This post is a journal of my journey to create a perfect Christmas scenario by presenting my daughters with a kitten for Christmas. I have visions of them waking on Christmas morning to twinkling lights displaying piles of festively wrapped gifts, Johnny Mathis caroling his version of “Sleigh Ride,” the mixed scents of our Holiday Bayberry candle and a fresh pot of coffee wafting through the air, and a soft snow falling outside. The girls will muffle their squeals of delight so as not to alarm their precious Christmas gift — a sweet sleeping kitten bundled in a basket of soft fleece. In all reality, the girls will wake up before us and be annoyed when we tell them they can’t go downstairs yet. I’ll remember there are a few more gifts that I forgot to put out and stub my toe rushing to bring them up from the basement. My husband will fumble with his phone for at least ten minutes to set up the music through the wireless speaker and the song that plays will be Madonna nasally whining to Santa Baby for diamond rings and yachts while I fight with the timer to get the Christmas tree lit. I’ll forget to both light the candle and brew the coffee so it smells more like morning breath than holiday festivities, and despite the warnings of a brutal winter, it’s been like Florida in May for the past couple of weeks so we’ll have the storm door propped open, letting in the hoards of moths that have been plotting to fly off with our house. By the time the girls get downstairs, they’ll be confused by the cat stuffed animal thrown under the tree with a note tied around its neck that reads “I tried.”
How did a former cat-hater end up here, you ask? A little over four years ago, my husband and I encountered a perfect storm of wanting a pet for our daughters (something about teaching them responsibility but, who are we kidding, I’m the main caretaker,) requiring a pet who would be lower maintenance than a dog, and chipmunks overrunning our yard and nesting in my car’s engine, chewing the hoses and rendering it unusable. After paying to fix the car, we agreed that a cat would be a good solution to chase small critters out of the yard (and my car!), and found Spenser (you can read about him here) through craigslist. (I KNOW! I looked at shelters but I was lazy and the high adoption fees and tedious paperwork vs. going to someone’s house and paying $40 for a kitten was too easy.) We knew the girls would love him, but we didn’t expect to like him as much as we do. He’s awesome.
Sunday, November 29th
We spent the afternoon at a family friend’s house and they were fostering a neighbor’s one-year-old cat that was in need of a home. She was a stunning medium haired black cat (my husband even thought she was gorgeous – who is this guy, liking cats and giving them unsolicited compliments?) that didn’t even have a name so the girls decided to call her Saige. (I don’t even… and why that spelling?) They begged for this cat the whole time we were there and when we left Saige-less they cried the. entire. ride. home. Both girls walked in the house, took their Christmas lists off the fridge, and sniffled while they updated them with a simple word: “Saige.” What they didn’t know was that during a conversation I had with my husband at the party, a seed had been planted that sprouted about a week later. Because his main argument was that ‘Saige’ might not get along with Spenser, I quietly mentioned “if it doesn’t work out, they’re okay with taking her back…” His response was, “If we’re going to do this, we need a kitten. This cat is too old.” That means he’d been considering the possibility of a new cat so I stopped right there.
Monday, December 7th
He caves, with conditions. A) it needs to be a kitten B) no long hair C) the house can’t smell like cats D) “pick a good one”
The pressure’s on.
Tuesday, December 8th – Monday, December 14th
I’m scouring the internet for kittens. I start on petfinder.com and adoptapet.com looking for shelter animals. I also look on craigslist because it served me well in the past and those pets need homes too! I email, text, and call no less than 17 different places making inquiries. The most luck I have is with a shelter in a nearby town. I speak with a woman on the 14th and email her an application. And then I wait impatiently.
Wednesday, December 16th
Still waiting. The woman was very nice but has not gotten back to me. I call and leave her a message. I send her another email asking to verify if she received my application. In the message and the email I apologize for bothering her, but I’m not really sure how this works so I’m freaking out. Did she decide I was bothering her too much? Am I too needy? Am I not a good kitten person because I’m following up? Does she know about the time I accidentally stole eyeliner from Target? I didn’t even really steal it — while unloading the shopping bags I noticed it was still in the cart, unpaid for, so I left it in the cart when I wheeled it into the corral. A better person would have taken it back into the store and hung it back with the other eyeliners, so all I’m really guilty of is not restocking and I don’t think that makes me unqualified to adopt a kitten, does it???
