In addition to the senior citizens in my household I also have the two feral cats, Sparks and Tourmalina (somewhere around 5-6 years old), and four of their progeny (now almost 4 years old). How did this happen? I ask myself that question every day.
|Beauty Queen Ozma|
It started one winter night when I spied a young tortoiseshell cat (Tourmalina) outside my garage. I had just lost my sweet Ozma rather suddenly in dramatic, heart-breaking fashion. This new girl was strangely colored. Ozma was also a tortoiseshell but she had a gold splash on her face mostly on one side. The new girl had a gold splash on the opposite side. It was spooky.
Then I started noticing other cats showing up, four total. Even though I couldn’t get close to any of them I could tell that two were females and two were males. The females were this tortoiseshell and a calico (Sparks) and the black and white bicolored males were “well developed” and obviously boys. I also noticed that one of my neighbors had started putting food out on her stoop.
I’ve worked with feral cats before and hated the thought that these cats might start their own colony at any time so I determined to do the right thing. Eventually I caught all of the cats using a humane trap. The males I had neutered, vaccinated and then released them again. I had no intention of keeping any of them (famous last words, right?). Unfortunately the females were already pregnant. After much consternation I decided to let them have their kittens and find homes for them afterward. I would then have the females spayed, vaccinated and release them too.
Sparks was first. I set up a large cage with all the accouterments and waited only a day before she gave birth. The very first kitten came out head first, his black nose shining amid the rest of his white coat. Before she’d even cleaned him up completely I knew I’d be keeping him (Mulberry Spot). I really didn’t need any more cats, what was I thinking???
|Sparks and her brood, 4 days old|
The second kitten was another black and white. How could I pass up a pair like that? Of course I kept him too (B.W. Huckleberry). The third and fourth kittens came out rather quickly so I’m not sure which was first but one was a tortoiseshell (Gaia) and the other was a brown mackerel tabby and white (Scotty/Toby, I’ll explain later). I gave Sparks a day to recover then I started spending a lot of time in the room with them, talking to them and eventually petting the kittens all in an effort to make sure they would be socialized from the start.
Next came Tourmalina. She was the last to step into my trap at a time when I’d almost given up hope of ever catching her. Luckily I had one more cage though I had to run out and buy the supplies to make a floor for it. Like Sparks, Tourmalina took only a day or two before she too gave birth. It was quite a sight; this little ex-bedroom had become a temporary cattery for two wild cats. The two cages were large enough that they took up most of the space in the room.
|Tourmalina's brood, 1 day old|
Tourmalina’s litter began with what appeared to be a white kitten (Taylor) but right from the start I didn’t believe it would be white. I grew up with Siamese cats and knew that they started out white/cream but then in a week or more their points slowly fade in. I can’t tell you why but I was sure that’s what would happen with this kitten. She was followed by one red tabby, then two and finally a third red tabby (Strawberry, Gooseberry and Tinkerbell). I thought she was done so I moved over to Sparks’ kittens to take more pictures and give Tourmalina some privacy to clean up her babies. But when I glanced back her way I saw another kitten; a brown patched tabby (Trinket). Don’t ask me why, I just knew she would be patched even though none of her cream/red coloring was showing yet. I just seemed to have some sort of connection with those kittens.
Most importantly I immediately went online and spread the word to everyone I knew as well as on the website at work that I had kittens that needed homes in a few weeks. I am proud to say I had several homes lined up for some of the kittens before their eyes were even open.
I spent the next many weeks getting to know the kittens and their mothers and enjoying the time I had with them. I just figured that I might never again have kittens in my life so I might as well have as much fun with these babies as I could. Even more fun was the fact that I had my first digital camera during this time so I snapped zillions of pictures as they were born and as they grew.
I’ll tell you more about the kittens in another post. Stay tuned to meet the berries!