I could have written this week about the fall-out from too much Halloween candy and too many late nights. I could have written this week about the upcoming election and the fire in the belly most of us are feeling as our country stands on the brink of monumental change (one way or the other I reckon). I could have written this week about the dark days of Winter descending upon us, the light and length of our daylight hours quickly fading away. Heck, I could have written this week about Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s (a.k.a “Kimye”) upcoming nuptials and how it is undoubtedly a sign of impeding Armageddon.
Yes, all these topics and more ran through this writer’s mind, but in the end I settled on something far more personal though perhaps mundane: my pets. Specifically, the sensitive feelings of my pets. Regular readers may have met my two cats Bubble and Sparkle here or here,
but if you don’t already know them let me just set the stage by telling you that we have two female cats, one a mostly-black torti named Sparkle and the other a white and grey with heavy siamese features, Bubble. They are sisters (‘litter-mates’ I guess is the technical term for them) and best friends. We have had them for almost two years.
They have certainly enjoyed being the primary pets of our household and never seem threatened by the introduction of other small pet-like critters to our home such as the ants in the ant farm (boring to them) or the fish in the 30-gallon tank we were gifted by a neighbor (less boring, but frustratingly unattainable). Yes they took all that in their stride, until we got the bunnies.
When we brought the two sweeties home they were just over two pounds each, one white and one a slightly tortoise shell colored black one (matching to the cats I thought, how cute!!) and their gender was unknown. They came with the names Jack and Chloe which we liked but wondered if they should have something a little more gender-neutral until we had them sexed and knew for sure. The kids voted to keep Jack as Jack – it could after all be tweeked to Jackie for a female or the less gendered, more hip, “Jax” as an alternative. Chloe was transformed into “Rosie” (an homage to Oami’s dog perhaps?) and then “BunBun” and then finally “Louie” was settled upon – having the option of “Lou” or “Lulu” if it was discovered to be a female.
Probably a week or so later, when playing with bunnies I spied Louie mounting Jack rather vigorously. “No no” I shouted instinctively and (as any mother of teenagers knows) I rushed right in to separate them! In peeling Lou off I spied a little pink peek-a-boo popping out from between the legs. His legs. Bunny penis. OMG. So now I really had to know, was Jack a girl? in which case we were screwed (literally and figuratively) or was this simply an episode of same-sex humping?…hey I’m cool with that…born and raised in California after all.
One not inexpensive trip to a vet specializing in bunnies later, and I had my answer. I was proud mama of two healthy, happy, BOY bunnies. Yes folks – more males in our house. The vet advised me to still get them neutered in a couple of months because after all, “too much testosterone is not a good thing”. Oh really lady?? Preachin’ to the choir over here…
Once we understood the true nature of our new pets for some reason it became easier to plan for our future lives with them. We began to build their hutch.To incorporate them into the yard, we wrapped the bottom of our trampoline in chicken wire to create a shady, 12 foot round piece of grassy bliss adjacent to their rabbit house. The little sweeties literally jumped for joy with all the room they have to move.
However, we still had the problem of the hurt feelings of our cats to consider. Ever since we brought the bunnies home, the cats had been very self-controlled, reacting with disdain and something resembling disgust but never, ever making a move to attack these creatures smaller and more vulnerable than they. But I could tell that the presence of the bunnies made the cats feel very insecure.
They had noticed that we were giving lot of attention to these new pets and they didn’t like it. Sparkle has become much more needy, crying out at us even after her basic needs have been cared for, and forcing herself under our hands to make us stroke her more. Similarly Bubble takes any opportunity she can, when the bunnies are all put away for the night, to climb into our laps and assert herself as the premier house pet far superior to those lowly rabbits who sometimes pee on us.
Alas, my poor cats patience was driven to it’s limits just yesterday when we were dog-sitting for my friend Anne and had her dog, the cutest little 8 month-old pup ever, Clarence, with us for most of the day. Fish and ants were no big deal, the bunnies an annoying nuisance, but add a dog to the mix and my cats’ world was going to hell in a hand basket.
I spent my day mediating between species. The cats puffed up and growled at Clarence. He was indifferent to them but very interested in the bunnies. The bunnies naturally were afraid of the dog, who seems to have a touch of a terrier in him and had an instinctual response to dive at the little rodent-like critters. For the most part everything was fine, the cats kept a healthy distance in the branches of their favorite tree, the bunnies spent their time exploring their new enclosure and as for my new friend Clarence, he kept himself highly amused by tugging on my dreadlocks every time I would bend over to work in my garden.
The birds were singing, the sun was shining, the animals in my home outnumbered the humans; the males out-numbered the females. I stopped and put my nose to the wind and felt my myself in time and space – the caretaker of all these little lives, these domesticated spirits totally reliant on me to give them what they need and keep them alive. And like that Talking Heads song, you know the one, I wondered “how did I get here?” and “my god, what have I done?”.
And then I went back to doing what I was doing: mucking out the rabbit hutch, coaxing the cats down out of the tree and keeping our buddy Clarence busy by throwing a ball. Because after all, the gift of keeping animals as pets is that they in turn keep us, they help us stay grounded in the present moment and they remind us that not much more matters than being fed and watered and of course petted , when our sensitive feelings become too much for us.