The profanity flies out of my mouth at a high volume. The smell is pungent. The damage: TOTAL. The culprits are safely nuzzled on the foot of the bed, lounging with my wife. I hear her voice from downstairs, “What did you do?!” The Bean and The Bear both look up unfazed, yawn, then go back to sleep. Guilt is either not felt or very well hidden with this pair. Or, perhaps like most cats, they just feel everything belongs to them, and therefore, it is theirs to do with what they please. For me, hearing this phrase triggers a memory, and, although upset, I smile.
After two years of marriage and three years of dating – not to mention buying, renovating, selling, moving across the country, and buying a home again – this scene has become a familiar one in our household. As I finish taking apart the futon and haul the cat-pee-soaked mattress to a nearby dumpster, I pause to reflect on how much my “free kittens” have cost over the years…
Five years ago, I was living in Los Angeles, California, with a couple of roommates, a steady girlfriend, and no notion of owning another cat, let alone two. I grew up with cats, dogs, birds, snakes, and turtles, and I’ve loved them all. But, I was looking for a hiking companion and a pet that would be willing to chase a frisbee. I was looking for a dog, not the email from my neighbor.
Apparently, somebody had decided to rid themselves of a mixed litter of kittens by cruelly shoving them into my neighbor’s pool filter and closing the lid. Luckily, the day the villain chose to act was the same day the pool cleaner stopped by (maybe the villain subconsciously intended for the kittens to be found). After hearing the little, wet, fur-balls crying, he pulled them out and notified the homeowners. Being good folks – and cat owners – my neighbors took in the five rescues, making sure they were well-fed and sheltered for a few weeks. Then, they sent out the now infamous email: “Free Kittens to a Good Home.” The bait was set.
I was only going to have a look and volunteer to help them find a good home. I had plenty of friends and coworkers that would love a kitten. So, I drove down the block to see my neighbors (in L.A., we drove everywhere) and their new furry housemates. I was shown to a bathroom that had been converted into a make-shift kitty nursery. Inside there were two fluffy balls nuzzled together.
They had already given away two of the five and decided to keep one as a playmate for their other cat. I was informed that the last two should not be split up, as they seemed very dependant upon each other. In fact, it appeared that the largest of the litter had grown quite attached to the runt, seeming to protect it as if it were his own. If they were split up, the little one would most likely perish. Then, a knowing voice crept into my head, chanting, “No! No! No!” You see, nobody wanted to take these two, especially since one may not make it.
“Let me run to the pet store. I’ll be right back,” I told my neighbors. After dropping over a hundred bucks on supplies, I stopped by my neighbors and picked up my “free kittens.” At the time, I couldn’t believe how much I spent. Looking back, I realize that it was just the first of many payments, and the first day would be the smallest of them all.
At the apartment, I set up one of the bathrooms to house the kittens. As my girlfriend (now my wife) opened the door to see the “surprise” I wanted to share with her, four now familiar words rolled out of her mouth, “What did you do?!”
Kitty Carriers $40.00 x 2 $80.00
Litter Box $15.00
Water/ Food Bowl $8.00
Assorted Toys $12.00
Spay/ Neuter $50.00 (L.A. has great low-cost programs for pets)
Initial Cost for “Free Kittens” $195.00
Futon mattress (w/ cover) $245.00
Total Cost $440.00