This was not my plan, of course. Kittens? Another stray cat? We’ve had ten come to our home in the past eleven years. Some of them were old when they came to us, and they died. Some grew ill and had to be gently eased out of life to stop their suffering. Some were feral cats we tamed, but they still refused to come inside for long, so they were taken by coyotes. Our 11-year-old, very tame, very loving cat, Data, is NOT interested in sharing us with anyone since he now has us all to himself. It’s nice to be loved, and he effectively puts a stop to our having a house that always seemed filled with cats, as we had before we moved here to the wild, wild west.
When a frightened, hungry, needy young stray ginger tabby came to our front door begging a few weeks ago, I didn’t have the heart to turn her away. Data did. He tried very hard to let her know he didn’t want her here. I had hoped she belonged to one of the neighbors, but that was not to be. I asked them all.
So I fed the young cat–well under a year old–outside, simply because she was hungry. Then she started gaining weight. Did it occur to me that she was eating for five? NO! I only suspected someone else might be feeding her. That is, until Mel filled a box with towels and put it in the garage for her to sleep one night so she wouldn’t freeze in the below-freezing temperatures. It didn’t even occur to us that this was how we ended up with so many other cats when we lived in Missouri.
And then one morning, two Thursdays ago, ten minutes after Mel left for work, I walked out into the garage to see if our visitor was ready to go outside, and got the shock of my life to see three wet, golden babies in the box with our terrified little stray mother. I don’t think she knew where they came from or why they were there. Of course I didn’t think to take a picture of her wide and terrified eyes.
I ran back inside the house and called Mel. I left a message on his cell. “Honey, d-d-did you….uh….did you see…uh…Honey, there are babies! B-b-baby kittens!” He still has that voice mail on his phone. He listens to it when he needs a laugh.
When I returned to the garage, there was a fourth kitten. Now, why hadn’t I stayed out there to help her? But they had been licked dry, so instinct obviously took over. Three of the babies had markings like their mother (whom we now call Prancy because she prances with her front feet when she’s nervous–or maybe she’s trying to charm us into letting her stay.) One of the kittens, the girl, has Siamese markings. She’s going to be very hard to resist. Actually, all of them are.
Today the little ones and their mother are at the vet’s office. Here in cattle country there’s not a lot of time to spend on stray cats, so I just took them in and left them so the vet can get to them when he’s not tagging or vaccinating or helping brand thousands of head of cattle.
For the past few days I’ve been concerned that the kittens were getting sick because they sneezed when I picked them up. Today I was told at the vet’s office that they aren’t sneezing, they’re spitting and trying to hiss. Yes, the ingrates. Even with their eyes closed, they have been learning to protect themselves. Now their eyes are open, and they’re even more difficult to resist.
I should have known they were spitting, not sneezing, because it’s the same kind of sound I’ve heard Data make when Prancy first tried to come into the house. He still makes that same sound. It wasn’t the sound he made when he first saw one of the kittens. He tucked his tail and ran under the bed. Really? He caught a rat bigger than this little kitten a couple of weeks ago, and he’s afraid of a helpless baby?
Sorry the picture here is so blurry, but you try holding a baby still long enough to snap a still shot of it. Maybe Angie Hunt, photographer, writer, and friend, could do it, but not Mel and me.
These little babies will stay with their mother in our garage until they’re weaned and we can find homes for them. I will insist on the boys (three of them) being neutered, and the Siamese-looking female being spayed as soon as possible. Prancy will be spayed as soon as her kittens are weaned. No more of this kind of trauma for her. It will be a huge relief for everyone.
WARNING, some preaching here: I have always been very disappointed by the number of stray cats in the world because they’re dumped, unwanted, at the end of a road, where the dumper seems to believe a good, country farmhouse might need a cat. Or maybe they just don’t care because they think “Out of sight, out of mind.” Then those poor cats become feral–and who can blame them when they’ve been left to fend for themselves in a strange place? And of course, nature takes over and they mate and have babies and the feral population grows until coyotes or other dangers pick the off, one by one. But even that never cuts back on the feral population.
I’ve always immediately neutered or spayed any stray cat who came to us, even if I had to use a live trap. I want our little ones to never experience the trials of mating or fighting over a mate, the terrors of giving birth, the damage caused by fighting. You can always tell if a cat has been in the wild for a while because there’s usually a notch in an ear–this happens in fights. Prancy has a notch, young as she is. Many of our other strays had those notches.
I want these kittens in our garage, including Prancy, to have loving homes, so I will love on them and help Prancy teach them how to behave properly inside. The mama cat naturally teaches the babies how to use a litter box, even the stray, feral ones, so they’re naturally housebroken. I know this from experience.
The reason we will find good homes for these five? Because of this cat, Data. Cats are excellent mousers, and after recently being told by neighbors that they’ve set out live traps and trapped 20 to 30 mice a DAY around their homes, I’ve seen very little mouse activity here, and that’s because cats take care of that problem for us. I believe their scent frightens mice away. This picture of Data might make him look lazy, but don’t underestimate him. A few weeks ago this fifteen-pounder went outside and lovingly brought us a rat almost as big as he was. He’s our terminator. We want to keep him happy, and he isn’t happy when another cat is receiving too much of our attention. If you live in our area (Nebraska Panhandle) and need to keep mice out of the house, I’ve got just what you need: Tame young cats who can grow up in your home and become wonderful companions. I’ve read that I should sell them, because free cats are not considered valuable. Plus, I’m investing a lot of money into caring for these little ones. But all the cats we’ve ever had were rescued strays from the streets, and I always valued them. I think the price would be a loving home.
However, to keep the mice out of the house, you will need to keep the cat IN the house. All you need is a scratching post or two so they’ll avoid the furniture, a claw trimmer so they can get affectionate without damage to skin, and dry food so their teeth will remain clean. Oh, yeah, and a litter box that you can empty once a day–it isn’t difficult with the right litter that is dust-free and clumps. These young cats will become very loving company for you if you want them to. Or they could just stay out of the way and keep the mice at bay. It’s up to you.
After what I’ve seen of the mouse and rat population in this area, I think I’ll always have a cat around, but I just hope Data, who was our youngest rescue kitten eleven years ago, will live at least twenty years.
Oh, yeah, I’ve been told that the huge ranches around here are always looking for cats for the feedlot to keep the mice away, but because of the coyote population, these cats might not last more than a week or two. I don’t plan to invest time and love and energy on taming these kittens just so some coyote can eat them. I want them inside homes where they’ll be loved and safe. Take a chance. Take a kitten. See how the company of a cat can change your life as our cats over the years have changed ours.