“Can I keep her, Mother? Please, can I keep her?” pleaded Karyn, cuddling the meowing bundle of matted white fur.
“She’s the sorriest-looking little kitten I’ve ever seen,” said Mother. “Are you sure she’s old enough to leave the mama cat?”
“Her mama’s gone,” Karyn answered. “That’s why Tammy wants to give her to me. And that’s why her fur is all stuck together—she kept falling in her pan of milk.”
“Maybe we could get a doll bottle for her to nurse,” suggested Mother. “What happened to the mama cat?”
“Nobody knows. Tammy’s mother found the three little kittens in their shed yesterday. They were almost dead from hunger.”
“You mean Tammy’s cat didn’t have the kittens?” asked Mother in surprise.
Karyn shook her head. “Tammy doesn’t have a cat.”
“Poor little baby,” crooned Mother, reaching for the crying and clawing kitten. “You really need a mama to lick you clean.”
“I bet Tie-Dye would be her mother,” Karyn said, her face brightening. “She’s going to have babies. Maybe she’d like one a little early.”
“If she had her kittens today, she could nurse this one, too,” mused Mother thoughtfully.
Soon Karyn had the big tortoiseshell mother cat resting comfortably in a towel-padded apple box in her room. Then she placed the little white kitten next to Tie-Dye and stepped back to watch. Tie-Dye opened her eyes wide, then gathered the kitten between her paws and began licking its matted fur.
“Look,” said Mother. “The baby is trying to nurse.” Mother rubbed her chin and said, “I wonder … Let’s leave them alone for a while to get acquainted.” And she and Karyn tiptoed out of the room.
Later when Karyn returned, she found Tie-Dye licking a new little black kitten while the white one slept peacefully in the corner.
“Mom,” Karyn squealed joyfully. “Tie-Dye had a baby.” Then she began to worry. “Maybe she won’t want the white one now.”
“I don’t think it will make any difference,” assured Mother, patting her shoulder. “She’s already adopted her.”
Several hours later, Karyn sat contentedly watching Tie-Dye nurse her four kittens. The white one looked like a giant next to the three newborn babies.
“She’s really a very pretty little kitten now that Tie-Dye has cleaned her up,” observed Mother, coming into the room.
“See how bright and fluffy her coat is.”
Tie-Dye began licking the white kitten again.
“She loves her just like the ones she had herself, doesn’t she, Mom?” said Karyn, leaning over the box adoringly. Then she jumped up and hugged her mother around the waist. “That’s the way it was when you adopted me, wasn’t it?” she asked.
“That’s exactly the way it was,” nodded Mother, hugging Karyn tightly. “Just exactly.”