Woman Holding 4 KittensLike many of my generation, I grew up with the echoes of Bob Barker’s refrain echoing in my mind: “Help control the pet population, have your pet spayed or neutered.” Unfortunately, there was an experience in my childhood that trumped that wisdom nugget. And that was the sheer joy of being a four-year-old and experiencing a litter of freshly born kittens.

It was that idyllic experience tucked away in the back of my mind that led me to override Mr. Barker’s plea, and allow my son that experience for himself.

You see, we adopted a kitty from a friend. It’s likely she was at the prime age to be spayed… I still had some time before her first heat, but not much. I deliberated. Really, I did. And in the end, I decided that one litter couldn’t hurt. Right?

Wrong.

I had rationalized my choice five ways to Friday and back. This should have been my first clue that this was not the right choice. But I dreamed of showing my son the miracle of the life cycle – he’d lost a few childhood pets already and we’d recently adopted a senior dog who had some health concerns. He was starting to associate pets with an ultimate sadness, only knowing the brief joy pets bring into our lives, and his own life experience being so short.

He needed to experience the nursing and the mother’s love, the frisking and frolicking… He needed, I reasoned, to know the ultimate joy of a pile of kittens.

And he did.

But there was so, so much more to it than that. I didn’t anticipate my experience in this equation. Let alone the experience my son and I shared. We were mesmerized by the personalities of these tiny beasts, the sibling alliances and spats and grooming of these tiny purring things. We found we couldn’t bear the thought of splitting them up, or worse – parting with them. It was agony, the thought of tearing this furry little family apart. And a vicious cycle began to unfold.

All the while, there were the “adult responsibilities” that hadn’t really occurred to me during the decision making process. I wasn’t prepared to make a “trip to the farm,” such as it were. My “free kitten to good home” pleas on Craigslist went unanswered (it may have been the essay application on why you’d be a good cat owner and truly needed a free kitten that I requested, but who knows…). And before I knew it, I had a cat collection.

And yes, I spent a fortune on cat food. And no, I didn’t get them fixed. And no, I didn’t get them vaccinated.

And then guess what happened?

Just about the time that the in-fighting between the males began to erupt, the one female in the litter turned up pregnant. And then the original Mama cat disappeared. And slowly the males in the litter (save one) began to stray from home and ultimately disappeared too, with only the refrains of caterwauling echoing down the alley at night as a reminder that these once loved and adored kittens were still, possibly, alive.

…The second litter was just as addictive. But I was prepared.

I found homes for three of the five new kittens, plus the Mama. The other two (Albus and Dumbledore), plus the remaining Tom from the first litter (Severus, or “Sevvie” for short) joined our family along with my older cat Mao and our rescue dog, Sally.

All are fixed and vaccinated and fed, but with a considerable wallop to the parental pocketbook…. Not to mention the ongoing donations I make to the local shelter to assuage my guilty conscience.

So seriously folks, don’t be a crazy cat lady. Listen to Bob Barker and have your pets spayed or neutered. You might think it’s okay, but really – don’t do it.

Not even once.