When I have time to kill, I go see what’s up with the cats and chickens. The chickens don’t like me around so I try to spy on them through the craggy window mid-morning and try to see who might get into a nesting box and lay an egg. They always spot me and I never see anything, and anyways I have determined that only 3 out of the 9 chickens are still laying eggs. I eventually give up and go see what cat is in the barn, and see if I can make it love me.
When we moved in it seemed like there was an unmanageable number of cats. New ones seemed to keep popping up with a varying degree of skittishness. Once we settled in and figured out their patterns, I realized that there were two groups of cats, the mainstays and the ones who just hang around when there is food. Out of the mainstays are 5 adults, and originally 4 kittens. Reference the primer below for this next part. The friendliest of the mainstays are two tortie sisters? mom & daughter? I call them Twiggy and Pickles, and a black cat called Squeak. Obviously I am an amatuer at this because I immediately wanted to name them all and got attached. Pickles has three kittens: Calvin, Hobbes, and Susie. Twiggy has one smaller younger kitten, that Brady’s mom dubbed “lil’ poop”. The two male mainstays are Sweet Peter, an orange tabby who is terrified of me and lives under some plywood in the barn, and Squints, and old black tabby bruiser with one squinty eye and seemingly a new scar each time I see him. The Hang Arounds are Pretty Kitty, a Calico who Twiggy hates for some reason, Bib, who i think is Squeak’s sister, Cowboy, a black and white tomcat, a grayish tomcat that I only recently realized was not Cowboy, and Apple Eye, who I only recently realized was not Squints.
Now, out of all of these the only ones that let me handle them in any way are Pickles, Twiggy, Lil Poop, Squeak and Squints, who as of last week has let me pet his massive head while he eats. The problem is none of these cats were fixed when we arrived and it was peak kitten season.
Because of Covid nearly all of the volunteer run TNR (Trap, Neuter, Release) options were unavailable. One organization’s communications person emailed me back after I inquired about an appointment, and said their Dr. was not offering surgeries at the moment because she was so distraught at her 19 year old cat dying. She then started emailing me asking if I had secured an appointment elsewhere, and kept checking in…. I soon realized I was entering into a new realm of cat people. I finally found out that the SPCA in York county offered a feral cat TNR drop off every morning from 8-8:30. You drop them off and pick them up the next day, but they need to be in humane traps not regular cat carriers.
All the kittens were eating solid food at this point, So I rented a trap and bought another one and took Twiggy and Pickles to get fixed. It’s a 40 min drive and one of them pooped on the way there so I flew down the highway, windows down with two yowling cats in the back and a car that smelled like fresh shit. Bringing them back was not much different. The volume of cats needing to get fixed is so high that the cages don’t really get cleaned out during their stay. So, I came back with two fixed cats (still yowling) and a smell that no matter how fast I drove down the highway with the windows down, really stuck around.
Now we had caught the easy ones, and by caught I mean I picked them up and put them in a cage. The others were going to be harder. I thought well, we got the gals fixed and the hang arounds don’t really stay so if they have kittens it will be elsewhere. At this point Squeak only came by in the evenings. We also had other things going on: a chicken lice infestation, a giant dumpster to fill up as much as we could in a week, I wanted to get lil’ poop (the only kitten that would let me handle her) adopted. So, we put a hold on the spay neuter train until recently when I noticed Squeak was looking a little big. If caught early, a cat pregnancy can be terminated with spaying, however once we were able to catch squeak and get her ready to go, the York TNR place was closed for the month because one of the employees was exposed to Covid. I was able to get lil poop adopted, but it appeared that once again our cat herd was expanding.
The nice thing about Squeak is that she likes us. With the success of lil’ poop’s adoption (see picture of her new comfortable life)
I became determined that if we do have more kittens, I can get them used to people and make them sociable. Pickles’ kittens were too old once we got there and are VERY wary of me. It’s been two months and I can finally pet one but the effort it will take to get them to be normal inside cats is beyond me at the moment. (see kitten lady video on how to get feral kittens used to humans).
Back to Squeak. She quickly became my new little obsession, checking her everyday to see if I could guess how many kittens were in there. Researching to see if I could determine how far along she was. This past Saturday I was as the amish say “Ruchin’” (restless). None of the things I had to do were things I wanted to do, and while waiting on covid tests results I had to isolate until they came in. Coincidentally that morning I came outside and Squeak was chirping around the barn trying to find a place to nest. She was exhibiting all the signs of being about to poo! I got her set up in a little place with some straw and then sat on the ground watching her for at least an hour hoping to witness my first example of birth outside the scarring video shown to me in school. I can’t find that one but here is the one they showed me about menstruation (around 1999) starring the 80s cast of Annie:
After sitting around for a while watching Squeak lick her vagina I got bored. The miracle of life, snore. After puttering around the house trying to entertain myself I came out to find one baby, and I got to watch Squeak eat her afterbirth. Truly crazy how fast a cat can eat a placenta sack. As I moved around throughout the day I never did get to see a kitten actually emerge, but Squeak got to business and we now have 3 tiny rat kittens. No names because I have learned my lesson and they will hopefully be going on to new adventures in two months.
As of September 1, the York TNR clinic is reopened and the spay neuter train will begin in earnest tomorrow morning, starting with Mr. Squnts or the three teenage kittens, whoever I can catch first. I truly feel like I’ve gone off the cat lady deep end with this post so next one will be about chickens, (or Brady vacuuming the barn to make me feel less crazy). Oh also, Covid test was negative!
Chicken Count: 9
Cats spotted today: 9
Recent Google Searches:
How long between kittens being born
When can i touch a kitten after it is born
Will cats eat their kittens (yes if stillborn, or a tomcat might think it is vermin)
80s birth educational video
This Mapo Tofu Recipe
Finally made sourdough that puffed up just right
This Coconut Cream Pie