Am I Too Old for a Kitten?

This writer wonders if she'll be around for a pet's life span

(This article originally appeared in The Pocono Record.)

My friend up the block came home one night to find that someone had left a cardboard box with a mama cat and four tiny kittens inside on her back porch. The person or persons had lined the box with a soft towel and placed it out of harm’s way, so they were trying to do right by the feline family, after a fashion. At least they didn’t dump them in the woods.

My friend is having a heck of a good time fostering the little outcasts and delights in watching the kittens play.

But she can’t keep them. She will be looking for homes for the babies and the mother too — a sweet long-haired calico who seems pretty young herself — once the kittens are old enough for adoption.

You take an animal expecting that you will outlive it and will be taking care of it for life. These kittens might live 15 years or more.

Naturally, I had to go up to see them because, oh my gosh, I love kittens.

Warm Memories

I got my first kitten as a small child, maybe 3, when my grandparents’ cat, Elmer, had three babies. They were given the placeholder names of Eenie, Meenie and Mo — coincidentally, the same names my friend is using, with the addition of Miney, for her foster Fab Four.

We took Meenie, and she was the family cat until I was well into college. She was a wonderful mother, supplying us with many litters of kittens in her salad days.

But I haven’t had a kitten of my own since 2003, the year we adopted our tortoiseshell cat, Pearl. She was half-grown, probably six months old, and had been stuck in a shelter cage for virtually the entire time. She was cute and small, but wasn’t a teeny tiny thing like the quartet up the street.

I’ve already found a home for one of the foster kittens with a close friend who has been talking about wanting an orange tabby.

And don’t tell anyone, but I’m thinking of taking one myself, even though it makes no sense.

Rich in Felines

My husband and I already have three cats along with the tortie Pearl, and they might not enjoy the chaos a kitten would be guaranteed to bring.

But here’s the creepy question: If not now, when? You take an animal expecting that you will outlive it and will be taking care of it for life. These kittens might live 15 years or more, at which time I will be — well, let’s just say older. A lot older. If I am to have a kitten, it doesn’t make sense to wait. I’m running out of time.

As I gallop through my 60s, I find myself thinking these kinds of thoughts more and more often. When are you “too old” for one activity or another — too old for a kitten, for example?

Contemplating ‘Lasts’

I remember my in-laws returning from the big cruise they took to Spain to celebrate their 50th anniversary and saying, that’s it — no more travel.

And I remember my mother, when she moved into the house next door to ours, saying that gardening — at one time her passion — was over for her. She never planted anything again.

Maybe you just know?

It’s a strange place to be in life, a time to get your will in order, investigate trusts and obtain long-term care insurance, as I just did.

That was an experience. It’s not pleasant to contemplate one’s inevitable decline, and it didn’t help when the agent told me the reason premiums are so high is that insurance companies know they will have to pay out on so many policies. You might have fire or flood insurance, but with luck you’ll never need to use it. But with LTC, if you live long enough, you will.

I remember when I turned 30. It seemed so old, as if I would suddenly have to do my hair in a stiff Pat Nixon style and become an official grownup. Instead, we boomers did 30 our own way, and that’s been the case with every other stage of life as well.

Staring down the tunnel toward that next decade marker, I have to hope that 70 really is the new 50. Meanwhile, I’ll let you know about the kitten.

Jacqueline Damian
By Jacqueline Damian
Jacqueline Damian is a writer and editor living in Milford, Penn. She wrote Sasha’s Tail: Lessons from a Life with Cats, and pens a weekly column for boomers for the Pocono Record.

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