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Pets Large & Small


Jennifer Vanderau
Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter

(9/1) This is the time of year for the kittens. Cute, cuddly, little balls of fluff who look up at you from blue-turning-green-or-gold eyes and bat at your shoelaces and play with just about anything they can chase across a floor.

Weíve got them here at the shelter. They're everywhere. We get amazing numbers in every day. There's a statistic that shelter folks know well. It's said that two -- just two cats -- one male and one female -- if left unspayed and unneutered can produce more than 13 million cats in ten short years.

Can you imagine?

It's actually a mathematical equation (my dad and brother would be so proud right now). Let's say that one female cat can have five litters of kittens in a year and five kittens in each of those litters. The numbers could be more or less, but I'm going for an average.

So, that's 25 kittens in one year. Each of those 25 can go out and have 25 of their own, each of those 25 can have 25 of their own and the numbers continue to increase exponentially as the years go on.

You can easily see how we can get overrun and that's why spaying and neutering is so incredibly important.

I'll tell you though, the little blue eyes of a kitten will do me in just about every time and in addition to their faces, kittens are pretty special in a lot of different ways. They certainly have an interesting outlook on life.

Go with me here, Ďcause I think Iím on to something.

Kittens will play with anything. Theyíre not choosy. A shoelace. A piece of paper. A crinkly wrapper. A bug. A plastic bottlecap. Curtains. Straws. Nothingís too ordinary for a kitten.

They find joy in everyday objects that would otherwise be overlooked. How many times do you think you fail to notice something that might bring a bit of happiness just because itís a little unconventional or limiting? Or maybe seems too ordinary or something you pass by everyday?

Thereís one lesson we could learn from a kitten.

Kittens donít care if they fall down. Theyíre a lot like rubber bands in that respect. Theyíll stumble and lurch and trip their way through life and just get immediately back up, following the same path like nothing had happened.

Wouldnít it be nice to approach our obstacles like that? If you take a tumble, either metaphorically or literally, just dust yourself off (although some kittens Iíve been around donít even take the time to do that) and keep on going. Donít let the difficulties in life stand in your way.

Lesson number two from the precocious feline baby.

Along those same lines, kittens donít care too much if they look like a fool. Have you ever heard the saying, "Dance like nobodyís watching?" Kittens really seem to adhere to that principal.

And thereís something to be said for it. I think a lot of us worry too much about what others think sometimes and that can be very restrictive. Donít get me wrong, thereís a line here. I knew a girl who would be upset if someone thought she was "uncool" but didnít care at all if people thought she was obnoxious or overbearing.

Thatís not even close to what Iím talking about. In fact, itís the exact opposite. Kittens donít care if they look like idiots and bounce around Ė a lot like their ancestors, Tiggers (Ďcause Tiggers are wonderful things) Ė and thereís got to be something freeing in that.

Kittens will also take on any foe. They donít seem to have all that much fear. I had a little one wrap herself around my ankle as I was walking across a room the other day and I thought, "Iím like 400 times your size. Are you crazy?"

Crazy or fearless. Sometimes theyíre synonymous, sometimes not so much.

How would your life be different if you werenít afraid? If no hurdle seemed too big and no worry couldnít be fought and tackled?

Can you imagine the trust inherent in one so small allowing one so big to pick him up off the ground?

Let me paint you a picture. Imagine yourself in a room or a space. You can see out of this space, but you canít get out. Youíve got food and water and a bathroom, as well as some bedding, but thatís it. You may have a friend in there with you, too.

Now imagine that from time to time something with arms and legs and eyes and a nose and a mouth that is about 20 to 30 times bigger than you picks you up, talks nicely to you, gives you some affection, maybe gives you medication.

I tried to come up with what animal would be 20 to 30 times our size, but I think itís tough to comprehend the sheer magnitude of it. For instance, great white sharks can be 16 to 18 feet long and 2,000 to 4,500 pounds. Thatís kind of getting there. So think of a great white shark doing all that, to give you perspective.

Or for fans of Watchmen (great movie if you havenít seen it, by the way) it would be like Dr. Manhattan taking care of you after he grew huge during Vietnam.

I donít know about you all, but I would be seriously hard pressed not to completely lose it -- and yet kittens allow us to pick them up every day. Amazing.

One of my favorite aspects of kittens is their ability to fall asleep anywhere, any time. Many a day at the shelter, Iíll pass by a kitten cage and see a bunch of them wrestling and playing and romping it up and when I walk back through within a few minutes, theyíre all curled up together snoozing.

Some days I feel like I could go from active to napping just as fast. Wouldnít that be nice?

And the purring. Man, is there anything better than a kitten purr? That special sound of feline contentment coming from one so small? And usually as a result of a pet or a snuggle with you? I adore that.

I sometimes think kittens may be more wise than we give them credit for. They approach life with that child-like fascination of the young and thereís a lot we, as adults, could learn from that kind of attitude.

So the next time youíre feeling blue and maybe a little down, stop for a second and think about the baby felines. Find joy in a mundane object. Dust yourself off from the doldrums or troubles in your life and donít be afraid that someone may think youíre a fool. Nap and play and take on your enemies, no matter how intimidating they may seem.

Kittens, man. I'm telling you, they know how to live and they truly can teach us so much.

Jennifer Vanderau is the Director of Communications for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter, Chambersburg, Pa., and can be reached at The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at (717) 263-5791 or visit the website CVAS also operates thrift stores in Chambersburg and Shippensburg. Help support the animals at the shelter by donating to or shopping at the stores.

Read other articles by Jennifer Vanderau