the casper experiment

Casper and DaBird

The e-mail from my sister read "Please call me. I need to talk to you about something." That just has to be good news, right? Immediately my mind started conjuring up various horrible scenarios like "Everybody has cancer" or "Grandma got run over by a reindeer" or even "Your ex-wife Kathy is in town and wants to see you." So it was with much trepidation that I called my sister. Then it was with the same amount of trepidation and a little bit of familiar annoyance that I instant-messaged her and told her to get off the Internet so I could call her.

The "something" she had to "talk to me" about was a kitten. Her kids had found a kitten in the woods or in a pond or someplace and then tried to sneak it home because hey, what's one more cat? My sister already has a gazillion or so. Besides, the other cats are all old, not cute anymore like kittens are. I'm sure my sister wholeheartedly agreed with this logic, but I guess my brother-in-law put his foot down and there was a big brouhaha about it.

So my sister couldn't keep the kitten, and she wouldn't just pitch it back into the woods or pond or wherever, so she started calling people to see if anyone would take the kitten and give it a home. I was apparently her last hope before the kitten had to be pushed out into the world with nothing but the claws and teeth and millions of years of survival instincts that nature had given it. Oh the horror.

Since I already have three cats, and unlike my sister I think three is a perfectly reasonable number of cats to have, I didn't particularly want a fourth. Oh, a kitten might be a neat thing to have, but kittens have this tendency to turn into adult cats, and the three adults cats in my house are basically shedding and shitting machines. Since I knew that there was a good chance that this kitten would also want to shed and shit when it grew up, I told my sister that I didn't want the kitten. But wait, before you label me an insensitive asshole, I DID tell her that I'd take the kitten and keep it until I could find a permanent home for it.

So began The Casper Experiment.

Since I had to leave town for a few days, my sister agreed to keep the kitten for an extra week and bring it to me when I got back home. I'm sure this was torture for her, having to play with a new kitten for a week. It must have been tough because she had tears of relief when she dropped the kitten into my lap and ran out the door on the agreed-on Wednesday.

What a cute little kitty! Very light gray with medium-length fur. He reminded me of another kitten I'd had a million years ago named Booper. I tentatively named this one Casper but resolved to only refer to it as "Kitty" because I figured its new owners would want to name it themselves.

The first 24 hours after the kitten's arrival went pretty much exactly as I expected. You can see The Gleelore Experiment to see how new cats are accepted into my home if you want, but briefly; Buddy stalks it, Happy ignores it, and Nugget freezes in terror. Such was the first 24 hours.

By Thursday morning the kitten had smelled everything in the house and decided to find a new hobby. It entertained itself for quite a while with the various toys I'd layed out for it, but I could tell that it was really just going through the motions. Thursday afternoon the kitten made two remarkable discoveries. Discoveries that would change everything and make its life meaningful:

  1. The two big cats have no front claws.
  2. It's fun to bite the two big cats in the crotch.

Yeehaw! Let the cat rodeo begin! The kitten would lock its jaws onto Buddy's crotch and then be pulled around the house for a fun ride. Next it was on to Happy, who didn't move as fast but couldn't jump up high to get away. Fun for hours!

On Saturday, very much to my surprise, Nugget came out of his catatonic state and showed signs of life. I was very impressed with his bravery when he actually came into the living room and looked at the kitten without hissing, peeing, or dying. I was even more impressed by what happened next, when the kitten made three more important discoveries:

  1. The gray cat DOES have front claws.
  2. The gray cat knows how to use its claws.
  3. Getting swatted across the room is not as much fun as crotch biting.

Yes, Nugget pretty much went postal on the kitten. He swatted it three or four times at the first hint of teeth/crotch contact, then chased it into the basement. I was so shocked by Nugget's sudden display of feline ferocity that it took me more than a few seconds to go down and rescue the poor kitten from the Fury That Is Nugget.

Back upstairs, I spent several minutes on the couch trying to soothe the kitten as he tried to burrow into my abdomen to hide. Happy and Buddy watched with no small amount of amusement as Nugget came back upstairs, apparently to finish what he'd started.

The kitten saw Nugget. Nugget saw the kitten. The kitten hissed. Nugget hissed. Happy settled down to watch the show while Buddy ran to make popcorn. The kitten hissed AND stood sideways. I tried to make soothing noises but I don't think anybody was listening. Then something even more amazing happened.

Nugget leaned forward to smell the kitten - who undoubtedly smelled like Happy's crotch. The kitten leaned forward to smell Nugget. Then Nugget sat down and started licking himself, and the kitten escaped down the hallway to ponder these new developments.

From that moment on, whenever the kitten saw Nugget he would give him a pretty wide berth, and there were no more problems between them. The cat rodeos with Happy and Buddy did continue however, and Nugget did absolutely nothing to help his old friends. Perhaps there's some ancient cat proverb that goes something like "Defend your own crotch you idiot." Cats are wise and stuff.

So much for the interaction between the kitten and my own cats. The attention the kitten paid to me was much more sensible. It didn't bite my crotch. It didn't bite any part of me unless I was actively playing with it, and even then it just bit my fingers. You know, kitten stuff. But what it mostly did with me was purr. I've never seen a cat that purred as much as this kitten. Even Happy when enjoying his slippers does not make this much of a racket. Whenever the kitten was not biting a crotch somewhere he would invariably climb onto my chest and rub his nose against mine, often leaving a thin trail of what I've been hoping wasn't snot, and purr like his life depended on it. Of course he would also do this at 5:00 AM and I'd have to blow into his face to get him to stop, but that's what kittens do.

For a week and a half I had this kitten, and despite the frustrations of watching him torment Happy and Buddy, I will still miss him. I gave him to a lady that works at the zoo who'd recently lost a kitten. I know that he'll be well taken care of, hopefully with plenty of humans with noses and cats with crotches to keep him company.

Bye, little Kitty.