The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

May 14, 2013

Free kittens are not free for long

By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News & Eagle

— Free kittens, the ad said.

The price was right, so we bit. Pretty soon, we were bringing home two tiny balls of fur, wrapped up in our sweatshirts.

That’s when the whole “free” thing went haywire.

They needed food, of course, and a litter box, litter, a pooper scooper, food and water bowls, a scratching post and some toys. Cha-ching.

We took them to the vet to be checked over. They had ringworm, which had to be treated. They needed their shots and, when they were old enough, we had them fixed. Cha-ching.

As time passed, they needed more food, more litter, more toys, a new scratching post, more trips to the vet and a brush. Cha-ching.

I estimate in the past six years, those two free kittens have roughly cost us a zillion dollars, give or take a few.

It’s time for them to start earning their keep.

Dee Dee Murry, an artist from Seattle, taught her dog, Hallie, to paint. The 12-year-old dachshund holds the brush in her mouth to turn out her unique canine creations, complete with nose print signature, despite the fact she lost her sight two years ago due to a degenerative eye disease. Murry sells the paintings for $100 each, with the proceeds going to a local animal rescue. Thus far, Hallie’s artwork has generated $13,000 for the charity.

Hey, that could work. Except I can’t get them to hold brushes. I can’t get them to do much of anything. I would put paint on their feet and then have them walk over a blank sheet of paper, except all they want to do is sleep. I could put blank paper where they usually sleep, then pour paint over them and let them snooze their way to prominence in the animal art world, but they usually sleep on the couch or on our bed.

Otis, a shepherd/Great Dane mix, showed up accidentally in a couple of pictures his owner was taking of the apartment he was putting up for rent, a phenomenon known as photobombing. The owner, John Kanive, showed the photos to his wife, who thought they were funny. So they bribed Otis with bits of cheese, and took photos of him sitting in every room of the apartment. The photos then were posted online, creating a sensation.

The apartment rented in less than 24 hours and the Kanives signed a contract with to use Otis’ image to create photobombs to advertise pet-friendly listings across the U.S.

That wouldn’t work for us. Every time I grab the camera, they make themselves scarce.

There are some cats who make their owners money, like the Internet sensation known as Grumpy Cat. The frowning cat’s real name is Tardar Sauce, and the year-old mixed breed’s permanently downturned mouth is the result of feline dwarfism.

Grumpy Cat has her own website, books, calendars and merchandise, including T-shirts, mugs and magnets.

Oddly, Grumpy Cat’s owner, Tabatha Bundesen of Morristown, Ariz., says she is actually sweet and affectionate.

In contrast, our gray tabby has a positively beatific facial expression, but is moody and standoffish, with the personality of a bareback bronc rider with hemorrhoids. It’s like I have a twin.

Service animals are deductible from your taxes. If I could train them to perform a vital service, like bringing me the TV remote or something, that might work.

I could rent them out as mousers, but they’ve never killed anything but moths, flies and June bugs. The only mice they ever stalk are the cloth, stuffed variety that infest our home.

I suppose I could rent them out as health and wellness devices. The American Heart Association recently issued a scientific statement stating that owning a pet may help decrease a person’s risk of suffering from heart disease and is linked with lower levels of obesity, blood pressure and cholesterol.

But all it takes is for them to dump over the trash can and spread stuff all over the kitchen, upend a chair in the living room and knock a lamp askew to send my blood pressure climbing into the stroke zone, so that’s no good.

I considered renting our black butterball out as a Halloween decoration, but he is far more fearful than fearsome, so that’s a non-starter.

If there was a market for cat fur, I’d be rich, and if cat poo was gold, I could buy New York City and build a fence around it, but, alas, such is not the case.

So I’ve narrowed my choices a bit. I will rent them out either as lap warmers, head rests, door stops or paperweights.

But I fear if I do that, my bride will run an ad reading, “Husband, free to a good home, or a bad one, no matter.”

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at