Too old for a kitten?

My friend up the block came home one night to find that someone had left a cardboard box containing a mama cat and four tiny kittens 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 longhaired calico who seems pretty young herself—once the kittens are old enough for adoption.

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

But I haven’t had a kitten of my own since 2003, the year my husband and I 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 she wasn’t a teeny tiny thing like the quartet up the street.

I’ve already found a home for one of the foster four 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. My husband and I already have three other 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? I remember my in-laws returning from the big cruise they took to Spain to celebrate their 50th wedding 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 virtually every policy. 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.


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