Walking around Tbilisi it’s easy to see the vibrant art scene by observing the ever-rotating roster of theatrical posters stuck on construction sites around the city. In October there was Animal Farm. More recently there’s one with an artistic umbrella-carrying dancer. There has never been Cats. Not since I’ve been here, anyway. CUE BAIT AND SWITCH!
This happened once. A cat snuck in last Halloween and left pawprints on my bed. I was sleeping in that bed…
Georgia has a lot of stray animals, most notably the park dogs who live across the street. Memorably, Jenni and I rescued one about a year ago! The street that Morgan and I live on is home to maybe a dozen stray cats who lurk by the dumpsters and seem to live at an abandoned, demolished building where they come and go through a hole in the wall.
I’ve long struggled with the deep-seated desire to adopt a pet. Jenni and I engaged in a number of discussions through last year about the infeasibility of properly caring for a pet in a small apartment with our ridiculous work schedules. Jenni wants a huge dog and her studio is not a fun place for a big dog to be cooped up all day. Last year I was swamped with work and commutes, working up to 32 classroom hours per week and my peak (and the nadir of my well-being) and traveling sometimes as much as 3 hours per day around the city by marshrutka.
One day, Morgan called out to me from her room, “Hey, so, there’s this lady who has a couple of really cute kittens…” I paused from whatever to consider what she was suggesting. Some of the long-standing objections I held remained: we still have a small apartment. Some of my long-standing desires remained: I do still want a pet! Some of the on-the-ground conditions, however, had changed drastically. Rather than being overworked and underpaid, I am currently not working or getting paid! Big difference!
Morgan continued, “Her son adopted some kittens off the street and her landlady said that they aren’t allowed to have animals so she’s looking to unload them. There’re two black kittens that are brothers and the cuuuuuutest little orange kitten! Do you think we would be able to have one?” I thought about Morgan’s suggestion and after some back and forth with the lady in question, we decided to at least visit the kittens.
The orange one had been snapped up, but the two cute black kittens remained. We visited Melissa’s house behind the Turkish Embassy and chatted with Melissa while the kittens 1) ventured onto Morgan’s lap for a long back scratch and 2) hurried off to hide under the kitchen counter. Pickles was the little one and the most gregarious. Onions was an extremely nervous, slightly older cat who had been on the streets a bit longer. They had been de-loused already and were growing up nicely. As Morgan and I tried to pantomine “Let’s think about it and we can come back later this week to get one or both if we want them…“, Melissa asked us, “So, do you need something to carry them?”
And that’s how we ended up with two adorable little kittens.
Of course, “Pickles” and “Onions” had to go. We renamed them Cosmos (left) and Bailey (right) after space (because Cosmos is black) and Bailey’s (because Morgan had had some Bailey’s that afternoon at Wendy’s. [Gosh European fast food is great!])
We packed the kittens into a cardboard box, grabbed a bag of litter and some cat food, and hopped in a taxi. We hadn’t prepped the apartment in advance because we hadn’t expected to have kittens that Sunday night. Unboxing the kittens in the bathroom, we took ten minutes to do a quick cleanse of the living room and kitchen. Good enough
, we figured, and we let them out.
Both cats bolted and quickly found the dark hidden corner behind the fridge. We knew to leave them to come out on their own. After some time Bailey came out to explore. Cosmos didn’t come out for 24 hours, and then only to run under Morgan’s dresser and hide for another day.
Bailey on his first night of exploration.
That night we closed the living room door and let them sleep behind the fridge, together.
After a second day of hiding, Cosmos finally joined his brother in exploring the house.
In those early days, they loved hanging out in the kitchen window. Now they spend their days on the couch.
The most affirming part of the experience was the degree to which they enjoy each other’s company. We had considered taking just one kitten, but the amount that they play and cuddle together makes a huge difference in their quality of life. Plus, they can comfort each other after traumatic vet experiences!
Here’s Cosmos lounging beneath Bailey on top of my robe. I caught Bailey bathing the robe today. I think he’s confused about its felinity.
