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American Pie: Hooray For The Katzenjammer Twins

...My experience of cat breeders has been that they were invariably women in their middle to late years, of somewhat neglected appearance, and fiercely protective of their litters and the parents who produced them....

John Merchant and his wife are on the eve of again becoming cat owners.

My column on Wednesday, September 14, 2011, told of how my wife and I had decided to bring cats back into our life, and had located two Siamese litter mates. At the time they were only about 3 weeks old, and we hadn’t seen them. Since then we have paid homage, and expect them to become ours a few days from now.

The 45 minute trip to Venice, Florida, where the breeder lives, was driven almost totally in silence, though in fact we were both having the same thoughts. Was it a good idea? After all, we were both 20 years older than when we had last had a cat. Would we like the cats? Would the cats like us? What if they didn’t bond with us? Was it too much of a commitment?

On and on until we reached the small and attractive coastal town. We paused in the town center to refresh ourselves, before heading off under the guidance of Maggy, our GPS, to the suburb where “Babe,” as she insisted we call her, lived.

My experience of cat breeders has been that they were invariably women in their middle to late years, of somewhat neglected appearance, and fiercely protective of their litters and the parents who produced them. I imagine their greatest fear is that they deliver a cat into a home where it will not be properly cared for. Their homes were totally given over to their charges.

Babe was no exception. Probably late seventies or well-worn sixties, Maggy found her in an older and rather tired looking sub-division. The ranch (bungalow) style, stucco house had been newly painted, bright sunshine yellow. It gleamed amid the neglected and overgrown garden, and the cracked driveway and patio slabs.

Babe greeted us with proper cautiousness, clearly assessing us with a cool eye to determine if we were fit owners for two of her babies. Cats were everywhere – sleeping, feeding, pooping and suckling their young. There were Siamese of different colors and ages, and each breeding female had her own enclosure to protect the kittens from marauding males and unplanned pregnancies.

Over the next hour we sat in torn-up, plastic covered easy chairs, amid bags of cat food and cat litter, and listened to Babe’s instructions and cautions, while we tried to strike up a relationship with our intended. The Blue Point, to be named Ling-Ling seemed immediately at ease. Nikkei, the Seal Point, was less comfortable with us, and backed into a dark corner in his crib as soon as we set him down.

What to make of that behavior? Were we about to take on an agoraphobic feline? Would it become a problem in the future? We really didn’t need any more fuel for our anxieties. When it was time to leave, Babe had apparently concluded that we qualified, and hugs were exchanged. Ling-Ling and Nikkei would remain with her for a few more weeks, until their weight was up to the required 2lbs. On the ride home we allowed ourselves to exhale, and to indulge in the excitement for the first time.

In the weeks since then, we have become more and more impatient, until the call finally came this past weekend that the vet had given them the OK to be parted from their mother. We will collect them in three days from now, and have been filling the time with purchases of supplies and furnishings, resisting the temptation to buy all the toys and gizmos that fill the pert supply stores. We also scoped out the veterinary offices.

We drew on our past experiences to cat proof the house; putting all the house plants out of reach, and removing any knick knacks that could become play things. Space has been found for a litter tray, food and water bowls, and storage of supplies. Already our life is changing, and note doubt it will change even more. I’ll try to find the time to keep you all up-to- date.

I took my title from the beloved cartoon strip that debuted on Dec 12, 1897, and ran in one form or another until 1953. The title of the strip was actually “The Katzenjammer Kids,” because initially there were three, but one was eventually written out leaving just the mischievous twin boys. And oh, just in case you were wondering, katzenjammer is German for wailing cat. I sure hope not.

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