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Too Many Kittens

By Ralph Pohlman, Psychiatrist

About a year ago I recounted the story of the time two of our three cats had litters of kittens at the cottage. At the end of the summer my wife made the memorable trek home in the car with four kids, three cats, 11 kittens, a turtle and a gerbil.

I won't revisit the horrors of that trip, but it nicely introduces the problem of kittens and what to do with them. Clearly, when you have three cats, two females and one male who smiles a lot, some provision has to be made. Of course, one solution was to have the cats spayed, which I eventually did.

Over the years we had a number of "blessed events" among our resident cats which mandated a pushy imperative to find adoptive homes for the kits.

One of the cats, "Christine", was white with a big extra toe on each foot. This was due to a well known dominant gene among white cats and tended to be present in her kittens. No neighbour was safe from us. With the persistence of an insurance salesman, we persuaded our children's friends to take home a little furry bundle. Our neighbourhood gradually became saturated with white cats with big feet.

A few months later, we were presented with another litter of kittens. We came downstairs one morning to see our kids clustered around the cat as she gave birth on the living room rug. I still remember exclaiming, "Here comes another one!" as a soggy infant was pushed out.

There were six of them this time and it wasn't long before I was looking for homes again. Folks would turn out the lights and refuse to answer the door when they saw me coming up the driveway. At the supermarket they would avoid eye contact as though I were a panhandler with a cardboard sign, and quickly detour to another aisle. Clearly this was going to require some creativity.

The following Sunday, at noon, I put all the kittens into a cardboard box, closed the top flaps, and drove to the hospital. Carrying my living treasure, I headed for the cafeteria, where I got my lunch tray and sat down at a table. I carefully set the box on the floor by my chair.

So now you have the picture. Sunday noon in a busy hospital cafeteria, the adjacent tables mostly taken up by nurses. And me, quietly eating my lunch.

Of course, it wasn't long before the kittens were making sounds and poking their heads up through the flaps of the box. And as you well know, there isn't a soul alive who can resist a kitten. I just kept on eating my lunch. I felt like Tom Sawyer with his seductive fence.

Soon there were some nurses at my table, playing with the kittens.

"What are you doing with the kittens, Dr. Pohlman?" one of them asked.

"Oh," I said, "I'm just taking them to the lab."

They were horrified. (What they thought the lab would do with them I can't imagine.) The word soon passed through the cafeteria that I was delivering the kittens to the lab.

Before I had finished my lunch, all the kittens had new homes.


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Thomas Bätzler,