They clean each other on the regular and especially after a fight. Usually one of them takes a snooze while the other administers the bath.
Sleeping Kitten Pile.
The other nice thing is that they love hanging out with us. As the stay-home parent I get a lot of facetime and laptime with the kittens throughout the day. But Morgan gets lots of love, too!
Here’s Morgan petting Cosmos, who seems to be sleeping on his own head.
Of course, not content to be apart, Bailey made sure he got in on some of the lap action.
These two basically do everything together.
As they get bigger, the differences between them become more stark. Bailey is growing some gray stripes and has a rounder, flatter face.
Cosmos is a more jet black and has a longer, pantherine face. He’s a bit more vocal (read: whiney) and has started winning all the fights, even when he’s ambushed.
Until we trusted the kittens, we locked them away in the kitchen/hall/bathroom at night. This gave them access to food, water, and litter: three cat essentials. Unfortunately, they still felt they were missing out on two: running space and attention.
Bailey, getting used to his new living space.
Every night, following my ruthless betrayal that kept them locked away, they would take turns ramming, climbing, and digging under the door. Little black paws would reach under and around the door frame and pick at the wood. A moment of blissful silence would be painfully interrupted by a loud thump, followed by shrill scritching as one of them climbed the door to peek in the windows and yell at me. Both were usually meowing or howling until they fell asleep an hour later. Morgan would find them intertwined in their box in the mornings.
In those days they tended to sleep side-by-side. Now they sleep however-they-damned-well-want-to.
After a few days, we noticed that Bailey had largely stopped eating and was losing a lot of weight. Melissa had offered to help pay for shots and neutering and so we got in touch about making a vet trip. Three days, three trips, nine shots, and one carefully retrieved poop sample later, both cats were diagnosed with worms (they got meds) and had been given appetite-inducing medicines. They were back to their eating, playing selves and recommenced with the scampering.
While Bailey is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, Cosmos is clearly not amused. He did not like the vet.
Seeing that they needed a way to blow of steam, I created a handmade cat toy for them! Bailey was really into it, and it’s pretty fun to go fishing for cats!
Bailey gets so determined that you can actually reel him in and he won’t let go. Meanwhile, Cosmos hides under the stool.
Once Bailey’s health was recovered, they began playing together again in a way that is adorable, hilarious, and maddening all at once. They scramble all over the furniture and through both rooms, sometimes losing traction as they slide around corners and into walls. Other times, they leap from armchair to couch and back again in Matrix-esque wall jumps or pull each other down from ledges. Most of their fights start when one decides to attack his sleeping brother.
Cosmos likes to go for the sneak attack and the use of mass to overpower his smaller brother. Bailey goes for the ambush and the throat. Usually Cosmos wins. (Also, the bald patch on their arms is where the vet tried to take their blood. He did not get any. Bailey was malnourished and Cosmos was a biter.)
Unfortunately they like to fight at bedtime. And they like to fight for three hours. Usually anytime between midnight and 4 am is prime fight time. The other factor playing into the situation is that I’ve let them into the living room at night. While they fight it up during the wee hours, they inevitably settle down and I wake to find them curled in the nooks on my bed: behind my knees, by my chest, etc. I just wish they’d learn to sleep on my cold toes!
Kitten Yin-Yang. It can be hard to tell where one starts and the other ends. It’s getting easier as Bailey continues to lighten up.
This is a fairly accurate representation of what they’re doing at this very moment.
Sometimes they take selfies. Also, Bailey usually sleeps with his tongue peeking out from between his teeth. Adorable!
They’ve made good friends with The Shark, a gift from my friend the British Diplomat. And yes, Nino, The Shark is wearing your Pirate Eye Patch.
“It’s Fun Getting Into Trouble!” say the kittens as they discover every nook and cranny of this apartment.
It really has been great these past few weeks having some companions to hang out with during my funemployment!
Also, on a completely unrelated note, Morgan and I did some redecorating and we created the perfect creepy tableau for the “Orphan Closet” as Angela once dubbed it.
Mrs. Bates’s Chair?