Feral Children

You’ve heard of my neighbor Judith before—Norse Goddess of Snowshoeing Judith? That’s right. She owns a bookstore down in Kent. She’s my friend as well as my neighbor, and we have adventures.

For example, Sunday night we started a new joint venture. I’m going to spare you a lot of the details (and y’all can celebrate that later), but we ended up on the side of the road, down by one of the local parks, with a flashlight and a live animal trap. That night we caught us three feral kittens (about 8 weeks old). We brought them home and set them up with a potty box and food in Judith’s spare room. The next day I bought kitten milk replacement at the local feed store and we started pumping kitty milk into them. They got used to being handled pretty quickly. That night we returned to the park, hoping to get their mother and the other two kittens we’d left behind.

At the park, we encountered a couple who were initially horrified at what we were doing. It turns out they had been feeding the mom cat since she was born last summer. They didn’t have the resources to bring her home or get her spayed, but they made sure she always had food. In other words, they had a very proprietary attitude about the cat they called “Pink Nose” and her kittens, and they were shocked at the way we barged in with our plan to take them all away. To their credit, however, they soon realized that what we were offering was certainly a better option than life within 8 feet of a busy road, where the cats would be vulnerable to coyotes, dogs, raccoons, teenaged sadists, and the climate. We talked for a long time, and they actually picked up the mom cat (she would have never let Judith and me handle her) and put her into one of our carriers for us.

We all went back to the stump that served as the cat family’s home base to see about the kittens. We spotted them on the top of a stump where they could remain behind the protection of blackberry brambles just out of our reach. But there weren’t two of them. There were four.

That poor little 10-month-old cat had produced a litter of seven kittens before her first birthday. Amazing.

Since the kittens were not cooperating, we took mom-cat home and put her in with the kittens we caught Sunday. She jumped onto the windowsill and refused to come down to tend her babies. On the other hand, she didn’t attack them either (which would have been a possibility under the circumstances), so we left them alone to get reacquainted.

The next morning, Judith and I were back at the park with our trap. Unfortunately, the remaining kittens had already seen the trap in action and would not go anywhere near it. We decided the best thing to do would be to cut back the vines and try to remove the kittens from the stump by hand. Judith put on her long, leather, rose-pruning gloves and went to work. The aging stump had hollows and holes—it was quite a puzzle box—and the kittens might be in any of several nooks and crannies. Once we had the blackberries under control, plucking out the kittens was actually fairly easy. They were too weak to make a run for it or to put up much resistance as Judith pulled them out by the scruffs of their necks. We caught three of them, but we never saw any sign of the last kitten. We went back later that day—twice—and never saw any sign of her. We went back on Wednesday too. And Thursday. We had no choice but to tell ourselves that rescuing seven out of eight cats was still a very good score—it would have been nice to get them all, but probably not very realistic. We started getting the second batch of kittens caught up with the first (weight-wise), and encouraging the mom cat to relax.

Last night I had several urgent messages from the couple who had helped up capture the mom cat. They were still checking on the strays that populate the park, and they had spotted the last kitten. It was still living in the stump. Crying. Wanting her mom. The couple asked us to please, please get this kitten too.

I wasn’t sure how we were going to accomplish this. I was glad to hear that Kitten 7 was still alive, but it’s not like we hadn’t been trying. Still, at least we knew now that she was still there somewhere. Jay (my son) and I packed up our cat supplies and made yet another trip down to the stump.

Once again, we saw no sign of Kitten 7 whatsoever. I kept poking around though, knowing she had to be in there somewhere. Finally I stopped cutting brambles and stood quietly, trying to think of something new that we could try. I looked at my boy and held my finger to my lips, “Shhhh.” He nodded and waited patiently. I turned back to the stump and meowed. I meowed just like the woman who captured the mom had meowed to that cat. And darned if, from the stump, I didn’t hear a mew in reply! I kept meowing, and the kitten kept answering until I could tell exactly where she was hidden in the stump. I started clearing the brambles from that area and, as I was pulling them away, Kitten 7 decided to make a break for it. She popped up right into my hand. I grabbed her and popped her into the box that Jay had at the ready. And kids, you’ve never seen a happier reunion than when Jay and I reunited that final kitten with her mom and littermates at Judith’s house. I can’t believe we did it. All eight family members accounted for and thriving!

So far, we already have homes lined up for three kittens and the mom. Four adorable kittens to go. And they make us feel so good!

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anonymous
    Jul 19, 2008 @ 03:26:00

    What a beautiful story!I admire you! Good to know that there are people like you.I wish you success with finding a home for the kittens!Francine

    Reply

  2. Danger Panda
    Jul 19, 2008 @ 09:27:00

    Thanks, Francine, and thanks for stopping by. We are hoping to find good homes soon, but not too soon–there's nothing like a room full of unsteady kittens staggering around and batting at each other good naturedly to lighten up the day.

    Reply

  3. Margaret
    Jul 19, 2008 @ 10:37:00

    What a wonderful thing you did to rescue those kittens! They are beautiful. I would want one except that we already have a stray we take care of, as well as our regular cat. (I'm not quite old enough to turn into one of those eccentric cat ladies)

    Reply

  4. Big Dave T
    Jul 19, 2008 @ 12:02:00

    Ironically I just read a blog recently about feral cats in Israel. They survive quite well outside the home. I'm not sure what natural enemies they have there in the Middle East. The Israelis on the other hand . . . Looks like I have to change my bookmark. I clicked on DangerPanda.com and got some social networking site that tried to spam me. Zounds!

    Reply

  5. Danger Panda
    Jul 19, 2008 @ 12:52:00

    Margaret, Let me know if you change your mind! Dave, yeah, I didn't renew my old site. I'm not a big fan of Blogger, but I decided I would post here until I decide if I want to carry on with my own site or not.

    Reply

  6. OldHorsetailSnake
    Jul 20, 2008 @ 12:36:00

    Well, ain't you just the one. Nice work, Kristy. Very nice.

    Reply

  7. Danger Panda
    Jul 20, 2008 @ 13:14:00

    Thanks, Hoss. Starting to look like this is just the beginning of the work with these kittens. Want one?

    Reply

  8. JoJo
    Jul 20, 2008 @ 15:08:00

    Awwwww!!!! What a sweet story! And the kitties are adorable!

    Reply

  9. Professor J
    Jul 20, 2008 @ 17:14:00

    You're a good woman. Thanks for taking care of the cats.

    Reply

  10. Jen
    Jul 21, 2008 @ 05:48:00

    Good on ya, Kristy. And I can just see you and Judith picking through the brambles for feral kitties. Awesome.

    Reply

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