The Dangers of Falling in Love


Richie and Jillian were arguing as they walked in the door from school. Jillian was calmly saying something like, “It’s true, Richie…you should believe me.” And Richie was clearly irritated, talking right over her with, “That can’t be. That can’t be!”

Before I could even offer to mediate, Richie was right in front of me. I have to admit, I savor moments like this, when they are looking to me like I’m The Source…The One…The Mom Who Knows Things. Since Jillian came out of the womb with a Cliff Clavin-like knowledge about…well, everything, and Richie spent most of his first 12 years questioning my competence not just as a mom but as a woman (sometime I’ll tell you about my clown lipstick), I enjoy the rare moment when they are both ready to accept that I might know something. Anything.

“Mom,” Richie said earnestly, “I thought only female cats could have kittens.”

“Yes,” I replied. “That’s true.”

“Then WHY would they EVER do an operation on a male cat to keep him from having kittens?”

Five or six years ago, some kittens were born under our neighbor’s porch. Another neighbor, Ann, started feeding them, and soon we had three feral cats roaming the yards. I borrowed some traps from Central Pennsylvania Animal Alliance, caught the cats, and took them to be fixed. As it turned out, all three were male, so the operations were simple, and after a few days recovering in our garage, we set them free again. This is the trap-neuter-release model used by many rescue groups as the most humane way to control the feral cat population.

Two of those bachelor cats are still alive, and Ann is faithfully feeding them, loving on them, and giving them a warm place to sleep in her garage at night. We often see the brother cats sunning themselves in her driveway. Richie and Jillian must have walked past them on their way home from the bus stop, and that had sparked our current controversy.

“Well, Honey,” I said in my calmest voice, because Richie was very upset, “it’s true that only females give birth to kittens, but it takes a male AND a female cat to MAKE the kittens.”

“Oh, okay!” I could see the pieces of the puzzle falling neatly into place in his brain. “So they do an operation on the male cat to keep him from falling in love with a female cat and having babies!”

Suddenly I didn’t want to be The Mom Who Knows Things anymore.


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