Bryhanna Greenough is a frequent visitor to ratemykitten.com (Illustration by Kira Sheppard)
At 500 grams, my new little friend weighs about as much as a can of beans. But let me tell you, it’s as if a truckload of needs and desires were stuffed into that can.
Ubu Roi, whose name is inspired by Alfred Jarry’s anti-hero, cries and bites and purrs and licks and climbs my pant legs.
Now, I have had many kittens in my life, but this one – either due to him or my inability to remember – seems a little more demanding, and it’s hard for anyone to get any work done since this tiny creature arrived in our home.
So I decided to write about kittens.
At just six weeks old, little Ubu is a near-perfect example of unformed desire. He still searches for teats, using his nose to bump us like a shark might. He’ll often confuse a human finger, giving it a little nip to encourage the flow of milk.
The day I brought him home from the SPCA, Ubu’s persistence confused me to the point where I made the mistake of giving him a bowl of cow’s milk. In what looked like a single slurp, Ubu drank the entire bowl, and his little stomach – which I estimate is no larger than a loonie – couldn’t contain it all. So up it came. And out it came.
And to the vet we went!
According to Dr. Martin, Ubu’s problem was twofold: the frantic race to the bottom of the milk bowl was partly to blame, and is common with kittens that have gone hungry. It’s as if the compulsion to feast overrides that little switch that tells Ubu when his belly is full. The second problem should have been obvious to me: most animals just aren’t designed to drink cow milk.
To fix it, Dr. Martin suggested a special canned food diet to — shall we say — solidify the problem.
It took a day or two but Ubu’s digestive system now seems to be back in the safe zone. I’ve switched him over to a high quality kitten food, which happens to be in the form of dry kibble.
Now, Ubu is letting me know it just isn’t as tasty as Dr. Martin’s canned cuisine. He cries a lot. I pick him up and he squirms to be free. When I put him down, he fusses and climbs me as if I were a scratching post. Sometimes, as I walk across the room, he gets tangled in my feet. He has learned to push through closed doors, and this morning he yowled when I took my bath.
Kicking cans seems worse than quitting smoking.
Anyway. He’s still cute. Although Ubu is a little troublemaker, I do have some tips about raising a cat.
When to get one
If you’re looking to adopt a kitten, late fall is the best time. Portals leading to the outside world are closed, and the center of activity has moved inward. Fluff up the nest, turn down your thermostat a tad, and kitties and humans will learn to snuggle together for warmth. Almost guaranteed, an autumn kitty will eventually mature into a full-grown cuddle machine.
Time vaccinations for the spring and get the vet to do a preventative flea injection at the same time. If your cat goes outside, fleas are almost inevitable. Before you know it, you could be springing for flea medicine, which seems to be less effective after the fact, and a vacuum cleaner to suck up the flea eggs (be sure to throw out the bag when you’ve finished.) You’ll be counting the bites on your ankles and your cat will be miserable.
If you want a shoulder rider, choose a kitten that is content to just lay in your arms (i.e. doesn’t squirm). Snap kitty into a harness/leash combo and strap yourself into a knapsack that has a pillow in it. Place a forward facing kitty on your shoulder and knapsack and bring the leash around your back so you’re holding a little bit of tension on it with your opposite arm. Start young and walk often. I once had a shoulder rider but my mom has since fallen in love with him while cat-sitting and won’t give him back. When I went to school in Montreal, he traveled all around the city on my shoulder and his little head would bob with every step. He’d spit and hiss at the dogs we passed. You can imagine the looks on people’s faces when we’d board the Metro or bus and he’d sit calmly in his own seat.
Let’s hear it for shoulder riders everywhere! They brighten the day.
Or mine at least.
Have other kitten tips? Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org