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I hate to say it, but some of these skrittens have to go. Things are getting out of hand. I write this having barricaded myself in the upstairs office after they began shredding the downstairs living room, again, this morning.
I can still hear their thundering paws below and the occasional thrashing of a house plant or a glass crashing to the floor.
This is our cry for help. Someone has to take some of these skrittens off our hands.
It all started six months ago when Olivia wandered into our lives. There she was one afternoon, a short-haired silver tabby sitting on the hillside staring at us on the porch. I figure she came from this dilapidated shack down the road a couple miles that is always swarming with cats. She was young, less than a year old, and not yet feral.
My girlfriend Kelsey put a can of tuna out for the cat and they bonded. We live in the sticks 30 miles east of Redding, don’t have any pets besides hummingbirds and koi carp, and Kelsey works from our home office while I’m out substitute teaching. She needed a little companionship and Olivia came along at just the right time.
We named the feline after Olivia Dunham, the character played by Anna Torv on the TV program “Fringe,” which we happened to be binge-watching at the time. Gradually, over the course of a couple months, Kelsey earned Ollie’s trust, and the cat began spending more time inside the house.
It took a while longer for Ollie to get used to me. I started calling her “Skritty” because she yowled and skittered away every time I tried to pet her. She sure didn’t mind me feeding her, though. The cat was ravenous all the time. That’s how we figured out Ollie’s secret: She was pregnant.
Ollie didn’t yet trust us enough to have her litter indoors. She’d show up for breakfast, lunch and dinner then disappear to wherever her secret lair was. One night she showed up on our doorstep and I could see that she’d just given birth. The next day we looked for her kittens, but we couldn’t find them.
Two nights later, we were awakened by a hideous animal scream neither one of us could identify. When Ollie showed up on our doorstep the next morning she was plainly in despair.
Some animal or animals, perhaps foxes or a feral tom cat, had killed all her babies during the night.
Ever since that night, whenever I get down about life, I thank god I’m not a cat. This is a cruel old world we live in.
Our plan was to capture Ollie and take her down to the vet to get her spayed so she wouldn’t have to go through that nightmare again.
But before we could do that, I caught her running around with another tom cat who’d shown up on the scene. She’d already gone into heat, and the next thing we knew, Ollie was pregnant again.
So we had no choice but to put her on house arrest. That was four months ago and she hasn’t been outside since.
Ollie took to her enforced captivity with gusto, eating until she was so fat and swollen she looked like she was going to pop any second, which she eventually did early one morning two months ago, delivering the aforementioned five squealing skrittens into our lives.
They were cute back then of course, five lumpy little monkey-faces barely able to crawl confined to their cardboard box. After two weeks, they began to look like miniature teddy bears, and Ollie began taking them out of the box and hiding them places, like under the couch, suspended from the lining like it was a hammock.
Kelsey started calling them our “little bittens.”
When they were four weeks old, the little bittens began asserting themselves. Like smallish gophers, they wriggled out of the box and began burrowing into any tiny opening they could find. Once, we found all five of them stuffed inside an arm of the couch. They easily slipped through a one-inch hole under the stove.
They gained their feet in fits and spurts, dashing two feet before tumbling out of control, then three feet, then four, until soon they were streaking about the house, chasing each other in mad fashion, dodging between the TV and furniture, running head-on into walls, ricocheting in the opposite direction and climbing the curtains and other high objects.
Kelsey set up an obstacle course made of oak logs and cardboard boxes in the living room to distract them from wrecking the furniture, and that worked for a while. We watched as they practiced their pro-wrestling moves, perching on top of a log and body-slamming the unsuspecting sibling below. Death from above!
By week six, though, our house had descended into chaos. A large potted fern in the living room bore the brunt of the carnage. Ollie likes to sit in the fern, peering out at us through her own private jungle. The skrittens decided the jungle needed to be razed.
I came home one afternoon and heard the sound of rustling leaves as soon as I entered. Kelsey was barricaded in the upstairs office. I turned the corner into the living room, and instantly saw it was in shambles. Little bittens were bouncing off the walls.
Fern fronds were scattered on the floor, and standing upright on its hind legs in the pot, the last two remaining fronds grasped in its outstretched front paws, one of the skrittens was flexing its chest like King Kong, trying to tear down the pillars he was chained to.
“Hey!” I yelled at him.
The gremlin-looking creature bared its fangs at me and let out a screech like you’d hear from a large bird of prey.
Barricaded upstairs, Kelsey was at her wit’s end. Somehow, we’d imagined that we’d be keeping all the skrittens. My brother has six dogs. Why can’t we have six cats?
The reasons why were now painfully obvious. I recently learned some scientists say cats aren’t truly domesticated animals, and I’m inclined to believe them. These things are decidedly uncivilized. We have to get rid of some of these skrittens.
The problem, naturally, is which little bits do we send to the farm? The tom cat that fathered them was a short-haired silver tabby just like Ollie, though slightly more feral, and all of the them pretty much look and act alike.
For example, all of the skrittens can be classified as short-haired silver tabbies with stripes on their backs and black leopard spots on their cream-colored bellies. At eight weeks, all of them are nearly weened off their mother and are biting our ankles less frequently. None have been outdoors so far.
I can barely tell the sex of these critters, let alone which one is which, but Kelsey has been able to distinguish their individual identities.
“The Climber” is the smallest of the two females, and as her name suggests, she’s a climber. First to get on the couch. First to get on the bed. First to make it up the stairs. She has two black dots next to the whiskers on her smallish face.
“Miniskrit” is the biggest female and a dead-ringer for her mother. She reminds me of the 1963 film “The Three Lives of Thomasina,” because both she and her mother look identical to cats I owned 20 years ago when I lived in San Francisco, and 50 years ago, when I was a kid.
“The Screamer,” as you might easily guess, is the gremlin that did the demolition job on the fern. He’s the larger of two smokier-colored males and is the only one who currently eats wet food. I sort of like him.
“Ginger Boy” has ginger-colored ears and will fall asleep upside down in your arms as soon as you pick him up. He’s a lady-killer.
“Little Screamer” is the second and smaller dark male, who nevertheless packs a powerful screech.
The truth is, we don’t really want to give any of these lovable varmits away, but we have to. We don’t know yet which ones we want to keep, but that decision is coming down faster than we’d like.
If you’re interested in adding a little bit of love to your life, comment below or contact me via email.