He was unceremoniously plopped onto the berber carpet; a tiny, grey, wet mass, encased in a film of mucous.
He immediately tried to breathe, but found himself unable to gasp for even the smallest breath.
That’s when I knew I had to intervene.
Princess, his mother, had just given birth to her very first kitten.
And she didn’t know quite what to do.
She was astonished at what was happening to her body; what was happening at the business end.
She was supposed to lick the membrane off her kitten; to stimulate his breathing, and clean him up and keep him warm.
She did none of those things.
She looked at him curiously, and then sniffed him, and promptly began eating the afterbirth that then came out of her.
I took the little, wet kitten into my hand, and wiped away the mucous from his mouth with the corner of a towel.
I tried to present him to Princess, so she would show some interest, and perhaps clean him up.
She was not having any of it.
As I was holding him, I noticed he was getting cold.
In my research into what happens when cats give birth, I had read that kittens must never become cold.  That is their death knell.
So, I held him in my hand, and rubbed him with the towel, and kept him warm.
I cleaned him up with the towel.
Then Princess tried to take him away and hide him under the bed.
I brought him back out and continued to keep him warm.
Over the next several hours, as Princess gave birth to four more kittens, I continued to keep Ivan warm.
She had learned by the second kitten that she was to lick them clean, stimulate their breathing, and keep them warm.
And she continued to eat all of the afterbirths.  Leaving no doubt in my mind that all the urban legends about cats eating their owners if they die, are true.
Meanwhile, I had to think of a name for the little grey blob.
Because he was grey, like a Russian Blue cat.
Ivan it was.
The little kitten who made it out first into the world would have undoubtedly been the “test” kitten had Princess had her litter at the barn.
Likely to not have survived.
Likely to have been lunch for a lucky fox or coyote.
But here he was.
Princess’ first born.
And his name was Ivan.
Despite his inauspicious arrival into the world, Ivan flourished under Princess’ care.
She was an excellent mother.
Letting her five babies nurse to their heart’s content.
Cleaning them so as to stimulate their bowels and bladders when they were too young to do so themselves, and then cleaning their waste.
She was an excellent mother.
Never venturing too far from them.
Always watchful, attentive, nurturing.
She put some human mothers to shame.
She taught them to go potty over in a certain area only.
She then taught them to use a proper litter box.
She let them crawl all over her, and nurse, and nurse, and then nurse some more.
Ivan grew big and strong.  Never revealing his runt status.
He grew a soft, velvety, grey coat.
His eyes transformed from baby blue to a luminous turquoise green.
He played with his brothers and sisters, but mostly with his brother Peanut.
He grew to a lanky teenager, always up for a game or two.
And then he blossomed into a robust adult cat.
That was 9 years ago.
Now, Ivan is his full grown, adult, mature, maybe even senior self.
He is the epitomy of a scaredy cat.
He is a one person cat.  A cat for me, and me alone.
Sometimes, it looks like he is wearing a set of snowpants, his fur is so thick.
He has a routine that he follows each and every day.
Just like a businessman.
And I jokingly call him Mr. Banks.
He joins the rest of the family for breakfast.
Then he rests over by the cat play area, where he knows I always go in the morning with my coffee in hand, to spend time with everyone before the fray of the day.
He loves being groomed, and will start to purr like a motor at the slightest touch.
He then decides he needs a drink, and will go and get one, often returning with a few droplets of water dotted on his lower chin.
Then he decides he needs to relieve himself, and so he will head downstairs to the litter department.
Always in the same order.
The same routine.
Just like a businessman.
Just like a Mr. Banks.
He is scared of every noise, every person but me, anything that is different.
He is ready to run at a moment’s notice.  Ready to hide and be safe.
It’s too bad really, because the world is missing out on his beauty.  His velvety softness.  His purring.  His little meow that he sounds out to let me know he is nearby.
But you can’t change a leopard’s spots, and Ivan is who he is.
Cautious.  Untrusting.  Ever wary.  Always ready to run from danger, whatever danger that may be.
I will love him and care for him to the end of his days.
I watched him being born, and for that I feel forever indebted to Princess to allow me that privilege, and forever beholden to Ivan for trusting me enough to be the one person that he can feel safe with.  To let me cut his nails.  To let me groom him.  To let me make a fuss of him.
So, Mr. Banks, a.k.a. Ivan, you will always have a home with me, and in my heart.


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