We never intended to have five cats. Rob and I had plans and ideals, and one of those was that the perfect number of feline pets was two. They would groom each other and keep each other company, but not overburden their humans with litter box odor or food costs. We agreed that, as the cats aged, it would be acceptable to add a third pet, a kitten who would keep the older felines on their toes, and provide comfort when the time came that one would pass away.
And so it was, for the first several years of our marriage. Chantilly and Angel moved with us from Wyoming to Vermont in 1996. We were fortunate that we lived with my parents at first, and then in various apartments that allowed us to keep our pets at home.
Around the turn of the millennium, even though Chantilly and Angel weren’t all that old, we drove three hours from home just to adopt our third cat, Loki. We’d been married about five years, and four of those years were spent trying to get pregnant. I was on the kind of drugs that, in addition to helping me ovulate in a timely manner, also played havoc with my psyche and emotions. Loki wasn’t a real baby, but he helped ease the pain of childlessness, being a playful and affectionate addition to the family.
Both Rob and I worked at Vermont Technical College, where we’d earned our Associate’s degrees. The Vet Tech program there took in dogs and cats each year, and before the summer they all needed to find homes. I made the mistake one day of stopping in to visit one of my friends, who was in charge of the lab, and asking her if any of their cats needed some snuggling. She put Finny in my arms, and I was instantly in love. He just wanted to be held and cuddled, something that helped my childless heart bear the pain a little better. We had then been trying to get pregnant for almost ten years, as well as having competed our foster parent training but inexplicably not having a child placed with us. We let him stay in the empty room we’d decorated in preparation for a child, letting the cats get to know each other through the crack at the bottom of the door.
Four cats was too many. But we weren’t done yet.
After eleven years of trying to get pregnant, we finally had a foster daughter and we were enduring the endless trials of waiting for the termination of the birth parents’ rights and her release to finally be adopted. Our daughter, then seven years old, told me there was a kitten on the porch. Although I didn’t believe her (lying was and still is one of her greatest vices) I went to check, and was amazed to discover it was true. Bug-riddled and starving, the kitten waltzed through the front door and never left.
It was late autumn. He’d probably either been born in or abandoned in the woods across the street from our house. It was unlikely he’d survive the winter. I couldn’t stand the thought of taking him to the humane society; here was a helpless furbaby, presented to us without any prompting or begging on our part, while we were praying and hoping that we could adopt our daughter and maybe, just maybe get pregnant before my body was too old to safely carry a child.
We took Simon in. (He’s watching me write this; the other four cats each passed away over the last several years.) His boney ribcage filled out that summer, and human-administered medicine got rid of
the bugs. He and the other cats thrived, and the next Spring we finalized our daughter’s adoption.
And a year after Simon came to us, I finally had a baby girl of my own.