For centuries, women in our culture have used bridal and baby showers as a way to celebrate the significant, life-altering events in one another’s lives. These gatherings are an opportunity to pass on traditions, to offer advice and to “shower” the woman of honor with gifts to get her started.
Blame it on reaching the mid-30s mark, but every time I turned around last year, someone else was getting married, buying a house, or having a baby. Not only was I spending a lot of money on gifts, but I was being reminded that I wasn’t following the “Rites of Sisterhood” – there were no significant events in my life to celebrate. So, when I finally found a new kitten to join my life, two years after the heart-wrenching death of the cat who’d been with me for 16 years, it was a big, life-altering event. I was embarking on a new leg of my life journey and, darn it, I wanted a party!
So I threw myself a kitten shower, so that those closest to me could meet my new fur baby. Like any new mother, I was so excited about my bundle of joy that I wanted everyone to coo and gasp at her preciousness. And also like a new mother, I needed the special things that babies require.
No one whom I invited had ever heard of a kitten shower, but all were intrigued enough to come. Even a few of my male friends showed up, bearing squeaky toys and cards that read, “Congratulations on your new addition.” In the course of the event, I learned a few things to do and to avoid, and I hope you can benefit from my experience.
- Time the party so that your kitten has had a chance to get used to you and your house, or he or she might spend the entire time under the bed. Have the shower in your own home to avoid overstimulating your kitten.
- Invite anyone – male or female – who likes cats or with whom you’ve had great “cat chats.” There’s no point inviting that cousin who makes rotten cat jokes or who has debilitating allergies. Family, friends, neighbors, even your veterinarian, can provide Kitty a warm welcome.
- Food selection for any party should reflect the tastes of your guests, but I would not leave anything out that an impulsive kitten may want to sample, such as sliced meats, pâté, lox, shrimp, or whatever your particular kitten dives for.
- Gifts – the most important cat-egory! I wish I’d thought to make up a wish list to include with my invites. As for other types of showers, the hostess can offer a list of needed items that the guests can choose from. I told my guests that gifts were not expected and figured that anything I got would be a bonus, but I still have a shopping bag full of excess toys, and catnip – which does nothing for my cat. Everyone brought the same two things, so you need to be a bit more honest about what you need than I was.If you don’t have the basics, you can start with food. Ask for the higher-end, ultra-healthy, all-natural kitten food you know you should be investing in but may not always be able to afford. Guests can choose anything between 10-pound bags of crunchies to tiny little tins of canned food. Any leftovers (if you’re lucky!) when you wean the youngster off kitten food can be taken to your nearest animal shelter – or used as an excuse to get another kitten!This is the ideal time to ask for one of the super-convenient, self-cleaning, nontracking litter boxes. If you’re faced with having to clean the litter box yourself, mention the glory of clumping cat litter and box liners that turn into disposable bags. Cat litter at kitten showers is as practical a gift as diapers at a baby shower. And don’t forget the slotted pooper-scooper. (Note: clumping litter is not recommended for kittens aged four to eight weeks, who may eat it.)
Depending on your preference, a harness, carrying case, sleeping basket and scratching posts could be added to the list.
If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, mention flea treatments, hairball medicine, grooming aids and nail clippers. A lint brush is also appreciated. A personalized collar might be nice, although your kitten should already be wearing basic ID.
If you’re short on cash, a donation toward the cost of neutering or spaying and vaccinating your pet can be suggested, as can gift certificates for cat sitting and rides to the vet’s office.
Expect to receive some toys, but try hinting at the ones that would really make your kitten – and thereby you – happy. The best toys “we” received were wavy plastic rings, similar to a milk jug top. I don’t know why, but my cat loves them the most and has managed to lose six out of eight in the pack. Kittens only need a few toys to satisfy their various play-hunting modes, such as hiding, stalking, chasing, jumping and “killing” – and astute manufacturers have come up with an array of interactive toys that satisfy these urges while assuring that you and Kitty spend quality time together.
One bigger-ticket item is a series of computer disks with special animation (fast flying objects, fish, etc.) that cats who chase themselves in the mirror, or walk behind it to see the “other” cat, will love.
- You can have a lot of fun making creative invitations. One idea is to spread some blank cards around an enclosed space, goop up kitten’s paws with some water-based finger paint, and let her run through it. If that sounds too messy, you can use baby shower cards with kittens or puppies on them, buy blank cards and a kitten stamp or stickers to make your own, or scan pictures of your new baby onto blank paper and then add the time, date, place and RSVP. To send invites via e-mail, scan a picture, or send a sound “bite” of a sweet kitten meow that translates into, “I’d love to meet you. Please come to my shower.”
- Traditionally, showers are hosted by close women friends or family members, not by the mother-to-be. So if you know someone who’s adopting a new pet, why not throw her a kitten shower – or, with minor alterations, a puppy shower? The bottom line is that getting a new pet is worth celebrating. Just because you didn’t buy a white dress or go through months of gestation to bring on this event doesn’t mean you can’t hold up your head and say with pride, “It’s time for my party!”
Christy Nich is a freelance writer in Calgary, Alberta.
ASPCA Animal Watch – Fall 2002