Thursday, August 18, 2011

Our New Kitty Family!

Longtime readers of this blog may remember that my husband and I have been feeding a feral cat we named Harley since last winter. He is truly feral, not just a stray, and wants nothing to do with us humans. Except our food. But even after a year of feeding him every day, he still tears away when we open the door with his plate of food, and will not approach the food until we have retreated behind closed doors.

This spring, Harley started bringing another feral cat along with him, a pretty little tiger we assumed was a female. My husband named her Dido. She, too, is truly wild and will not allow any human to come near her.

It soon became evident that Dido was pregnant. Uh oh. One pregnant cat leads to hundreds of cats in a couple of years. We decided to try to trap and confine her until her kittens were born and weaned, so that we could socialize the kittens, making them adoptable. Perhaps Dido could be tamed, as well, but if not, we would have her spayed and released to remain a neighborhood feral. A well-fed one, though.

Too late. Before we could act on our plan, it was evident that Dido had had her kittens. That was about a month ago. We didn't know where she had hidden them. She continued to come daily for us to feed her, but still would not allow any human to even approach her.

But just yesterday, we saw some activity over in a brushy corner of our backyard where we had stacked some plastic chairs. Sure enough, there was a tiny gray and white kitten romping and tussling with another, three-colored one. A third, a gray tiger, remained nearly hidden in the greenery. The kittens remained there all day, with their mother lying among them to nurse them from time to time. At one point, Dido had momentarily disappeared and I approached the kittens and tried to touch them. Oh boy, you should have heard the hissing and spitting and growling and seen those tiny bodies lunging and clawing! Such ferocity in such fragile little creatures! Ok, ok, little guys, I'll leave you alone.

The kittens were still here today, romping and playing back in that brushy corner. Today I decided I would try to pick them up and see if I could calm them by petting them, start getting them used to human contact so that we might be able to find homes for them. As I approached their area, the terrified little babies started their defensive behavior once more, but this time I reached right in past the flying claws (the claws are still rather soft) and grasped this gray-and-white one by the nape of the neck and lifted it up to my chest.

It continued to yowl and spit and claw, but the demonstration of terror diminished as I stroked the side of its head and under its chin and held it close against my chest. Soon it was snuggled under my chin, rooting its little pink nose in the skin of my neck, and its little body curled quietly into the cup of my hands. When this kitten was quiet, I gently put it down and continued to pet it while it walked around, this time with no frightened reaction to my touch. I then repeated this procedure with the other two.

This little tiger was the hardest to calm. He's a wiry little guy (I checked under his tail to check his sex) and very strong for such a tiny creature. I felt so sorry for him when I felt his frantic heart beating so fast beneath my fingers. But even he finally gentled to my touch and the sound of my voice, and curled quietly in my hands.

Photo: Denis Donnelly

Is this not an adorable little creature? Wouldn't you like to give this little darling a home?

Photo: Denis Donnelly

Please take good care of me, won't you?

Photo: Denis Donnelly

See how cute I am, with that gray spot right in the middle of my tickleable tummy.

Now I'm hoping that Dido doesn't decide to move her babies beyond my reach. I believe that if I visit them daily and touch them and hold them and bring them treats, they should make very nice pets, ready to find a home in about two weeks. Anybody want a sweet little kitty?

Update: Oh phoo! Mama must have been mad that I handled her babies and has hidden them where I can't find them. I suppose that eventually they will all come around to be fed at our back door, but I hope they won't be too wild by then to make pets of. I need a nine-year-old boy to go prowling the neighborhood underbrush and locate them.


threecollie said...

You are so kind to try to give them better lives. My husband is a great kitten tamer too; he does just what you did with yours and has tamed many that way, even one who lived in the house for a number of years. Yours are very cute btw. We just had a feral or drop off show up yesterday, an adult and wild as an eagle....and not even a little bit cute

maureen said...

that's a great story, jackie! i loved it.

Louise said...

What adorable babies! Thank you for taking the time to tame them, and make it possible for them to have good homes, with loving people.

The Cranky Crone, she lives alone! said...

What beautiful babies, and lovely to know you are going to take care of them, find them good homes...I think I would end up keeping them all.
Can I ask as completely off topic, do you ever fall out of your kyaks, are they pretty stable, only I dont fancy all that tumbling and re righting ones self?

Anonymous said...

And I was just thinking how cute a new kitten would be ;-) We'll be on our way home through NY state in a few days...if we were coming anywhere near Saratoga Springs, we would be 'takers' - but in fairness to the geriatric pup, a new kitten needs to wait until he's gone - which will be a sad day. They really are just too cute!!! :-)

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks, everyone, for all your encouragement. I thought I had lost contact with the kittens when Mama moved them, but I went prowling and found them again today (8/22). This time I brought them home and will keep them inside until they are tamed. Then I will try to find them homes. When I found them today, two of the kittens had bite marks on them. I'm taking them to the veterinarian today to be checked over, and then I will get a cage to keep them safe from my resident housecats. I hope I can trap their mama, too, and get her spayed.

Cranky, I have never fallen out of my canoe, except when I was a Girl Scout and had to jump out, fill the canoe with water, and prove that I could empty it and paddle to shore. To earn my canoeist badge. Some folks like to do acrobatic things like Eskimo rolls with their kayaks, but that's not my thing. My canoe is my portable zendo, my place for silence and solitude and meditation.

Ellen Rathbone said...

What lucky kitties to have you for a neighbor. I hope you find them all good homes. How do Finn and the others feel about these interlopers?

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Hi Ellen, Finn and Penny and Selene thank you for asking. They have all disappeared to the far corners of the house most of the time, behaving as if these tiny kittens were axe murderers. They peer around the corner at them from a safe distance, and then tear away if one of the kittens moves in their direction. I'm sorry they seem so upset, but at least they haven't behaved aggressively toward them.