Thursday, 5 April 2007

It all started with two kittens....

I saw a post on Blogher by Birdie Jaworski about her mistake in guessing the genders of two flea market bunnies. More bunnies!! She asked for more stories of unintentional pets.

Unintentional pets...I like that term! And I've had them...OK, Birdie, here is my story.

For me, it started with two tiny kitten rescued from under a neighbor's wooden porch in rural Pennsylvania. It was early November and the nights were getting cold. My neighbor heard them, saw the mom cat climbing down through a hole on the far side of the porch, and decided that they would freeze to death if we did not rescue them.

As soon as we came into his yard, the mother cat took off. Armed with tuna and milk, we sat out there -- 3 adults, and every kid in the neighborhood. In our rural community, kittens were hardly novel, but still child had to take a turn trying to lure those tiny bundles of fur out from under the porch.

We finally got them all out, distributing them to neighbor families to take home. One family even adopted the mom cat. My kids and I took two...we guessed at genders and named one Maxine and one Max...and headed home to introduce our new family members to Black Cat, our aged somewhat battered cat rescued years before from an Alberston's parking lot in Salt Lake City.

We needed more cats anyhow, we reasoned. Our two acres and three buildings were home to more small fuzzy beasts than I cared to contemplate, and one aging feline just wasn't enough. I had already ruled out poisons, so cats were the only way to control the burgeoning rodent population. You live in the country, you need cats. Even a city girl like me could see that.

What a city girl did not know was the problem.

  1. I cannot really tell the gender of kittens. I can only guess. Badly. Thus when we let "Max" sometimes go outside and kept "Maxine" inside, we actually sending an unspade girl kitty outside. (When we finally realized our mistake, it was too late...Max stayed Max despite our discovery, but Maxine became Maxim.) Thus the first batch of kittens arrived. We found homes for them. Money was tight so surgery was not an option yet.

  2. Cats have no qualms about incest. Who knew? Certainly not me! Thus even after we discovered our error and kept both cats indoors, we acquired more "unintentional pets." Litter number two. We found homes for the kittens and made appointments for both cats to get fixed. Maxim kept his appointment.

  3. Cats are escape artists. They can get out an attic vent or a slightly opened window you think is much too small for a mouse. Or any number of other openings one finds in a 227 year old farmhouse. We found Max 2 days later (how did she know about the appointment?) The vet informed us she was once again expecting. I cannot kill babies of any kind. Litter number three....

There were others. Cats who came from ours, and cats who joined us from other places. After awhile, you lose track of just how many kittens there were...

The budget was never there to fix most of the remaining cats. We found good homes for most of them on neighboring farms. And we loved the ones who remained with us..Yoda, Charlie, Nancy Drew, Iago, Shippo, to name a few. Unintentional pets to be sure but loved none the less.

Our property remained rodent free. The outdoor cats lived in the barn and grew fat, with beautiful shiny coats from their diet of Pennsylvania mice and voles. The indoor ones lived in luxury, sleeping with the children and feasting on Iams and Science Diet or napping with Misha, my Siberian Husky on chilly winter days. Black Cat lived to be almost 16, a wise uncle to the newer cats.

We lived in that farmhouse for almost a decade. When we left in April of 2006, we found homes for all of our indoor and outdoor cats. We cried when we left Maxim behind, our now giant orange cat, who was adopted by the house's new owners as the Bed and Breakfast's mascot.

Unintentional? Yes, though I prefer to say serediptious.... Unloved? Never!

1 comment:

Birdie said...

What a beautiful story, Lindsay! I'm so glad you shared it. Those cats were well-loved by you, and they did exactly what cats do - kept your property properly rodent free.

Cats have a surreal elegance to them. The way they move is almost too perfect, too poetic. Your yard must have been poetry in motion.