Saturday, February 22, 2014

Momma Kitty

This morning, Momma Kitty and I shared some swing time and sunshine.  Seldom, if ever, can I spend time with her that I don't think back to the day I first spotted her and her kittens.  That was posted in another blog a few years back, so, in honor of Momma Kitty, who is one stalwart feline, I want to re-blog those two posts here.

Trunk Kittens - Part I

Country roads tend to bring the best and the worst out in people. A late June day in 2006 characterized that. Geri and I were leaving the farm after a relaxing afternoon of enjoying the pastures, woods, and river and had traveled only a mile down our country road when we came upon a light colored Camry, parked in the middle of the gravel lane. It was just getting dusky dark and we were in a heavily shaded area, so detail was difficult. However, we could see one person in the passenger seat while the driver, an older man with longer, tussled grey hair, was heaving items from the trunk onto the roadside. It isn't unusual to see garbage suddenly appear on the side of a country road. Tons of people out there breathing our air believe burdening the pristine countryside with their empty milk cartons, eggshells, and cigarette butts is perfectly acceptable. It's unusual to catch someone in the act, however, and we prepared ourselves to invite them to retrieve their garbage and be on their way. Funny thing though: as soon as what the man was heaving from the trunk landed on the roadside, it rolled, shook, and scampered off into the overgrowth. We saw the last of the kittens and the mother cat being tossed out unceremoniously just as the piece of worthless nothing spotted us. He hurried back to the drivers side, opened the door, and sped off in a spattering of gravel and a storm of dust. From the edge of the woods, we spied one little kitten head which quickly turned and disappeared into the brush and bushes. Geri and I could only stare at each other speechless. Did we really just see some lousy excuse for a human being slinging kittens from the trunk of a car? Is this how all these poor animals end up on country roads to starve to death, die of thirst, or the victims of the teeth and claws of coyotes? How we wished that what was being dumped was the remnants of a McDonald's Deluxe number three or last weeks pile of newspapers. We searched for the little fellows but the dark was coming quickly and we had no choice but to head home and ponder the fate of the trunk kittens.

Heading for the farm the following morning, the kittens weighed heavily on our minds and we decided we would spend some time looking for them. Well, we didn't have to try to find them. They found us. Sitting by the side of the country road were two kittens. Waiting. Waiting for us we now assume. If they'd had thumbs, they would have been hitchhikers the way they sat there so bravely, fear and anticipation swapping in and out of their little eyes. We pulled over and they drew back a bit. When I looked up the bank and through the thick undergrowth, I spotted the momma. And with the momma, one more kitten hanging close and shadowing momma's every move. The little hitchhikers were bullseye tabbies, one darker than the other but identical other than the coloring. The little gal with her momma was solid grey. Geri and I knew we had one chance to try to catch and save this little discarded family.

Always planning for strays, we had a cat cage and cat food in the 4Runner. We opened several cans and put them on the side of the road. The two hitchhikers had retreated and now Momma Kitty and the three kittens were all just out of reach up the bank off the road, scampering between bushes and hiding in thick weeds. Eventually, the aroma of breakfast won over and all four little ones (Momma Kitty was barely out of kittenhood herself) came creeping toward the food. It all happened so fast that I don't recall the details, but within a few minutes we had Momma and the three kittens in the cage. They weren't very happy about it, but they were so hot, sick, tired, and hungry, they had no fight left. Looking at them it was obvious that their life before being slung from the trunk of a car wasn't much better than being abandoned in the hot countryside. They were so skinny and sick, they opened their mouths to mew, but no sound came forth.

We brought them home. Momma, a little boy and two little girls. The little boy was the worst off...he didn't have the energy to eat. We soon discovered why. We took them to the basement and one by one took them from the cage and began to wash them. The rinse water that came off them was somewhere between brown and dark red. Hundreds of fat, full fleas flowed from their coats and down the drain. Their bodies were covered in little blood red bites. They weren't pleased about the bath, but they could muster no fight. It was a Sunday and no vet access, so we studied how we would care for them until we could get them evaluated. For now one cage would have to be their home until we knew the next step to take. So after providing food and water (the little boy had to be force-fed), we put clean towels and a litter box in the cage and they rested easy for perhaps the first time in their lives. (To be continued...)

Trunk Kittens - Part II

I haven't really thought about it until now, but I suppose the trunk kittens and their momma must have had a little deja vu when we carried their cage and put it in the back of the SUV. Little did they know that this trip was going to be a good trip, much different than the several miles in stifling heat in the trunk of the monster people's Camry a couple of days earlier. When the vet finished her examination, Geri and I learned that the kittens and momma had everything possible wrong: worms, ear infections, URI, eye infections, and anemia from the flea bites. The good news was that they had neither FIV nor feline leukemia. Armed with a dozen bottles and some eyedroppers, we took them home and we began to nurse them. The momma and the two girls responded well. Depression gripped the little boy and he was the hardest to medicate and food had to be forced down his throat. By then I had constructed a three cage kitty condo - three separate cages connected for plenty of room. A bathroom, a bedroom, and a den/kitchen combo.
The little boy would situate himself in the middle cage, the den, and often refuse to nurse his mother. I worried about him but I knew that if he could shake his depression - and maybe the memory of being slung in a ditch like a bag of garbage - he would be okay.

One of the little females was a girly-girl and the other was a blatant tomboy. In the mornings we would go into the basement and check on them, and, for the longest time, I anticipated the little boy would be a goner.

Rocky needing Prozac

But time, medicine, and tender loving care all paid off and in a few weeks they turned into healthy happy critters. It was time to name them and thus Momma Kitty, Gracie (the girly girl), Tiger (the aggressive tomboy), and Rocky (the little fellow who wanted to quit but never did) joined the Gray family. Today, Momma Kitty lives on the farm with the farm cats (a future blog), and the three kittens live the good life downstairs (away from their doggie brother and sister and in their own eminent domain). Being the protective father, it was a year before I wanted to let them out (what did I know about cats? - I never had one). Plus, face it, I rather enjoyed their company as they helped me prepare for a Sunday School lesson or generally just hung out.

Helping Dad with his research

Chilling in the good life

But Geri finally convinced me to install a cat door. The pics below represent their first moments outdoors (they had viewed it through the window and figured it looked pretty neat). I love the cat door as much as they do, but I have to admit that I'm not always pleased with what they capture and bring in as presents from time to time. You won't believe some of the things they manage to maneuver through that little cat door.

Also, you'll meet Momma Kitty, a hero in my books and as happy as a a cat in slop out on the farm.

Momma Kitty

Tiger and Rocky discovering the New World

Awe-struck Gracie

Rocky living his pipe dream

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