February is a busy month at our house. In addition to Valentine’s Day, we celebrate three family birthdays: Milo’s, Thor’s and mine.
The less said about my 40-something-and-counting birthday, the better. But Milo’s third birthday and Thor’s first are truly reasons to celebrate.
Pre-Milo, our family had been petless, unless you count goldfish. Alas, the boys and I had grown weary of watery funerals.
When we adopted Milo, he was an 8-week-old fuzzy furball of need. He skittered around his metal cage at the pet store during pet adoption week like a kid in desperate need of Ritalin.
But the sound of my voice soothed him, and when I picked him up, he nestled into my neck and dozed off. It was love at first cuddle. Well – for the boys and me, anyway. My husband, Derek, just rolled his eyes and loaded the cart with kitten supplies.
Like our firstborn, our first cat became the object of unrelenting focus and adoration. He fell asleep on my lap every evening. He woke me with kisses every morning. Each antic was photographed, Facebooked and discussed at length. In short, he quickly became neurotic and spoiled (no offense, Ethan).
Within months that tiny ball of fuzz evolved into a sleek, handsome and oh-so-arrogant tuxedo cat. He had us wrapped around his paws and he knew it.
He yowled when his food dish appeared depleted. He complained if his litter box wasn’t pristine. He hogged the pillows on our bed and developed an unnatural amorous interest in my red fleece throw. In short, Milo suffered from only-cat syndrome.
Plus, as the boys grew busier they had less time to dangle catnip mice for Milo to grab, and his chase-the-laser-light time seemed sparse. It was time for Milo to get a playmate.
When pet adoption week rolled around again, we spotted Thor, huddled in a corner of his cage, watching his brothers wrestle. He and his siblings had been abandoned. They’d never had a home, and their human interaction was limited to the Humane Society and pet store staffers. Since the tiny tabby with the big eyes declined to roughhouse, I thought maybe he’d be more of a lap-cat than the now imperious Milo.
We quickly discovered these two are as different in personality as they are in their tuxedo and tabby looks. From the minute Thor entered our house, he revealed himself to be a fearless explorer. While Milo wouldn’t leave my side during his first few weeks at home, Thor eagerly skittered throughout the house, tumbling down stairs that were too steep for his tiny legs.
His apparent disinterest in wrestling dissolved the minute he spotted Milo. He launched himself through the air and landed on our unsuspecting and very appalled cat.
Milo didn’t speak to us for weeks. He sulked. He hid. In short, he was not overwhelmed with brotherly love.
And Thor doesn’t act very feline. He runs to the door like a dog to greet Derek when he comes home from work. At 6 months, he learned to sit up and beg for treats. Milo doesn’t even like treats. No wonder he seems embarrassed by Thor.
In addition, Thor has an utterly consuming passion for water – especially water found in the bathroom.
Toilet lids must be kept closed or he will take a swim or a drink. He races me to the bathroom every morning, eagerly anticipating the moment I will turn on the shower. He sits on the counter while I brush my teeth and curl my hair, as if these rituals are the most fascinating things about his day.
While Milo has an ongoing conversation with family members, Thor doesn’t say much. And he doesn’t meow – he squeaks. He sounds more like a mouse than a cat.
Milo has grown accustomed to the new addition. On sunny days they stretch out together on the back of the sofa and soak up the rays. They curl up and nap on Sam’s bed, and periodically they chase each other through the house, rolling and tumbling together like brothers.
While cats are notorious for their aloofness, these two have offered unexpected comfort. One day, worried and discouraged about a family situation, I stretched out across my bed. Seconds later, the door nudged open and Milo jumped up and laid his head on my cheek. Soon, I felt a thump as Thor draped himself over my feet. Their warmth and the sound of their purring soothed me.
Last week, we celebrated their birthdays. Putting party hats on cats was a lot more strenuous than I’d anticipated. Milo, having more experience in such things, grimly submitted to the indignity, but Thor appeared demoralized.
However, the catnip mice and jingly balls perked them both up. Milo, the picky eater, disdained the canned cat food dinner, so Thor obligingly polished off both meals.
We don’t consider our pets to be family members. They are cats – not kids. But the entertainment and joy they’ve added to our home deserves to be celebrated at least once a year.