Thursday, December 17th
STILL NO CONTACT FROM NICE-BUT-PROBABLY-OVERWHELMED SHELTER LADY. Haven’t heard from her since Monday. She has to hate me or she’d get back to me. I’m officially a stalker if I contact her again and I’m afraid she’ll take our a restraining order and I’ll be blacklisted from every shelter if I keep harassing her. I’ve got a week to work this out. I find kittens listed with another shelter that are being kept at nearby PetSmart and drive there to look at them. I find her. I FIND HER. She’s the coolest looking cat I’ve ever seen (I sound so hip to the jive) and is available. The woman cleaning the cages tells me to fill out an application and come back on Saturday at 12:30.
I don’t know how this works, so I’m still looking at craigslist and other adoption sites online. I’m obsessed with this search and panicked that my kids will notice a page I’ve accidentally left open on my computer or see an email from one of the numerous people I’ve contacted with the subject line “kitten.”
Friday, December 18th
Still nothing from shelter lady that I spoke to once. But with this new lead, my focus is on #5 (the name they’ve given the cat I saw at PetSmart.) I follow up with an email and a voicemail to verify the application I received the day before was received by the right person. I’m wondering if I should camp out in the parking lot overnight to make sure I’m first in line (if this is, in fact, a first come/first serve situation — but since no one responds I have no idea how this works.)
Saturday, December 19th
I’ve given up altogether on original shelter lady and fixate on #5. I get to the pet store early and am in full blown stalker mode but attempting to keep it cool. There’s a guy cleaning the cages and my furry friend is still there. A woman comes in pushing her her two toddlers in the shopping carriage and they’re eyeballing #5. I’m still playing it cool, but panicked as hell on the inside — will she get preference on the cute cat because she’s with two little kids? That’s dirty pool… The woman who’s supposed to show up for ‘visiting hours’ is running late. Cage-cleaning-guy asks me which cat I’m interested in and tells me she’s still available. Toddlers-in-carriage-woman asks about adoption and is told they’re out of applications here so she’ll have to print one out online. He asks me if I need an application, too, and I calmly respond that I already filled one out on Thursday (inside I’m feeling smug as hell.) Carriage-Toddlers leaves. A small victory for me. (Or is it? I still have no idea what’s going on!!) The woman with the authority to show the cats finally shows up. She’s very nice (sadly, this always surprises me as I imagine them all to be militant adoption Nazis) and, after spending way too much time chatting it up with store employees, lets me in to hold #5. I’m done. This has to happen. All I can think of is my girls’ reactions to this sweet thing on Christmas morning. We have a nice conversation and she’s make me feel confident that there’s still a chance of me adopting her. But not today, apparently.
Sunday, December 20th
Send another email about #5. Still searching craigslist and petfinder for backups because if #5 falls through I need options.
-I’ve texted someone who was asking $400 for shorthairs and &750 for what are probably not Maine coon cats.
-I’ve emailed someone who listed a kitten in Boston but was actually 3 1/2 hours away in New Hampshire.
-I’ve sent four emails to someone the next town who has consistently reposted a listing for kittens on craigslist for two weeks who has never responded. (make that six — six emails with not one response)
-I’ve called our vet to ask if they knew of anyone with available kittens and they referred me to an agency that I had already contacted.
-In total, I’ve emailed and/or texted no less than 23 (update – 28) separate people regarding kittens. A few appointments have been tentatively set up, but always fall through as someone else has apparently come in to swoop up the kitten faster than I could.
Monday, December 21st
Left another voicemail about #5. Am keeping my nervous self busy by hard core cleaning my entire house. Like, pulled-the-fridge-away-from-the-wall-to-vacuum-and-steam-clean-underneath cleaning. Waiting fanatically for a phone call and/or email. Resisting the urge to leave yet another voicemail about how it’s easier to have a child than it is to adopt a kitten. Practice breathing exercises to thwart an oncoming anxiety attack. I have three days to get this done!!! I tell myself I’ll wait until 7:30 p.m. to call again (because they’re volunteers and probably working all day — seems like a legit strategy, right?) At 7:07 p.m. I get an email. I GET AN EMAIL! I’m thrilled but am with my kids so I have to contain my excitement. The woman asks a few questions and says she’s sorry for the rush but would like to get this expedited to get #5 home and adopted tomorrow. (Sorry for the rush??? I’ve been staving off coronary heart failure for five days!!!)
