Thursday, October 27, 2011

Feline times five - Part1

We have cats in the house.  Lots of cats. Seven to be precise, all part of a package deal when I re-married four years ago.  For the most part they are pretty mellow, though there have been times of flying fur when for no apparent reason a couple would get into it.  Seven is considered to be plenty of cats.  Fortunately the house is fairly large so it doesn't feel overrun by them.  Still, it was a major decision to add even more last Summer.

The circumstances were quite unexpected.  The process we went through was educational, stressful at times, but in the end very rewarding for all.  It began one afternoon when my wife noticed a scraggly mostly white cat, no more than a half grown kitten, wandering in the backyard.  Since one of our pleasures is making the backyard a habitat for birds, the last thing we wanted was a feral stray thinking it had just stumbled on a buffet with feathers.  So we chased it out, while hoping it belonged to someone down the road and would amble back to where it came from.

No such luck.  The cat returned a day later and was chased out again.  On its third appearance, I felt it was either feral, lost, or abandoned, and took pity on it.  So I left out some food and water on the back porch, which the cat consumed with vigor.  I figured if it knew food was available, it would leave the birds alone.  This went on for several days, and it soon became apparent the cat was not afraid of people.  This ended the idea it was feral, and was more likely either lost or abandoned.

I contacted a local animal rescue group, and first found out the cat was a Dilute Calico.  It was mostly white, with Calico markings on its head, feet and tail.  I posted an ad on the Internet about a lost cat, but no one replied.  By this time the cat was getting friendlier, and started rubbing against the legs of whoever was providing food.  We also determined it was female, and starting calling her Cali, short for Calico.  Yeah, I know, not too original.  I figured when she wasn't in our yard, or resting under a lawn chair on the porch, she was staying in a thicket next door.  But despite all the food, she was still painfully thin.  The reason became apparent a couple weeks later.

I was out back, and spotted to the side of the house three kittens, one ginger, one tabby and one black and white.  They were hanging around the air conditioner, but scattered under the fence to get to the thicket when I approached.  The reason they were by the ac unit was a partially consumed bird had been stashed there.  I guessed the kittens were no more than seven weeks old and not old enough to be hunting.  But where was the mother?  Cali looked way too young. 

Before going back into the house, I glanced at the gate, and saw the black and white had lodged himself underneath.  I helped him out, and he ran towards the thicket, then stopped and flattened himself on the ground.  But despite being feral, he still let me pick him up and pet him for a few seconds.  However, there was another issue.  Cali on her own was ok, and we were thinking of making her an outside cat.  But the kittens were another matter.  I called my wife at work and said, "We have a problem." 

A couple days later, I looked into the thicket, and found another problem, and an answer for who the mother cat was.  The problem was a second ginger kitten, so now they were up to four.  As to the mother?  Two of the kittens were being nursed by Cali.  She was the equivalent of a teen mom, tossed out by her owner to fend for herself and raise the kittens.  That explained her thinness, since anything she ate was being used to provide milk for the kittens.  However, it was also clear that the kittens were being weaned.  Unfortunately, Cali's idea of solid food for them was still birds.

Fortunately for the bird population of Tomball, that was about to change.  For another week, while Cali spent a lot of time in our yard, the kittens stayed in the thicket.  It was ideal habitat since the brush and scrub trees were so close together predators such as coyotes would have a rough time getting in, and hawks and owls would not see anything.  Plus the landscapers in the neighborhood had piled up trimmed tree branches over a depression in the ground so it made a den big enough for all the cats.

One afternoon, after I set some food out for Cali, she faced the thicket and made this chirping sound.  A minute later, this furry train of the four kittens came under the fence and made a beeline to the porch.  We promptly got more food dishes out, and the kittens had a feast.  So all were being provided for, but the big problem remained, what to do with all of them as a permanent solution?

See part two for that gripping tale.

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