closet full of kittens, or how my heart changed

i mentioned we had kittens, more specifically five of them, in our closet currently. what i didn't mention was how they arrived there, or how amazingly cute they are, or how they make your heart burst and break when you finally learn to love them. i'll tell you all that now.

in early november, grace woke me up early one morning with the news that there were some cats on the roof adjacent to our building. sure enough, there were three cats; two gray, one orange, crying on the roof, sounding scared and hungry. having never been a pet owner, i'm not normally sympathetic to the plight of animals. in fact, if you were to ask most of my friends, they might even say i border on cruelly indifferent. grace however, has always grown up with cats, and insisted we get food and throw it over to them. fine, i said, we'll feed them. we threw over some tuna and they scurried over, devouring it. thinking they'd be gone by evening, we went about our day having done our good deed; hands washed of them.

coming home that night, they were still there. much colder now, they were huddled together trying to keep warm. over the course of the next three days it became clear that they were too scared and too high up to get to the ground. they were stranded on the roof, without shelter, food, or water. i was beginning to crack. we called around to a couple of shelters, all who said that in order to turn them into a shelter we'd have to catch them ourselves. fine, we said, and after much finagling with the owners of the (70% adult... you know what i mean) video store downstairs, we climbed up the rickety ladder to the roof, hauling a big box.

on the roof, we realized that this was a much bigger job that we thought. hungry, scared cats are not willingly going to crawl into a big box. having been schooled in the storybook tropes of firemen rescuing cats in trees, we figured the police might be able to help us. i gussied myself up and headed over to the local precinct to ask for help-if they could call animal services of NYC and get them to come rescue the cat. we'll do you one better lady, they said. we'll send over our buddy. elated, i returned home, confident that the cops would rescue the cats and take them to a shelter. not the case with the NYPD.

when the cop arrived, he was clearly pissed that this was not a shoot 'em up case. he was angry and rude. by this time, it was dark and while on the roof, he ran wildly from side to side, looking like a demented marshmallow man. even i was marginally scared by this ranting, mean cop, so naturally the cats were terrified. two of them took the risk and jumped the VERY long distance from the roof and the other secreted herself in the chimney. the cop was extremely pleased with himself and considered the job done. after multiple protests (some involving me questioning his ability to "be a man" and using curse words), he agreed to try and help the cat in the chimney BY STICKING HIS NIGHTSTICK in the chimney and waving it around, probably hitting the cat inside. she jumped out and then scurried up the fire escape to a higher roof. the cop was done. he left and grace and i, and the remaining cat, all cried ourselves to sleep that night, exhausted and depressed. you try and try to do the right thing and nothing changes. we were in the same situation we had been in at the beginning.

luckily someone told us about Slope Street Cats, a feral trap and rescue organization. since they have experience with trapping cats, they were able to bring over a trap, climb the roof again, smear the trap with tuna, and wait patiently for over two hours until the cat was caught. did i mention the person helping was a very pregnant woman? she was our cat super hero. once we trapped the cat, we took her home and put her in the bathroom. i, at first being scared of her, fell in love with her one evening when she promptly sat on my lap while i was reading. we were keeping her. i named her francie, after the little girl in "a tree grows in brooklyn".

shortly after, we took her to the vet, and found out she was pregnant. having already decided that having this cat was fate- she was perfect for us!- we knew we had to see this through. the night of our annual holiday party she decided to give birth to five tiny, rat-like, kittens.

six weeks later, they are running around our apartment, using the litter box, curling up with us on the bed at night, and breaking our hearts. the idea that we have to give them away is so difficult, and i find myself thinking about animals in a totally different way. i notice the cats at the bodegas, i pet other people's dogs, i love my cat in a way i didn't know was even possible.

p.s. a bout a week ago, one of the kittens got sick and we had to take turns force feeding her with a syringe every four hours. she pulled through and it looks like she's going to make it. however, a reminder to give every single mom out there major props for dealing with an even more needy baby.

Slope Street Cats
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