Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The thing about kittens

Three cuties, Jobs, and me

Tabby gave birth to three cuties more than two months ago. Now one of them is trying to snatch the cursor on the screen as I type this.

At birth, Ragdolls are white, thin-furred kitties who suckle and sleep all day, not very different from us at all. After two weeks their eyes open, and a few days more they crawl about, their lifelong curiosity in bloom. A few more weeks they jump on the bed, chewing the tissue papers and book pages, making scratch post of my arms and legs to sharpen their growing nails, or claws.

Now, about those nails: at certain length they curl at the end, obviously to hook into my moving toes and my other body parts that move. As Leena says, "If it moves, it's prey." I know that too, after bottles of betadine through the years. It is not unusual to find repaired patches on my arms and legs when kittens come. I have grown used to surreptitious glances at my scratches -- and Mickey Mouse band-aids -- from salesladies in mall shops and bookstores.

However, there are times when the sudden although playful digs of claws into my flesh make me curl up and shout for Melay to take away the particular "gremlin" preying in my bed. Last week, all three siblings climbed aboard and wrestled, chewed, clawed -- bits of tissues, some of paper and some from my flesh, were torn. To save what's left of my body -- I always save some parts for the next generations of kittens to come -- I moved to the other room to continue my reading or my Angry Birds game.

Being human more or less -- less, I think -- sometimes I get irritated, even mad (in all sense of the word), when claws suddenly dig  deeply into my leg. One such time,  I threw a pillow at one of the kits in startled reaction to a bite on my toe (it moved).  Fortunately no harm was done. That's my first and last pillow-throw. I don't want to experience again the great alarm and anxiety I felt as the pillow winged its way toward its target.

Tuesday this week, October 25, one of the kittens got sick. Early in the morning Melay noticed the kit became sluggish, had stopped eating, and went frequently to the litter box to relieve herself. Diarrhea can be fatal to kittens if the resulting dehydration is not cured in time. The kitten was forced to ingest water mixed with brown sugar every 30 minutes to give her energy -- and the much needed time to survive until the vet arrived.

It was touch and go for the kitten that day. The vet observed severe dehydration and injected electrolytes into the weak kitten. It was a painful process, for the kitten, whose piteous meows made Tabby jump onto the table to see what was happening. And no less for me as the inserted needle sent the kitten, although weak, struggling and emitting purrs of pain. Cold hands clutched my heart, already full of fear, and of thoughts that if I could only bear the pain and danger for the kitten, I would.

I cannot fathom the depth of despair when a kitten is lost to us. Too many, loving and loved, are already interred around the mango tree in our garden. Time numbs the pain, distress, and helplessness against the crazy ways of the world, but a kitten in danger refreshes the feelings, and fear is never diminished.

Melay, who feeds and play with Tabby's brood, yesterday noticed the kitten playing with its siblings, running, jumping, climbing, eating -- mundane activities in normal times, but not in my home, not in my person, made coward by the loss of little heartbeats. 

Yesterday Leena gave me a new book -- "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson. And the kitten played on. My silent joy is equivalent to a prayer. Happy birthday, indeed.