Ever go to Target to grab some pool toys or epsom salts and somehow end up with a 20 dollar iTunes card, a vacuum, and ice cube trays shaped like bacon? Or a just quick trip to buy gum and mouthwash (halitosis is serious business) only to come home with five bags of groceries and three abandoned kittens?
All the time, right?
Last week we were heading home with the back full of bags, well past lunchtime, due to the vortex of delightful consumerism that is Target when my husband shouted and pointed out the window.
I barely caught a glimpse of them, just an orange blur on the side of the road, busy as I was settling an argument over who gets to play with the crushed and broken water bottle someone had recently left in the van. Or maybe I was answering one of life’s deep, unanswerable questions like: Who would win in a fight, a shark or an octopus?
My mind registered kittens and I shouted, “Do something!”
“What?” My husband shouted back. I looked back frantically as the kittens grew smaller smaller behind us.
“What?! I don’t know!”
I told him to pull over, he replied either where, what, huh? or possibly all three. We really know how to keep a level head in an emergency. Lucky for us (and the kittens) the spot where we saw them was right around the corner from our apartment.
Adrenaline still pumping, I reasoned that we could put the groceries away, feed the hungry kids and then go back to see if they were still there.
Thus began the Great Kitten Rescue. I warned the kids repeatedly that they may not be there still, and probably weren’t. A lot of the stroll was taken up by shared pleasantries such as: my feet hurt. It’s too far! and Why is it so hot?
The last one was me.
Part of this street has a nice wide sidewalk that abruptly stops with no rhyme or reason whatsoever, as the sidewalks in this city tend to do. (What you want to actually walk to somewhere? Safely? Pshh.) So when we reached the little thicket of woods next to a grassy hill behind our targeted destination. My husband walked around on the shoulder, while the kids and I tromped through the weeds and mud for a go-behind sneak attack. The kittens were still there, huddled together in the same spot, terrified.
“Okay, quietly guys,” I said, even though I really should know better.
“Why?” My five year old asked, not even a little quietly.
“Because we might scare them and they’ll run away,” I whispered, creeping ever closer.
“Because they’re very afraid right now.”
“WHY ARE THEY AFRAID?”
This went on for awhile. Until I saw a kitten cowering not too far away, in a thicket of thorns and saplings and probably various poisonous, itchy plants. I sent the kids back up the hill to sit on the big rock there and wait.
I opened the container of prime kitten catching bait- organic, hormone and nitrite/nitrate free lunch meat- crouched down and tried to coax the orange tabby over. She came right to me! This kitten rescuing business is a breeze! Scooped her up and held her to my chest and then had another chaotic, confusing exchange about what to do with her now that I had her and how to catch the others that were eluding rescue. I’ll spare you the details. It involved more shouting.
The walk back home was uneventful until a spider crawled down from my hair to my neck and I made a noise that I’m not proud of, but I feel was justified given the size of the thing.
Got kitten one back home safe, left the kids in charge (yeah...) and went back, this time with a pet carrier.
Husband had the dark orange and white one. She looks eerily like our cat, Bradley, who recently passed away. I’m kind of still not over that. She was mewling pitifully but resigned to her fate.
The last one was a lovely fawn and white color, very skittish, obviously starving but terrified. It took patience and more kitten bait and some concern about encountering more hitch-hiking spiders, but finally we captured her and took them home.
We got them fed and checked out by a vet and came up with a plan thanks to the help of a very generous Aunt and my mother-in-law, who had both done this sort of thing before but without all the shouting. Probably.
Today we took the boldest, most outgoing of the sisters to her new home, to a couple mourning the recent loss of their 18 year old orange tabby.
The sweet, quiet fawn kitten (no longer so wary, but still quiet and cautious) will soon be leaving.
And the once the sadly resigned kitten, now very happy and playful and who squeaks instead of meows- the doppleganger of our Bradley- will stay with us.
I know I need to watch my consuming habits. Make do, fix the vacuum instead of buying a new one; and I suppose I don’t strictly need bacon shaped ice cubes (debatable.) But I think this time our unexpected extras worked out pretty well.
As far as the shark vs. octopus debate, after careful deliberation my money is on the octopus. Never underestimate the underdog (or cat.)
Jill Vettel is a stay at home mom and writer in Durham, NC who spends her time homeschooling, reading, and getting distracted by cute, fuzzy kittens.