When Maureen announced that five homeless kittens needed a temporary place to dwell, the dogs and I cringed.

When Maureen announced that five homeless kittens needed a temporary place to dwell, the dogs and I cringed.

It was pure pandemonium for a while, what with all the whining and whimpering.

"It's really embarrassing when you act like that," my wife said, adding, "At least Waldo and Harpo have the decency to be more mature about this."

"The poor pooches aren't being decent — they are catatonic," I protested. "They are terrified at the thought of being dogged by a herd of cats."

The tail, sorry, tale, I was told is that my father-in-law, who has spent a small fortune on having cats fixed over the years, discovered the kittens at his place. A mother cat that was not his dropped in to give birth to the five little felines.

The furry floozie nursed the five little guys for a while, then lost interest in the whole parenting thing and wandered off in search of a tom cat out on the town.

"We just need to fatten 'em up a bit and find good homes for them," Maureen said as she cooed over a fuzzy little ball curled up in one palm.

"We're going to call this one Mouse," she said. "He's the smallest in the litter."

The dogs and I looked at each other, knowing we had lost the first battle. After all, you don't name a kitten you intend to give away.

But I intended to win the war.

"You can't name him if he is only going to be a temporary guest," I said. "Besides, naming a cat Mouse is sure to cause some deep-seated psychological problems. It could get ugly."

"You can always get therapy," Maureen replied.

Mouse looked up with a Cheshire cat grin, yawned and fell back to sleep. The munchkin knew he was home free.

The problem is that I'm a dog person and Waldo and Harpo are person dogs. Waldo is our lovable pooch from the pound weighing in at about 90 pounds.

Harpo, an adorable growing pup rescued from a log near Butte Falls earlier this summer, will no doubt be bigger than Waldo.

With some 200 pounds of dog, we don't need more cats, even tiny ones.

Besides, we already have three grown cats, one we adopted and two that adopted us. Bringing five kittens into the house will upset the balance of power.

The three cats and two dogs have reached an uneasy equilibrium. The canines sniff noses, maybe check out a hind end, then go on their way. The cats arch their backs up against the dogs but are largely indifferent to them.

About the only thing the cats like is a good book. One invariably plops down beside me while I'm reading on the upstairs couch.

Unfortunately, I periodically have to stretch a muscle in my arm while reading. This sometimes results in my accidental stroking of a nearby cat, causing it to purr. The unintentional stroking only lasts a couple of chapters.

Still, for the dogs, I had to make a stand against turning our domicile into a cathouse, temporary or not. This was obviously a case where the best defense would be an aggressive offense.

"Don't even think about keeping ..." I insisted.

"I think we'll put them in the living room until they are a little bigger," Maureen said. "That way they can get used to having us around."

"Yeah but ..." I countered.

"Perhaps you are right," she responded. "We should let them out periodically to feel like they are part of the family."

"There is no way in ..." I concluded.

"I'm glad that's settled and we can start taking care of the kitties," she said. "We'll need to bring the big cage into the living room so they'll feel safe and start socializing with the other animals."

That's why I've been greeting friends lately with, "People who don't fix their cats need to be fixed. Incidentally, you look like you could use a cat." It seems like a lot of folks have been suddenly remembering forgotten appointments lately.

Meanwhile, Maureen rises early each morning to feed her furry friends. It's also the first thing she does each evening.

She heats their special cat milk — I don't want to know how you milk a cat — in a little pan, puts it into a tiny baby bottle and gently feeds each one until a tummy pooches out.

"You little guys are soooo cute," she purrs as they clamber onto her lap.

Mouse may be the smallest but he is a bulldozer, pushing in to be the first fed. He then wanders off to explore the house.

Now Waldo and Harpo take turns sniffing his petite pink nose and furry little rump. The former man's best friends have apparently found a new best buddy.

Those fickle curs.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.