Just like your son

gileschowdownWhen I took in a litter of four-week-old foster kittens several weeks ago,  I understood that frequent feedings would be needed.  But I did not fully consider that I would also be charged with managing the other end of business.

In the normal course of events, kittens learn to use a litter box by watching their mother;  literally, they copycat.  But these four had been living outside with a feral mom; their age and circumstances precluded the necessary training, which has now fallen to me.

I’ve followed all the standard advice: multiple litter boxes, different litters, a cat attractant, even dirt to mimic the barn in which the kittens were born. Yet one of my charges — Xander, the gangly grey tabby — is still riding the excretory short bus.  He behaves like a frat boy on a perpetual road trip, relieving himself along whatever route he’s taking when the urge hits.IMG_7271

This is a problem:  While people frown on abandoning human babies who prove vexing, many are quick to return adopted animals as if they were unsatisfactory merchandise.  So a kitten who does not reliably use the litter box is a poor candidate for permanent placement in a loving home.

Accordingly, I have consulted more experienced people at the shelter for which I foster.  “He sounds like my son when I was potty-training him,”  our vet tech clucked sympathetically.  “He’d look right at me and then poop in his diaper.”

“He sounds just like my son,” the office manager mused absently, before suggesting a couple of things I’d already tried. The volunteer coordinator, who had just come in,  handed me a box of superfine litter impregnated with a special attractant guaranteed to work.

“You know?” she said.  “Your kitten reminds me of my son.”

xander mewA theme was developing, and I had to concede that Xander fit the stereotype.  He regularly plays too hard and fast with his siblings, oblivious to their squeals, and has nailed my face more than once in single-minded pursuit of the cords dangling from my sweatshirt hood.

And though he clearly is smart (he has already mastered the coveted trill purr, a sweetly inquisitive sound adored by cat lovers), Xander’s gifts are primarily physical. A superb athlete, he quickly learned to scale the protective chicken wire I’d placed around the radiator that warms the kittens’ room, which he seems to regard as his personal mancave.  Reclining in a soft towel atop the heater, he lacks only a tiny TV, the NFL channel and the ability to belch to be totally the kind of guy you know will always miss the toilet. And just. not. care.  Because in his diminutive kitten brain — topped by immense bat ears — the litter box is my issue, not his.

He’s right, purely speaking.  And to be fair, this isn’t just a guy thing:  Xander’s two brothers were early adopters of the litter box. In fact, the other,  occasional,  offender is their sole sister, though she seems to be learning.  Perhaps peer pressure will eventually do the trick, compelling Xander to anticipate the conditional love of  humans, who will require him to be not only cute in the irresistible way of miniature cats, but also conveniently adult.

So c’mon,  little kitten son:  We each have to meet the world on its terms, not our own. Human babies learn how to do this, well before they develop a fraction of your grace, intelligence and good looks. I know you can, too.









  1. Very cute! I love cats – we have three (as well as two bunnies) and they keep us permanently entertained! I have a poetry blog here on WordPress in case you have time to look? Have an energising afternoon! Sam 🙂


    1. Thanks, Sam. I’ve had the pleasure of bunny company, too, and remember fondly their soft beauty and exuberant hopping about the yard.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ahh yes, such a cat boy thing. In their own time and own way. Part of the reason Jules got his moniker was this habit he had in common with BA’s brother of the same name. We had about 16 years of mostly in the box behavior, although he never did get the hang of “burying” his poops! Last few years, a lot more outside the box again.
    Great story and writing, thanks!


    1. Glad you enjoyed it! And as we all age, whether male or female, it seems we increasingly miss the box in various ways. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!


  3. so compassionate, Cate!
    i learned useful things
    in the event
    that i ever have a cat 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The cat will have you, dear David; trust me. 🙂 Happy Holidays to you, gentle spirit.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Cats are great. My moggy even had a name mention in my first book. Please try out my Christmas Stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Absolutely charming narrative; hoping the litter box issue resolves on its own.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Is that donkeys I see flying? 🙂
      Ah, well: One can always hope. Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones, fellow feline appreciator.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Cate, this is great! Your story-telling is engaging … I could just picture the situation … and the pictures are perfect

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Rafiki. I love the last shot of Xander, lounging above the radiator without a care in the world, while I worry about his toilet habits. He is totally that kind of guy. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Michele Sproull · · Reply

    Yes but he is SO cute he will find a loving home despite his frat-boy tendencies.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Cute” becomes less appealing to human beings as babies become adults, especially if they are not behaving according to human standards.

      Liked by 1 person

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