Tuesday, December 22nd
I’ve already had too much coffee. I’m not getting responses and am positive I’m going to need high blood pressure medication before the end of the day. I send another email at about 4:30 p.m. Two hours later I get an email back with a phone number and instructions to call “asap.” (I put that in quotes because I hate that term and wanted to be clear that she typed it, not me.) I have yet another mini heart attack and hide upstairs to make the call where my girls can’t hear me. The conversation goes something like this:
“Yes, I’m so glad to hear from you! How are you?”
“I’m good. You were asking about adopting #5, right?”
“Yes! Yes, absolutely. I’m definitely interested…”
“Well, she’s a beautiful cat and we got a lot of applications for her and some of them did come in before you…”
“So you can come and pick her up!!!”
“WHAT? ARE YOU SERIOUS???”
“hahaha — I’m sorry, I just couldn’t resist!”
Remind me to send her my medical bills.
I head to the pet store at 8 p.m. and pick up this unbelievably beautiful kitten. I take her to my sister’s house because she has agreed to keep her there — despite the fact that my sister hates animals and both of her sons are highly allergic so they have to stay doped up on Zyrtec — so I can keep this a surprise on Christmas morning. #5 is in her crate on the front seat next to me and nuzzling my fingers that are stuck through the grate. She’s painfully adorable and there’s a good chance I’m in shock that I actually got her.
Wednesday, December 23rd
My sister reports that #5 only slept for an hour and “jumps and hangs on curtains, falls behind the tv, crawls on stair railing garland and knocks off ornaments.” Oh boy… just one more night…
Thursday, December 24th (Christmas Eve)
New report from my sister. “I kind of love kitty. She is so friendly. When you walk in to see her she jumps up at you like a puppy. Me likey.” #5 is turning around this animal hater.
I feel like a seven-year-old eager for Christmas morning to see my girls’ reactions. Still can’t believe I’m pulling this off. She’ll come home with me tonight after church while my husband and the girls go to his cousin’s for Christmas Eve festivities. His job is to come home late enough for me to be able to hide the kitty while they go straight to bed. #5 better be quiet and not screw this up!
(Thought it was worth mentioning that at about 2:00 p.m. I get a call from the original shelter lady that I hadn’t spoken to in ten days asking if I was still looking for a cat. I kindly explain that she’s a day late and a dollar short and wish her a Merry Christmas.)
#5 is here. Spenser’s feeling her out by letting out a low growl if she gets too close and hissing if she gets even closer. The girls come home and #5 stays hidden in the basement while they go to bed.
Friday, December 25th (Christmas Day!)
I wake up ridiculously early – about 4:30 a.m. (because that kind of happens a lot) – and tiptoe to the basement to check on #5, who is being crazy-adorable. I cuddle up with her on the couch for a while until she falls asleep and then leave her snoozing while I tiptoe back upstairs to bed. The girls wake up at about 6:15. We make our way downstairs and the tree is already lit. I put on the coffee, light the candles, turn on the music (it’s not “Sleigh Ride” but Nat King Cole’s singing about chestnuts so it’s equally delightful.) It’s the warmest Christmas in the history of the world, so there’s no chance of snow, but I have no control over that.
The girls start with their stockings gifts and are having a great time ripping open the colorful packaging and comparing presents. They open almost everything and my husband goes down the fetch the cat-in-the-box. As he brings it up, announcing that there’s one more gift for the both of them to open, they reply that they’re going to open it after they finish with the gift bags they got each other. I’m still in awe that they haven’t figured this out and haven’t a clue that there’s a warm bundle of fluffy cuteness just inches away. We wait patiently, cameras poised and ready.
They kneel in front of the trunk and fumble with the clasp together to get the lid open. Up pops #5’s furry head and up pop the girls gasping, hands in front of their mouths. The older one exclaims, “This isn’t real!” The younger one says, “No. No, you are lying to me right now,” and starts crying. They kneel in front of their new friend and history has been made. This whole event may have shaved a few years off my life, but to witness the looks on my daughters’ faces made it 100% worth it. Best Christmas ever. ❤
Merry Christmas from two relieved, yet exhausted, parents, their two thrilled daughters, an ornery cat named Spenser, and a kitten named Scarlet.