Kitten CuriositiesFROM CAT TO KITTENS

After the passing of our beloved 16-year-old cat, my husband and I almost immediately became the proud parents of two affectionate and rambunctious 4-month-old kittens. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.  No free parking. In fact, let’s donate $200 to the shelter and, as we take our new kids to the car, let’s admire our lovely parting gift — a parking ticket plastered to the windshield in the rain. No worries. Nothing could dampen the spirits of our baby parade. We had just won the kitten lottery.


Satisfying my biological need to mother and nest, my new family and I have already accomplished a great deal together: dog introductions, two wellness visits, two dewormings, survival of four respiratory infections (my husband and myself included), 28 days of Bartonella treatment (x2), growth spurts of up to a pound a week, trying on several sporty scratching posts, adjusting to wearing collars (the cats, not us), scheduling two neuters (again, the cats) and offering a sundry of toys. Wait. We’ve had these guys just four weeks?


“Welcome to fresh, new parenthood!” I said to myself as the little lives of my purring boys rested literally in my hands. Having cat companions since I was 6 (I’m now 39), I thought I had this gig down. As it turns out, I knew nothing-zilch-nada-zero about kittens. You can bet, after a month of full immersion,  I do now. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Kittens can carry diseases and still look cute. Very. Cute. Kittens require high-octane food and transition to low-octane food at 5-6 months. No. They will not tell you this. They’ll just pork out and curl up in a food coma. Kittens sleep a lot. Kittens wake up energized — a lot. Kittens lose their teeth, sometimes in each other’s head. When kittens are teething, they chew furniture legs, picture frames, watering cans and toes. To spare household items and personal appendages, we’ve introduced – Tadah! – straws. Kittens get into, onto and under everything. We’re bolting furniture to the walls. And while these practical aspects are good to know, here’s another really important thing. When kittens do something amusing, sweet or downright funny, it’s best to grab your camera then and there. Kittens take on new projects by the minute, outgrowing or rarely repeating what was amusing, sweet or downright funny the moment before. Yes, breaking their mother’s heart, kittens grow from babies to teenagers in less than 60 seconds, or so it seems.


Things I thought I knew about cats are unravelling daily. The kittens do everything that my elder cat never did, even when he was 4 months old. Our elder cat preferred the floor to heights. The kittens prefer to sit on your head, while you’re standing, and they’ll climb whatever it takes to get there. Although he was clearly the alpha in this household, our elder cat never harassed the dogs. The kittens swat at dog faces, tails and feet. They walk under dog bellies, over dog backs, and fly across our Newfoundland, as he naps, to attack looming shadows of dust elephants lurking on the other side. Our elder cat never ate house plants. The kittens, on the other hand, constantly graze from my “salad bar,” play in the dirt, and topple pots for fun.


This habit of flipping the flora deserved far more attention than I suspected. I admit, when my vet handed me a list of plants toxic to cats, I thoughtlessly filed it with the bill and went on my way. Good thing I glanced through at home. Surprisingly, Aloe topped the list. Really? That beautiful, healing succulent living on my end table is e-vil? I moved the little villain to the mantle and studied more. I was mortified. My whole house was filled with leafy green poison. It was well beyond time to pay close attention.

Moving from room to room, I ripped several varieties of ivy from the base of of every potted tree. I placed family heirloom plants up high. I planted cat grass in pots, bowls and at the base of each tree where my ivy once grew. A big, blue pot of Catnip sits on my end table where the Aloe had been. The cats not only graze freely now, but safely, and I can rest easily — until they tip my tree once more.


What’s in your planter? The ASPCA has complete list of toxic and non-toxic plants filtered by pet type (cat, dog, horse). To identify plants you don’t know the name of, visit the image gallery. While Mother-in-Law’s Tongue and Devil’s Ivy may sound obviously dangerous, don’t let the Charming Dieffenbachia fool you. It isn’t safe.

PS: While proofing this with my husband, he read the part about the aloe plant, then the ivy, then went back a bit. Thinking he caught a typo, I had to laugh when he said, “Wait. We have an aloe plant?”