, Freelance Referees, running in to break things up. Hestia's surgical scars are still healing and the area has scabbed over all dry and flaky (we're calling the vet today to see if that's a good thing. Is that a good thing?) While there's no infection or inflammation I can see, thankfully, we really don't want to run the risk of the Runt aggravating it further. And he would and will; he's already a master of the hind leg kick and knows the tactical value of an opponent's exposed, vulnerable underbelly. (So does Hestia, who instigates the fights just as often as her brother. I'm glad to see that this is not a case of Cat Bullying, so many stories of which we see in the media these days.)
And the good instincts never go away. Your petting hand once again can go on autopilot. The sound of a purr (and both of these kittens can already purr like two-stroke engines) is again one of the most gratifying sounds you can hear. And when the kitten looks up at you while purring--their best soulful eyes looking right into yours--you instantly remember your pledge to take care of these two new lives, still so fragile and light, to raise them well and keep them contented but not spoiled, show them no cruelty, bring them nothing but love, and celebrate them after they've Gone Before. And you sometimes pledge that quietly to the kitten. It's listening. The eye blinks are a loving, trusting, favorable response. It is remarkable the amount of trust these little critters have put in us, and that's what I think triggers so many of all of these, but most importantly that instinct to care for. The same instinct that kicked in with Abbie and Martha, the same instinct that kicked in with little Smudge, well, let's just say these boot imprints all over me ain't from a mosh pit. I know Sonya's currently feeling similar instincts from other cats in her life as well. It's a great feeling.
Anyway, I've got go now and babysit some newly-rested anklebiters as the wild rumpus is surely about to start. It's fine, though. Once I pass out exhausted, I'll wake up with a grateful little kitten next to me. And I'll try very hard not to displace it and make it all squeaky and indignant. (Sorry, X, it just happened.)
The two other best ways to wake up, not in any particular order, are 2. with one you love beside you, and 3. with the realization that you don't have to get up now so go ahead, drowse back to sleep. These three best ways can be had in any combination, which is the beauty of it.