Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Feline times five - Part 4

So the saga of Cali and her four rambunctious kittens continued.  Cali herself was fitting in nicely with the rest of the household, and had particularly bonded with Merlin, another stray my wife had brought over from her previous home.  The kittens were well on their way to being socialized, and were growing up to be very active and sassy.  There were times I was afraid I'd open the door to the guest room and find a smoking crater where it once was with these innocent looking furry faces looking at me with an, "I don't know what happened" expression.

The plan was to get them spayed and neutered, then try to find good homes for them.  What's that phrase, "The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, Gang aft agley" which loosely translated means, "What can go wrong will go wrong."   Step one was waiting until the youngsters were old enough to be snipped.  Since they were rapidly outgrowing the guest room, we moved them to the exercise room which is considerably larger.  I then decided to take advantage of AAR's low cost vaccinations and get them in for their shots.  I decided to take two at a time, so first up was the female and one of the gingers.  By this time, the kittens were starting to get names.  The female was Abby, and the ginger on his way to AAR was Rajah. 

I got them into carriers and carted them off.  At AAR, I first took out Rajah's carrier.  This is a hard sided carrier with a metal barred door, which promptly popped open due to a before unnoticed defective latch.  Rajah took off like a shot across the parking lot, and I had a sick feeling he'd never be seen again and would meet a horrible fate.  I left Abby in the car, then took off to see if by some miracle Rajah could be found.  Fortunately, for some reason he was trying to burrow under the chain link fence to the section where AAR kept their animals.  I was able to grab him, and pull him out, then got him back in the carrier, and this time I got the latch to stay put.  Of course this was after in his frantic state his claws had removed impressive amounts of skin from my arms.

A couple months passed, the kittens kept playing and growing, though fortunately it looked like they would be petite like their mom.  The idea of four more behemoths like Merlin was not attractive considering the food bill alone would require robbing a bank at least once a month.  I then was concerned since Cali got pregnant at such a young age, Abby could be next if one of her brothers started physically maturing also at a young age.  So I took her in to be spayed.

Another month, then the next fateful day.  The boys were to be snipped.  By this time all had names.  The second ginger became Rusty, and since the black and white was the entertaining clown of the group, he was christened Jester.  I gathered them up, got them into carriers with doors that I made sure latched, and carted them off to AAR.  Several hours later, I retrieved three groggy kittens who were wondering why they were meowing in soprano.

By this time, efforts to adopt them out were not working.  No neighbors or friends could take them, and an ad in an online pet adoption service only received a reply from a buncher.  These are people who buy animals, or take those who are "free to good homes," then turn around and sell them to labs for testing.  I was sorely tempted to arrange a meeting with this person, then call on my martial arts training to show him the errors of his ways.

So the perpetual question of what to do with them all was answering itself.  We would have to resign ourselves to having twelve cats.  After the boys had recovered from neutering, I opened the door to the exercise room, and let them make tentative peeks outside.  Finally they got bold and left to explore, led as usual by Jester.  Cali wasn't sure what to make of this, since she probably thought her job raising them was done.  As for the older cats?  They gave the youngsters sniffs, then meandered off to eat and nap. 

As time passed, fears of the youngsters being disruptive turned out to be the exact opposite.  Probably because they only had each other for company for three months, and were spayed and neutered before adult behavior kicked in, they continued to get along perfectly.  They slept together, romped together, and never hissed or spit.  Household peace and quiet was another matter.  You could almost set your watch, and place your bets, every morning at 7 and 11 AM on the races between Jester, Rajah and Rusty.  They would tear the length of the house, and sometimes literally bounced off walls to change direction.  The much more lethargic older cats would look up, wonder what had gotten into the youngsters, and hope they would stop soon so the elders could go back to sleep.

Now, a year later, we've decided it was Fate that Cali and her kittens came into our lives.  They are constantly entertaining, and they have had a mellowing effect on their elders, who had been prone to nasty fights on occasion.  Plus they are very affectionate, and seem grateful for the chance they were given.  As Sam Gamgee's dad said in The Lord Of The Rings, "All's well that ends better."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Feline times Five - Part 3

So the good news is Cali and her brood were indoors safe and sound.  This was my first experience with ferals, but fortunately the good folks at Tomball AAR and another rescue group, Tomball Save Our Strays, (TSOS), were invaluable with sound advice.  The most important was to try to socialize everyone for potential adoption. Isolating them from the rest of our cats, (who surprisingly showed little interest beyond cursory sniffs at the door to the guest room then sauntering off in disinterest), was the first step.  Next was getting Cali spayed.  All of our other cats had been spayed and neutered, so there wasn't any danger of her having another litter.  However, spaying does have benefits with a cat's behavior such as making them calmer and there are many health benefits.

This did mean removing Cali from her kittens.  Since they were about twelve weeks old and weaned, they were old enough to be on their own.  So I took her to the workout room, and set it up so she'd be comfortable.  I did feel bad, because she had been starting to trust us, then all of a sudden was trapped in the crate, then a couple days later taken away from her babies.  But she had to be isolated since she was still producing milk, and couldn't be spayed until her supply dried up.  That would take a week, during which we spent as much time with her as possible.  After a while she started showing more affection, so the trust was starting to come back.

In the meantime, we bought a tall kitty condo for the kittens.  They sniffed around it, then quickly started climbing all over.  The black and white one was the most active, and soon lead the others in high dives from the top of the condo to the bed in the guest room.  I swear I heard him going, "Banzai!" several times.  As for socializing the kittens, I was told the best way was to spend time with them, but don't approach them. When they were ready, they would approach.  So I would sit against a wall watching them watching me.  I would hold a hand out, which would get tentative sniffs, but they still stayed out of reach.

What broke the ice were shoelaces.  We had determined we had three males and one female.  The female was the first to be curious about my shoelaces.  Finally, she grabbed the end of one in her mouth and started tugging.  After a couple days, the others also thought this was great fun.  At one point I had a kitten pulling on each shoelace end in different directions.  While they were doing this, I would hold pieces of tuna out, which after some wary sniffs, they started accepting.  From there, they started accepting head scratches, and within a week started purring while starting to rub up against us.

In the meantime, Cali was spayed, and after a few days to recover, we decided to introduce her to the other cats in the household.  This was done by simply leaving the door to the workout room open.  Still the older cats pretty much ignored her, with one exception.  Merlin, who had been a stray himself, sauntered in.  It was interesting watching the interaction between him and Cali.  Despite being a mom, Cali rolled over in a submissive position, while Merlin would growl and hiss.  That actually established their relationship, and afterward the two became inseparable.  It was something seeing them together because of the size difference.  Cali is a petite eight pounder, while Merlin is a hulking twenty-five pounds at least.

Poor Merlin had been pretty much ignored by the other cats, so it was heartwarming he finally had a companion.  So at least things were going well with Cali, and the decision was made to keep her.

As for the kittens, the hope was still to foster them for adoption, but Fate had something else in mind.

To be continued...