Mizuki makes three
Meet Mizuki. She is approximately nine weeks old and is my latest feline companion. Mizuki brings the StarshipTim cat household back to three, which, depending on your perspective, is either full capacity or one over capacity.
Two was my standard forever until recently. I had my own cat as a kid (a series of them, actually, it's a sad tale; the one I got when I was 14 broke the cycle of early kitty demises), and there was at least one family cat as well. When I was 18 the family cat had kittens and I convinced my mom to keep one, and from then on I had two. Those two moved north with me when I left home and they lived to moderately elder status (17 and 15½), and when each passed away I got another in relatively short order. I got a third in December of 2019, as at that point I had an elderly cat (Bansei, 17) and a youngster (Raimei, 1½), and the youngster needed a playmate. I figured this third, who became Zephyr, was kind of an advance; Bansei wasn't going to be with me all that many more years (about 18 months, as it turned out) and this way her remaining time wouldn't be hindered by unwanted attention from a just-beyond-kitten that kept trying to chase and play.
So that was the plan, and since Bansei left us the norm of two reigned again, as intended.
But I missed her, as I miss all four of my longer-lived departed kitties, and more to the point, I had kind of gotten used to having three. Still, not a good enough reason to get another one. I mean, two is fine, three puts me on the edge of becoming Crazy Cat Guy.
The other thing influencing me was my fucked-up brain chemistry, which often imposes bouts of depression in varying degrees. When in the hold of the more potent episodes, I tend to feel like I'm unfulfilled and not good at grown-up life, but one thing I am very good at and do very well is give kitties good and happy lives. And their presence helps mitigate those episodes. So it was within such a context that I preliminarily decided to adopt a new kitten.
Hiding behind the Sturgeon and the Vonnegut to get the lay of the land
I know, however, not to act on any whims while in a depressive episode. I've figured that out over the years. But the thought continued to percolate and I still felt like the upside outweighed the downside, even after I ran the numbers. Cats can be expensive, to unpredictable degrees; Pixel had basically one bad health issue while in her youth and that was all until she was 18 and rapidly came down with a cancer of some sort, while Bansei was in and out of the hospital numerous times for liver problems, repeated dental issues, and an ultimately fatal long-term kidney disease. It's a crapshoot whether this new one will tend toward the Pixel end of relative thrift or the Bansei end of tremendous financial cost. But I estimated an average cost of $100-$160 per month per cat over a 20-year lifetime (backloaded, to be sure) in 2023 dollars and I can swing that times three.
So I prepped, telling myself I still hadn't decided. I made a three-dish feeding station. I bought a third carrier. Researched the best available kitten foods, even though they likely hadn't changed much in the last few years. Then I started to expand the catwalk in my office to connect to the bedroom. At that point I recognized that "I hadn't decided yet" was bullshit.
So yesterday I checked out the PAWS website (PAWS is where Pixel, Raimei, and Zephyr all came from) for available kittens, and they had none. So I drove down to the county animal shelter in Kent to see who they might have. I got Bansei from that shelter in 2002, and back then that place was awful, it was like kitty POW camp. Today, though, it's much nicer, the cages are much larger, the cats and dogs are separated, and the environment is much less scary, which I was pleased to see.
Enjoying the breeze from a fan on my desk
The County shelter had one female kitten and several males. My experience with Zeph's kittenhood suggested that another boy kitten would be problematic, so I looked at the girl. Initially it didn't seem like a good fit, only because she was a brown tabby just like Bansei was and I didn't want a cat that seemed like a Bansei clone. But I visited with her anyway and she won me over. She may be a brown tabby with similar coloring, but her features are her own and her demeanor quite different. So I signed the contract, paid my C-note, and brought her home.
Naming her was a bit of a challenge. Zephyr's name came to him as an ironic comment on his behavior, which, at least for the first two years of his life, was more akin to a cyclone. Pixel was named after a cat in a Heinlein novel. Raimei (full name Kuro-Raimei, or 黒雷鳴, "black thunder") is named for her appearance and loud purr. But Bansei had the best name (伴星, it means companion star as in a binary or trinary system) and in going for a similar vibe I settled on Mizuki.
As with many Japanese names, Mizuki can mean a number of things depending on how it's written. Initially I thought it would be “三月” ("third moon"), since she is the third current pet orbiting my life, but that's essentially the same way one would write the month of March (third month of the year), which just seems weird. However, “光月” means "bright/radiant moon," “微月” means "tiny moon," and “美月” is "beautiful moon," which all work, so I'll go with one of those as soon as I have to commit it to writing. (Also considered: 星空 ["Hoshizora," or "starry sky"] and 小星 ["Koboshi," meaning "little star"].)
So far, Mizuki is adapting to her new home fairly well. As recommended, for the first day or so I kept her isolated from the other cats, or at least that was the plan—when I wasn't looking, late last night she wandered out of the downstairs TV room I had set up as her "safe place" and climbed up the stairs only to be scared into hiding by the mean big cat who acted like she owns the place. I finally found her under the sofa, which took some effort as the underneath is only accessible from the back. Today she's bolder, more exploratory, and the remaining hurdle is just the adjustment period for Raimei. Zephyr has already shown indications of curiosity rather than hostility, but Raimei will need reassurances that she's not being replaced before she stops feeling threatened. We're working on it.