Friday, September 2, 2011

[Jon] Happy Birthday, Eli & Marceline!

Fair Warning: I am absolutely nuts about my cats. I'm not a crazy cat person—I like most cats just fine—but I love my own almost more than anything. If you have any soft spot for animals, hopefully you will understand my sentiments and enjoy seeing photos of our kittens at their tiniest. Another warning, this post is full of gratuitous photos of our cats. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Almost exactly three years ago, we'd just finished doing this to our house:
painting, mid-progress.
Yep, the whole house. We moved in and painted every surface of the house about five times, with multiple coats of sealing primer (to keep the gross in) and then multiple coats of nice clean paint. 

One of our top priorities after we settled into the new house was to adopt a pair of cats, our first pets of our own as adults. As an unabashed cat-lover, Erin was particularly thrilled at this prospect. For her, the very thought was almost more exciting than buying the house. Wanting to make sure Erin's zeal wasn't overshadowing any of my own hesitations, Erin's mom asked what I thought about cats. My now-famous reply was, “I’ve got nothing against them.”

Once painting was complete, we decided we were ready to start thinking about looking for adobtable kittens. Soon after, Erin’s company took a field trip to Disneyland where they enjoyed all sorts of behind-the-scenes action. Along the way, they stopped at the Circle D Corral, where they put the animals at night. It gets dark and cold in the Jungle Cruise! Just kidding—the horses and petting zoo animals live there. And on the day Erin was visiting, they had four additional small boarders. These guys:

A population of cats was introduced to Disneyland way back when to keep the rodent population in check ("circle of life" style) but now they try to keep the cat population in check—because otherwise, they’d inevitably be overrun by feral cats with ample food supply and zero predators. So now the barn collects any kittens they happen to find in the park, and if the mom's able to be trapped, she's spayed and released. The proper thing to do in this situation.

Anyway, Erin’s group was walking up for their tour of the ranch at the same time as a couple of castmembers holding a cardboard box. They jokingly asked, “Who wants kittens?” They were probably surprised when Erin sprinted to the front of the group and burst into tears. They happily agreed to give us our pick. Oh, and one caveat, the kittens were three weeks old. I was terrified when I found that out (after Erin called me at work and left me a voicemail with the news, she emailed the photos above and said the two on the left were ours). Three weeks old was still bottle-feeding age, they'd only recently opened their eyes, and could just barely walk. As small as they looked in the pictures Erin sent me, I could not believe it when I actually held them. So tiny!

Erin hates the face she's making in this photo, but loves that she's actually crying about kittens.
Meet Eli and Marceline. Erin picked Eli for me, I had always wanted an orange and white tabby. Marceline is a beautiful light and subtle calico with the best eyes. Erin picked her because of her coloring and because she was talking the most of the four. Little did we know her coloring would become so distinctive and her conversational skills would become so well-practiced.* Erin explained their names in this post, way back when.
Eli had a champion bottle-drinking stance, he was just too slow for his sister's liking.
Marceline was embarrassed to need help in the litter box.
Day by day, we learned what we needed to know to keep these little guys alive and there were some very scary times when the “bodily functions” were not going according to schedule—but that happened with our real baby too! And there was the time when Marceline aspirated milk because she drank too fast and chewed the tip of the bottle nipple, her tiny purr sounded like she was under water. We learned this can have fatal side effects. Oh, and it was on my birthday too. Everyone made it out alive though and we forged on as our newly formed little family. It was a pretty special time for Erin and myself, sort of an introduction into babydom. There were bottles, assisting with using the potty, lots of sleepless nights, even some tears, but it was a tremendous experience that I hope I never forget. 
still working to master the whole walking thing.
Work on our newly purchased house all but ceased when they came into our lives. We spent most of our time just playing with them, watching them play together and teach each other how to be cats, and relaxing while they slept all over us and each other. In fact, I remember the only things we worked on for months were things required to keep two very curious kittens safe, like finishing the kitchen cabinet door rehab so we could have doors on our cabinets and hopefully not lose a cat inside them.
ordering take-out off the menu

lots of cat naps, it was just about all we did.
Days and months went by, they grew into kittens the size you'd normally adopt from a shelter, long-legged teenaged kittens, then finally, CATS. The metamorphosis was astonishing. They say it about kids, but this really happened so fast. In a matter of months, they go from this:

to this:

We learned through this process that there is a bond made when you bottle feed and hand-raise kittens. There’s a closeness between us all that I’ve never experienced with an animal before. I can see the most pure love in their eyes. Eli’s a sensitive guy with very specific interests and feelings, always game for a good snug. And Marceline, she was my first daughter. The way she looks at me, needs things from me, loves me—all are things I see now from my person daughter. 
an uncharacteristically goofy grin.
We don't know their exact birthday—after all, they were found in the quasi-wild, but we were told they were about three weeks old when we adopted them. That would have put their birthday somewhere in the range of September first. Our wedding anniversary is on September third, so we made that their official birthday in our home. It’s a day early in this post, but we’re planning something special for tomorrow. Happy third birthday to best little cat friends I’ve ever met.

*Little did we know, this penchant for talking would in time become something of a problem for me. Marceline keeps my morning routine, every day waking me up in time to get to work. Only her clock is a half hour ahead of mine. She stomps all over me, meowing in my face until I wake up to shake her food level. And I remind you, this is around 3:00am...

checking the mail.
the very best ones.
P.S. My cat daughter is snoozing in my lap as I write, just like this.

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