Ma and I are co-conspirators in this secret operation to obtain Grandpa a kitten.
We spend days texting each other kitten pictures, and talking about what the kitten will need. After she tells the Major-General that we’ll have a kitten for Gramps, we get Ma’s sisters in on the plan, and then texts about “Operation SK” are flying over the airwaves. I’m pretty sure MI5 intercepting our messages think it’s some sort of genuine military operation.
We still haven’t told Dad.
Ma and I make a plan – we’ll keep it a complete surprise, right up until the moment we hand over the box? bag? cat basket? (this must still be decided) to Gramps. But in advance, we’ll buy loads of food, and cat litter, and a kitty bed, and toys, and a collar, and we’ll name the kitten…
“No,” says Ma firmly. “Grandpa will name the kitten. It’s his present. His cat.”
I sigh and cancel the order for the the cat collar engraved with ‘Fluffilicious Whiskers The First’. Not this time. Not this cat.
Finally, when the kittens are about five or six weeks old, Ma goes to choose the kitten. She tells no-one this is happening, until the moment when my phone beeps with an incoming message and I open it to see…
Gramps is having this kitten, the caption says.
She’s sent the message to the group chat with me and my brothers, and before long, YoungerBro and BabyBro are texting incoherent babbles about kittehs and squeezing the kitty until its eyes pop out. We are all instantly in love. I finally ask Ma if she’s run Operation Sneaky Kitty past DaddyDearest yet. She admits she has. The outcome was…unexpected.
Dad does his best disapproving face, before smiling nicely at my mother and informing her that if that’s what she wants to do, and provided he doesn’t have to have anything to do with it (the kitten), it’s absolutely fine with him. (We immediately begin investigating the possibility Dad’s been replaced by a tame doppelgänger.*)
A fortnight passes. We are growing ever closer to K-Day, and the implementation of the final stage of Operation Sneaky Kitty. “What happens,” we ask in hushed tones, “if Grandpa doesn’t like the kitten?” Ma seems to think she’ll just have it. My brothers and I beg to differ, and agree to have a secret fight club to decide kitten ownership if Grandpa turns down his kitten. And by “agree to have a secret fight club”, I mean…I privately decide to beat my brothers senseless in the pursuit of kitten ownership.
Finally, the day arrives. Saturday. We are to collect the kitten from the Major-General’s house. “Lance Corporal AwesomeMa and Private Loops & Flicks reporting to collect our kitten, ma’am!” We salute the Major-General.
She surveys us, and, casting an approving eye over our cat-carrying apparatus, commands, “At ease, soldiers.”
With a final pat from the Major-General’s granddaughter, the nameless kitten trots quite happily into the cat basket, and the first part of the plan is complete. (Well, the second part: the first part was when AwesomeMa spent an hour in Pets At Home buying kitty litter and kitty food and a kitty bed and a litter tray and kitty treats for Grandpa. I mean, for Grandpa to give the kitten, not…the other way it sounded.)
We pop The Kitten into the car, and I sit next to him in the back, poking my finger through the holes of the basket and trying to reassure him that it’s OK, he’s safe, he can stop whimpering and scowling. I fail miserably, and the poor little man does some champion howling in his tiny kitten voice until we get home.
When we were sensible, that is, not in the proximity of a tiny, fluffy, bundle of joy, Ma and I had decided that we would keep the kitten in the small sitting room overnight. That way, Ma and Pa’s cat, Polly, could still roam around freely and the kitten would only be traumatised by one strange environment. And he would be easily contained, easily managed, and we could get on with our evening as though there were not a fluffy fun bag waiting in the other room.
How I laugh at our naivety. It turns out that, if you are in possession of a kitten, you are in fact legally and morally obligated to cuddle it at all times, and play with it until it sleeps quietly in its new bed.
Unfortunately, Polly did not take well to the new arrival, and after an initially good meeting between the two (Polly poked him with interest and looked up at Ma in confusion), Kitten made the dreadful mistake of thinking that they might be friends. Poor Kitten. He made a happy noise at Polly, who promptly fluffed up to twice her normal size, rose up on her tippy-toes, hissed at Kitten and took off at a fast clip out of the room, but not before lunging at him and trying to swallow him whole. Awkward.
We fetched her back and tried to broker a entente cordiale between them, but Polly insisted that the only way they were going to get along was if she chomped Kitten and reclaimed her rightful ascendency. You see, Polly is not a stupid cat. She may be limpy, blind and ailing, but there’s nothing wrong with her brain. She recognised the inherent cuteness of the young pretender to her majestic throne. She was fully aware that every adult in the room was about to ignore her for the pleasure of picking up Kitten with one hand and tucking him up against your face. And she was. not. having. it.
Finally, she stomped out of the room, mad as hell at the Kitten, and retreated to her remaining domain to sulk. (She assumed this back-turned position for some hours…I am still not sure we are forgiven yet.)
We went to bed that night, high on the excitement of having a kitten in the house. After all the planning, after all the machinations, Operation Sneaky Kitty was about to bear fruit.
~to be continued…~
*Doppelgänger-Dad is a possibility, especially as, after all his grumpy words, we caught him cuddling the kitten when our backs were turned….