By Rose Padrick
It all began with a pair of the most beautiful brown eyes the good Lord ever graced a human with. There was a tiny tear in the corner of one, as my sweet daughter's face pleaded with me.
"Mom, PLLLEEEEAAASSE! If you don't take him they're going to put him down." She touched my hand (good move).
"Just come to the shelter with me and hold him; if he doesn't speak directly to your soul like he did mine, I won't bother you anymore." (Fat chance of that happening!)
"That cage is so tiny he's just miserable, all he does is just lay there and flip over on his back for a belly rub if a human gets within touching distance! Pleeeeeaaase, Mom!" she begged.
Her father's gray eyes were pointed skyward in the "innocent" position, as he casually sauntered (i.e. slinked) out of the room.
Dear, old, Dad mumbled something about a daughter's tears, as he escaped into our garage. Even though I found myself suddenly on the downside of a divided front, I held my ground.
"OK, I have to go to the store anyway, so we can stop for just a moment," I said, confidently. "But, I am not bringing him home with me! I'm just going to meet him and come home to think it over. Do not think you can get me there and push me into making a snap decision, agreed?"
"You're the best mom in the world!" my daughter proclaimed. "I promise he won't be any trouble at all. I'll buy the food, litter box, litter, and anything else you may need. If you should decide you want to go back and get him, of course."
Her beaming smile dried that tiny tear right up, and I caught a wink directed at her father, as she happily headed for her car.
Less than an hour later, we brought a loudly yowling feline home in a carrier that my daughter "just happened" to have in the trunk of her car because she "had bought it at a yard sale and was going to give to a friend."
The same friend that my daughter took to the shelter to find a replacement for her child's kitten, thereby giving a large gray tabby with magical blue eyes the opportunity to "speak to my daughter's soul."
Coaxing my mostly-unwilling hips into joining my daughter in a cross-legged position on my living room floor, I popped open the door to the carrier and braced myself for a possible furry explosion.
A gray head appeared, looked around, then in one fluid motion "Fatcat," as we lovingly call him, exited the carrier, rubbed against both humans, and flopped onto his back - baring the reason for his nickname, in the hopes of getting a good belly rub.
After several moments of petting him, I once again called upon unwilling body parts to return me into an upright position, requesting my daughter stay with the cat, while I ran to the store for litter and food.
A wide, innocent smile, covering a huge portion of her face, my ever-helpful heir declared I didn't need to trouble myself because she "just happened" to have all of the supplies in her car - which she had planned to give her friend, of course.
After a short introductory period, my new "offspring" fit into our lifestyle almost perfectly. My husband is always up early, so a kitty breakfast is served right on time, as is the after-meal belly rub. Hubby and I are both pleasantly surprised at the extent of "Fatcat's" patience. A bad back preventing him from bending over far enough to actually touch an upturned belly, my husband began their relationship that first morning by explaining to "Fatcat" that he could scratch his ears, while he is sitting and purring, but can't reach his belly when he is lying on the floor.
"Fatcat" took the relationship to another level by staying exactly where he was, blinking his eyes and stretching front and back legs so far in different directions that my husband became concerned he would dislocate something.
Hubby has become so adept at belly-rubbing while on his knees that the cat actually prefers his rubs to mine.
I do, however, have "Fatcat's" total attention, while watching TV, as long as my lap is available. He doesn't mind a bit if I read a paper or magazine, as long as I can hold it up high enough that it doesn't bother him.
The one concern that reared its bothersome head was with both my husband and me gone most of the day, "Fatcat" spent most of his days in one windowsill or another watching birds and squirrels, and visiting the food dish - a lot. Even when I'm home cleaning or cooking dinner, the poor baby came to sit in front of me, staring and yawning and flipping his tail because he is so bored. The only thing that seemed to help was a cat treat - or three. I began searching for feline toys at every store within driving distance.
"Fatcat" stared at the ball of yarn ($5) for a moment before flopping onto his back for a belly rub. He distanced himself from the catnip birds ($10) by about three feet before assuming the belly rub position. I got excited when the mouse-shaped laser pointer ($15) kept his attention for one whole evening, and was really perplexed when he wouldn't even look twice at it the next day. He played with the fake mouse that ran around inside a tube ($20) for five minutes - once - but slept in the box it came in for one whole day.
I was at a loss until the day I visited the pet store to research motorized mice and spotted a hamster running around in an exercise ball. Queue the light bulb!
Fatcat slept for the two hours it took to set up the glass hamster home, automatic water dispenser, automatic feeder, exercise wheel - complete with creaky noise - Aspen bedding, hamster litter for the special corner he decides is the only place he can urinate, (I didn't know they had a preference.) and special little nesting area (large, expensive coffee cup).
Gingerly lifting the very chubby little rodent and placing him in the interlocking clear plastic exercise ball, I called "Fatcat," while ready to leap to the hamster's rescue should the cat's predatory instincts kick in and he got too excited.
My concern was highly unfounded.
The hamster's belly poked out so far he had to stand on his back feet to touch noses with the cat for the 30 seconds "Fatcat" sniffed it a few times before moseying back into the living room to keep a watchful eye on "The Dog Whisperer."
No amount of coaxing has ever gotten the cat to take the slightest interest in the tiny tan ball of fur, racing from room to room inside his private plastic Porsche.
We had the newest member of our family for exactly three days when my husband called me at work to enlighten me as to what she had been doing all afternoon, and why she was so chubby.
It is possible for six rodents to live in one coffee cup for a couple of weeks, but when poor, old mom takes to sleeping on her head backward, it's time to find another home big enough for the whole clan. As difficult as it is to find a master suite that will house the family and still fit in the cage, it's just as difficult to scrub all human scent and soap scent off it and place it in the cage, without touching anything else, lest the rodent detect the human scent on the babies. (You don't want to know what would happen.)
Naked baby hamsters bear an uncanny resemblance to naked baby vultures. Not exactly the perfect addition to my home's sunny/beachy decor.
The babies got a lot cuter with the addition of fur. They were all different colors and temperaments (giving me cause to wonder about just how much "Mom" was able to "get around" at the pet store. What on earth goes on there after closing hours?)
Being a sort of grandparent, now-a-days, when I am humbly thanking "The Big Guy" for all the blessings he has bestowed on me, I feel obliged to add a family of small rodents, a most wonderful, if still bored, feline companion and a particularly large-hearted daughter and her attentive soul.