If you know much about my life the past few years, you know I’ve become a cat magnet. Cats just show up at my back door.
Sometimes they’re mama cats who bring kittens.
A mama cat showed up mid-April. I could tell that she was nursing kittens somewhere, but I never saw any evidence of them. Not for a whole month. Not until two days before I was going out of town for 10 days.
I got up that Friday, and when I looked out the back door to the porch, there was mama cat. And two gray tuxedo kittens. They were much older than the kittens the last stray cat brought a couple of years ago.
“Well, ” I thought, “At least it’s only two.”
I walked out on the porch, and to my surprise the kittens didn’t run. I thought they’d not been around any humans, but hey, maybe they had. When I walked toward them, one scampered out the cat opening in the screen door. But the other just sat and looked at me. So I bent over and picked her up.
She bit me.
So, of course, I put her right down, and she ran off the porch.
I’d been right initially. They were NOT used to people!
About an hour later, I looked out and saw a calico kitten. Okay, so not just two.
I thought, “At least there are only three.”
Thirty minutes later, I looked out and saw a white-colored flash on the porch. It escaped to the deck, and when I went out to check, yep, another kitten.
“Well,” I thought, “at least there are only four.”
It turned out there were only four. A friend came and caught the calico and the white one before I left town and had them placed in families before I returned. But she couldn’t catch the gray ones – even though she tried.
They had gotten used to my porch and deck as their home. So I was the intruder when I returned from my trip. The little boogers were so quick, I knew catching them would be a challenge. I’d have to do some outwitting. And that involved letting them see me around, being nonthreatening, putting out food for them and the adult cats (of which there were five, counting their mama – all strays who showed up at my house over a period of just over two years).
The mama cat wheezed pretty badly some days, and I knew she was sick – and that likely the kittens were sick. I couldn’t get close enough to tell if they looked sick, except for when they came on the porch. Some days I didn’t see them at all. The neighbor kids next door offered their cat-wrangling help – they caught the stray kittens who showed up two years ago – but these kittens were older and savvier and eluded my neighbors’ grasp.
After a while, I noticed that one kitten had very crusty eyes and looked sick. I needed to catch them soon. I put a cat carrier on the porch and started putting tuna in it, hoping that one day I might be able to sneak out and catch the kittens in the carrier when they went in to eat.
But it turned out to be even easier than that. I think because one of the kittens was so sick with upper respiratory gunk, she didn’t hear me open the door even though she was right next to it watching one of the adult cats.
This time I was ready for her. I had my leather yard gloves handy. I slipped them on, threw open the door, and grabbed her.
She scratched and bit, but the gloves protected my hands. I plunked her in the carrier and brought her inside to my hall bathroom. The amazing thing is that she cowered in the back of the carrier instead of fighting. I reached in and brought her out, wrapped her in a towel, and held her. She settled immediately.
Her fear went from scratching and clawing and biting for all she was worth – to quietly cowering.
I held her for a while that night before putting her back in the carrier with a towel for the night. The next morning, I took her out and held her. She was very sweet. And very sick.
So off to the vet we went.
I came back with antibiotic eye salve and oral liquid, enough for both kittens (yeah, I still had the other one to catch, and odds were that he was sick, too). Eye salve administration was three times a day, oral liquid every 12 hours. She didn’t much care for the liquid and tried to push me away with her little paws, but she didn’t mind the eye salve. Her congestion was terrible. She’d stretch her head way up. My guess was that her throat was pretty sore.
A couple of days later, I caught her brother. He’d been the most skittish one of the litter. Somehow I managed to trap him on the porch. I covered his escape route with a box, and when he made a dash for it, he was confused just long enough for me to grab him (with my leather gloves) and plunk him into the carrier as he scratched and clawed (he wasn’t a biter).
I went through the same process as with his sister to begin socialization, and the next morning I started him on the antibiotic regimen.
I’d hold each of them at least three times during the day and evening. The boy was typically squirmier, but sometimes he’d relax and fall asleep in my lap. He got well faster because he was less sick. It took the little girl about 10 days.
And, eventually, someone did take them both.
But before they left, they had taught me some lessons.
They taught me that things that seem scary – things that I might scratch and claw to avoid – can actually be good for me. Those things might actually involve healing and more security and even love – maybe not my mama’s love, but love nonetheless.
They taught me that gentleness is important. Power can be good, but gentleness often works much better.
They taught me that great change can happen in just two or three weeks. That what I know can shift by 180 degrees overnight, and that I can adjust.
They taught me that exploration can be messy. That overturned garbage cans, askew blinds, toppled stacks of papers can be fun.
But I guess most of all they taught me that my typical nature, one that’s not particularly nurturing, can be modified by a couple of kittens.
They weaseled their way into my heart for a few weeks, and they taught me some lessons about gentleness and love.
And then they moved on to spread their love in a new home.
I’m glad for the kitten lessons. They taught me some things I needed to consider, that I need to bring into my life now.
But I’m hoping these are the last kittens and kitten lessons . . . at least for a while!