"World of Crystal, Sky of Fire", a novelette by Bob Buckley; published in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, October 1985; apparently never reprinted.
Wright shook his foot and sent one of the kittens flying. It danced across the coffee table and upset a stack of teaching cassettes before disappearing behind a couch. He saw the mother scowling at him from the top of the book case, a brindled, slatternly old female with a chewed and withered ear and a broken tail half-naked from midpoint all the way back to the ratty tip. She bared her canines and hissed silently as his eyes met hers. Wright and this one were old enemies. They had found the cat outside the spaceport, probably a fugitive from one of the trampers that had set down for a fast cargo of light-weight, high value gemstones. Wright had chased it off, not liking its sleazy looks, but Peter had taken a fancy to the illegitimate scrounger, cradling it in his tiny arms the rest of that day. The same night Mister Teddy had gone into retirement and when Wright had gone in to kiss his son good night he had found the cat curled up on the foot of the boy's bed, yellow eyes glowing balefully at him. Little warmth had ever grown between them, and the sentiment was returned heartily from the opposite party. But with Margret's support Little Peter had managed to hang onto the stray. Four months later the first litter of kittens had appeared, and others regularly at intervals afterwards, although where the lust-driven cat managed to find other males in this godforsaken wilderness Wright could never understand. Cats have their ways, though, ways bordering on the supernatural.
- Miner family- Mom, Dad, two kids
Charlie Wright, his wife Margret, the boys Peter and Billy.
Wright left Margret bustling over dinner preparations and hurried to inspect the culture shed. The shed was like a greenhouse tacked onto the side of the habitat. It was there to catch the high-energy pulsations of the solar auras, not the orangish light of the multiple suns. The growing crystals were an investment better than a bank account. He had spent months collecting the right seed stones from rich valleys. The technique was slow, even experimental, but it meant that even while he was out prospecting the wild something was growing. The radiation streaming from the triple stars somehow stimulated crystalline growth. Perhaps it was the profusion of heavy elements in the rocks, a hidden danger of Chaldis against which all newcomers except the aliens needed protection. From the plots of dry sand slender crystal shafts mounted, sparkling in a thousand prismatic colors.
This time the drive went fast. Suddenly he was home. Margret met him at the portal, the boys already in bed, her face a testament for the words that she withheld. Disaster lurked in her eyes. He half-ran to the culture bed area and threw open the door. It was worse than disaster, it was ruin. The arid mineral-saturated sand was a shambles, crystal trees shattered and leaning in all directions. All the seed cores were dark. The crystalline growth process had halted. The half-grown gemstones were junk. All junk. He'd have to start the culture all over with new seed stones. It hurt to look at the ruin. Four years effort . . . dust.
Margret hovered beside him. "I found homes for two of the kittens in the city. One ran away, and another got caught in the wind turbine and was killed. Sam took the others for a tramper that was shipping out and needing mousers. Only Becky's left. No one wanted a cat that old. But she didn't do this. It was the young ones. The boys tried to keep them out, really they did, but you know how inquisitive kittens are. To their minds the crystals were just pretty toys."
- Aliens stop dad from getting rid of cat.
The feline was crouched deep within the rear of the box when he opened the door. She tensed as he grabbed her, flaying the back of his hands with her claws. But he was the stronger and the more determined and the pain of her frantic tearing only made him feel more justified in his rage against her. Let her sing her death song loud and spit as much as she wanted. He raised her again and prepared to throw her out into the abyss. The wind gusted, tossing his hair in his face. Toward the south a star died in a long streamer of flame that ended behind dark, time-worn mountains. That was where the alien ships had been found rusting, buried to their bows in sand, the immense space coursing relics of an ancient civilization long forgotten. Wright hesitated again as a thought struck him like a bolt of ice. The elder had liked this cat. There had been respect between them. The alien would not approve of this death. Whether it be a silicon fabrication or not, the elder had certainly valued all things living, and this creature particularly, although for what reason Wright still did not understand. He lowered the cat slowly now, his options diminished. The beast was his for good, he was stuck with it. Disgustedly he replaced the growling cat in the box and carried it glumly back to the four track. Muttering incoherently, angry and at the same time saddened, Wright climbed up behind the wheel. Perhaps someone in the village would want . . .