By Jim Willis 2001
The sign on the mailbox post was hand-lettered
on cardboard and read "FREE KITTUNS." It
appeared there two or three times a year,
sometimes spelled this way, sometimes that, but
the message was always the same.
In a corner of the farmhouse back porch was a
cardboard box with a dirty towel inside, on which
huddled a bouquet of kittens of different colors,
mewing and blinking and waiting for their mama to
return from hunting in the fields. The mother cat
managed to show them enough interest for the
first several weeks, but after having two or three
litters per year, she was worn out and her milk
barely lasted long enough for her babies to
One by one, people showed up over the next
several days and each took a kitten. Before they
left the woman who lived there always said the
same thing, "You make sure you give that one a
good home - I've become very attached to that
One by one the kittens and their new people drove
down the long driveway and past the sign on the
mailbox post, "FREE KITTUNS."
The ginger girl kitten was the first to be picked.
Her four-year-old owner loved her very much,
but the little girl accidentally injured the kitten's
shoulder by picking her up the wrong way. She
couldn't be blamed really - no adult had shown
her the proper way to handle a kitten. She had
named the kitten "Ginger" and was very sad a few
later when her older brother and his friends were
playing in the living room and someone sat on the
The solid white boy kitten with blue eyes was the
next to leave with a couple who announced even
before they went down the porch steps that his
name would be "Snowy." Unfortunately, he never
learned his name and everyone had paid so little
attention to him that nobody realized he was
deaf. On his first excursion outside he was run
over in the driveway by a mail truck.
The pretty gray and white girl kitten went to live
on a nearby farm as a "mouser." Her people called
her "the cat," and like her mother and grandmother
before her she had many, many "free kittuns," but
they sapped her energy. She became ill and died
before her current litter of kittens was weaned.
Another brother was a beautiful red tabby. His
owner loved him so much that she took him around
to meet everyone in the family and her friends,
and their cats, and everyone agreed that "Erik"
was a handsome boy. Except his owner didn't
bother to have him vaccinated. It took all the
money in her bank account to pay a veterinarian
to treat him when he became sick, but the doctor
just shook his head one day and said "I'm sorry."
The solid black boy kitten grew up to be a fine
example of a tomcat. The man who adopted him
moved shortly thereafter and left "Tommy" where
he was, roaming the neighborhood, defending his
territory, and fathering many kittens until a bully
of a dog cornered him.
The black and white girl kitten got a wonderful
home. She was named "Pyewacket." She got the
best of food, the best of care until she was nearly
five years old. Then her owner met a man who
didn't like cats, but she married him anyway.
Pyewacket was taken to an animal shelter where
there were already a hundred cats. Then one day,
there were none.
A pretty woman driving a van took the last two
kittens, a gray boy and a brown tiger-striped girl.
She promised they would always stay together.
She sold them for fifteen dollars each to a
laboratory. To this day, they are still together...in a
jar of alcohol.
For whatever reason - because Heaven is in a
different time zone, or because not even cat souls
can be trusted to travel in a straight line without
meandering - all the young-again kittens arrived
at Heaven's gate simultaneously. They batted and
licked each other in glee,
romped for awhile, and then solemnly marched
through the gate, right past a sign lettered in gold:
"YOU ARE FINALLY FREE, KITTENS."
A note from the author:
Please feel free to print out this story or request it as a Word document
(email@example.com). Whenever you see "free kittens" advertised, place a copy
in the mailbox or where it can be read, along with a polite note asking the "culprit" to
spay/neuter their pets and to contact their local humane society for information on
low-cost spay/neuter programs and advice on how to properly place kittens in
Tell the public that the decision to add a pet to the family is an important
one for life,
that animals deserve our love and sensible care, that finding another appropriate
home for your animal is your responsibility and any local humane society or animal
welfare league can offer you good advice, and that all life is precious. Please do your
part to stop the killing, and encourage all spay & neuter campaigns in order to
prevent unwanted animals.
"Free Kittuns" is one of the stories included in an upcoming book
of collected writings by Jim Willis; publication is scheduled for
February 2002. See the author's website for details: