At almost a month after JLo had her babies, there had been no sign of the kittens and I was starting to give up hope. This is kind of gross, but her nipples indicated that the kittens were still alive because three of them were huge and swollen. She was certainly eating and drinking enough for a litter up to five times a day at our house. It just seemed like JLo wasn’t interested in introducing us to her kittens, even though I asked her about them daily. I figured we just wanted to see them too badly. I should make peace with just JLo being in our lives, so my reminders to her about fetching her babies became increasingly half-hearted.
I was actually starting to worry that JLo was a bad mother. Only a few days after giving birth, she spent the entire day at our house lounging and napping. It seemed a bit early for a mother’s day out, especially when your kittens have been alive less time than it takes to wend your way through the new choose-your-own-adventure episode of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Then she came over for another whole day soon afterwards. And another. She would play and eat all carefree here like she was at a day spa while being petted and pampered by Mitchell (okay, and sometimes me). She was as sweet and personable as ever, just hungrier. I was starting to wonder if she even liked her kittens at all, or was hoping they wandered off while she was gone so she could go back to her previous life.
And then, in the blink of an eye, everything changed.
I had been reading on the porch yesterday because it was the first really nice day we’d had in quite some time. I went inside for just a moment to talk with Mitch, and when we came back out to the porch, there was a fuzzy dark ball sitting next to JLo! We couldn’t believe it. I didn’t realize how much I really wanted to see the kittens until I felt how excited I became at seeing one. This little ball was pudgy and timid, had legs that shook every time she walked, and was constantly trying to hide behind her mother. She was mostly dark fur with some streaks of multiple other colors, which I later learned that meant she was definitely female.
We had to give her a name, but what? We knew it needed to be in the great diva tradition of Janet and JLo. I had recently downloaded an old favorite and shamefully underrated song, “The Roof” by Mariah Carey, which I had been listening to repeatedly. It dawned on me that this little kitten had recently been freed from what we can only assume was an awful first home (since it wasn’t here), and so she had been emancipated. Boom! Her name shall be Mimi.
Now, we noticed that JLo had multiple nipples that seemed to have been given a workout (again gross), so only one baby seemed unlikely. Were there others in the litter? Or was little Mimi the only survivor and that’s why she was so big? We went for a walk that afternoon and found the answer waiting on the porch when we got home. Little Celine had joined her sister. Another multicolored female calico with slightly lighter coloring and a much slighter build, little Celine had some pipes. She mewed consistently and was very adventurous, coming from under the table where we had built Mimi’s nest out on the porch. She also hissed a bit at Mitchell when he tried picking her up and would squirm away if you tried to hold her, unlike Mimi. Feisty, like when Celine went toe-to-toe with Aretha on VH1’s Divas Live in 1998 during the “Natural Woman” finale. But JLo had more than two swollen nipples…
That night after dinner, we took one last glance under the tablecloth and found a new addition to the group – a very pale blonde kitten we named Judy because the idea of a cat name Judy made us laugh. Now, the number of kittens matched the number of swollen nipples, so we figured our litter was complete. We were wrong.
Mitch always wakes up first, and when he went to check on the kittens, there were two new additions the next morning. Another pale blonde, Madge, who was the feistiest yet, hissing every time you got close to her and vocalizing her concerns often, who obviously had to be named after Mitch’s most beloved Madonna. And the most beautiful orange tabby, with fur like her mother’s and her sweet temperament to match, obviously Yoncé. The litter was complete.
Even better news, JLo was actually a very attentive and concerned mother. She was consistently bathing and watching over her kittens. She had an alertness we had never seen, a vigilance that noticed if any of them cried out or any time any noise was near. Maybe she was coming to us during the day to get a rest for her poor nerves so she could go back and do it all again the next day. We’re pretty sure she’s young and a first-time mother, so perhaps it was a coping mechanism for all of this new world she was encountering by instinct alone. We haven’t seen Janet in over a month, so we can only assume he has gone on to the next town, leaving only his dark-furred offspring as a reminder that JLo has to soldier on alone.
But she has us. And she has realized that this is the safest place for them to grow into the next phase where they will crawl and yell and stand on firmer legs, which I think says something lovely about how she is feeling about us. And, if I admit it, how I’m starting to feel about her.