A Natural History of the Sycamore Street Feline Herd (or Horde) —
Many of the ever-changing feline population I merely note the presence of: the black one with the collar, the kind of pretty white-fronted tabby, the long-haired ratty-looking one, the huge part-Siamese tom. But I have had a continuing relationship with one line.
Two years ago in early April, my three-year-old nephew went crawling under the back deck (NOT a salubrious environment) and discovered a litter of little kittens, eyes just open. We began feeding mom, and the kittens when they were a bit bigger. Mom was quickly named Zap, after Zap the cat in Lois Bujold's Memory
(if you haven't read it, DO!) Zap would growl and hiss and scratch fingers and purr and dig into her food simultaneously, and so would our Zap.
We were able to pet and handle the kittens to some extent, especially the long-haired creamy one and the pretty little one with the Egyptian-kohl eyelines, that we called Tut. I considered trying to catch and socialize the lot of them, but with my bedfast mother and a house full of caregivers, hospice workers, etc., I couldn't quite see my way. And then one day Zap led them all off somewhere, and I didn't see them for months, and they were wild.
Last year I would see them occasionally. The big beautiful creamy long-haired male, who never got any name more dignified than Fluffytail, was around for a while, but I suspect he has succumbed to the perils of fighting for his status. All three white-with -spots ones turned out to be female, in spite of their optimistic names of Tut, Sam, and Pierre. (I had actually examined Tut, as a little kitten, and thought she was male. Oops.)
Last October my cousin found two scrawny little flea-bitten, anemic kittens in the sunshine just under the edge of the deck. We were on the point of leaving for Houston, but we took the time to take them to the vet. Turned out they were free of disease, and she got rid of the worms and fleas and fed them up, so when I got back to town I got two adorable healthy (expensive) kittens, Agate and Alabaster.
Agate was the runt for weeks, Alabaster would just push in before him to gobble all the food. But his tom-cat genes eventually kicked in. She's a neat little 7.5 pound almost-grown-up white kitty now (with tabby leg-warmers on her back legs), and he's developing into a big, beautiful, hunky male
(NOT an intact tom) at 9 pounds so far. I do my best to keep them inside, though if I get to move back out to the country, I'll let them be outside-in-the-day cats.
Meanwhile, back out in the back yard . . .
I have been feeding Lola, the muckledy-tortoise-shell spayed female abandoned by one of my tenants. The problem with feeding her is that she doesn't have the self-confidence or the standing in the pecking order to defend her food, and so I am really feeding the neighborhood. I don't want to do this; I can't feed ALL the feral cats in the UNT vicinity. But in March or so, when an obviously pregnant Tut showed up willing to get close to me for some food, I obliged. (She had been around, pregnant, before, though not coming so close. I think Agate and Alabaster are hers, but she might be their aunt.)
This spring she would let me scratch her ears as she ate, or even skritch all the way down her back. I began to envision catching her and confining her before she delivered, and getting her spayed after. But I still wasn't sure how to go about it, though Isabel is gone now and I have the whole house to myself.
Well, February and early March went by. She got fatter, and fatter, and fatter. Every now and then she wouldn't show up for a day or two, and I would think she had disappeared to have them, and I had lost my chance. Then she would be back, even more like a volley ball. I did get the unused plastic trash can washed out, and some wadded up newspaper in it. She disappeared again.
Then to my amazement she showed up again, STILL pregnant, on March 16. So I fed her, and as she was eating, I just picked her up under the front legs and popped her into the can. She didn't even wriggle, much less scratch. I brought her into the house, cleaned everything off the floor and shelves of the main bathroom, and installed her, with food and a nice box of rags, and later that day a litterbox. She was SO pregnant, she just settled down in that box and pretty well stayed there all the time. She did fortunately have no problem adapting to the litter box. I had the little bathroom hall blocked off, but she never even tried to leave the room when I'd bring in food. I think she knew a good thing when she found it. Warm, dry, no other cats to fight, food all the time . . .
Well, she got fatter, and fatter, and fatter, and FATTER. And she developed first one, then three, and four, and five bare spots in her fur, where she evidently just licked her aching back till all the fur came out. In her trip to the vet on March 19 she proved amazingly healthy. No FIV or leukemia, thank goodness, not even any worms. Just hungry and FAT.
13 days later she finally had a litter of five. I posted this
to ICHC. One has been kind of a runt, and I have given her some extra feedings. She's doing OK.
They're all bouncing around now in their bathroom and the little hall. They are just four weeks old today. Pretty soon they'll be over the barricade in the doorway, and then I'm really going to be overrun. Explosion of cute! I think I better go take some more pictures and get them up on Craigslist. I really don't think I can have eight cats!
So that's the current state of the feline world here on Sycamore Street.
(I'll get back to this this evening to put in the rest of the pics, and to change out what I have for the screen-sized ones instead of these huge ones. oops)