Thirteen years ago, my first batch of cats (all of them rescues) was fast nearing late middle age, with Petronius The Arbiter (Cat from Hades – but in a good way) nearing fifteen. The youngest of that batch was D.T. Burroughs at 14. Perhaps because this coincided with our younger son leaving toddlerhood, and we hadn’t managed to have another one (we wanted eleven. It didn’t work out), I started wanting a kitten.
I talked my husband around to it by telling him that as the four older cats got old and crotchety (yes, four; no, I’m not even close to the crazy cat lady of science fiction), it would do us good to have a little kitten around.
My husband — uncharacteristically — said if we were going to get another cat, he wanted a Cornish Rex. Now, there were practical reasons for this, including that Cornish Rexes have very short, curly fur. While they are not hypo-allergenic, they are easier to bathe and there is less of their hair around. My husband and I are both mildly allergic to cats. (Not even close to the crazy cat people of science fiction. Trust me.)
Also, Cornish Rexes are supposed to be petite, very smart, and very people oriented.
I confess if I were doing this today, we’d have looked at one of the Cornish Rex rescue sites, first and possibly exclusively.
I wonder if my husband’s hope was that I wouldn’t find a kitten close enough to us to get. If so, his hope backfired, because I looked in the paper under pets and there was an ad for Cornish Rex kittens.
I called. The cattery was up the road.
One winter night, in 2000, we left our friend Charles babysitting the kids after telling him we were going to look at Cornish Rexes. (This led to him, later on, when he saw the kitten, saying “but it’s not a Cornish Hen!” which is what he’d understood.)
The cattery had both Cornish Rexes and Sphinxes. I was charmed by a Sphinx named Silver, but not only was she more expensive than the Cornish Rex, but when they started explaining what was needed to take care of them – including sweaters and suntan lotion – I realized it wasn’t a cat for a family with small children and time-consuming careers.
So we settled on Miranda, a beautiful tortoise shell with a half-yellow nose. She had three sisters, but she’s the one who tried to unbutton my coat, and who clawed up my clothes to my chest for pets.
She was too young when we picked her and we had to wait two weeks to bring her home.
Was it worth it? Well… not in the keeping hair down sense. A year after Miranda, we fell for a hard-case called Euclid, a black domestic shorthair, common as dirt, whose time had run out at the Humane Society. Two years after that, a daring little white and black eight-week-old kitten came in with the guys as a snow storm was starting. My husband and sons went up and down the street asking if he belonged to anyone. No one admitted to having lost (or dumped) a kitten, and D’Artagnan joined the clowder. Most undermining for our war against fuzz, seven years later, we found a dirt, grease-encrusted kitten with a broken tail and scratches on his nose while we were out mini-golfing (we’re not the crazy mini-golfing writ — oh, wait, maybe we are. It’s inexplicable why a couple with two adult sons enjoys this so much, but we do, and the more fiberglass animals a course has the better). When the kitten came to our younger son, and when the course owner told us most kittens dumped there got eaten by foxes, we grabbed the little creature. His name is Havelock. We don’t know if he is a Turkish Van, but he looks like one. I judge my necessity to clean by the thickness of layer of Havelock hair on everything. “We’re up to two Havelocks. Time to clean.”
So, the fuzz is as bad as ever. And we still fall for rescues and birds– well, cats – with broken wings. Our other three felines – except Miranda – are as common as the old set was.
Did it work for temperament? Yes. Miranda is very human-oriented and very smart. Despite being the smallest in the house, she takes charge of cats and humans and it often looks like our sole purpose in life is to cater to princess radar-ears.
Would we do it again? I don’t know. We recently found out that Miranda has a heart condition, and might not be with us much longer (though we’re hoping for some years, still.)
Are we sold on Cornish Rex? Definitely. But I still feel a little guilty. I feel like we bought love. Also, I do kitten rescue, and I know how many kittens are out there looking for a good home.
As experienced cat people, we could probably break bad habits in a cat, or negotiate life with a less-than-perfect animal, so if we decide we need another “alien cat” in our lives, I’ll probably look for a rescue. But, if we were a first time cat-family, getting a young kitten of a breed with a known temperament, whom we could mold to our ways might work. I dislike controls on breeding of cats. There are reasons to get an animal from a breeder sometimes.
And hey, without that breeder and that timely litter, I’d never have come to know and love Miranda-cat. Even if it seems akin to white-slavery to have paid money to bring her home, after she clearly picked us.