Thursday, November 18, 2010

You're Our Llama, Mama, Part One


In early spring 2007, I noticed this sweet kitty loitering on and near my back deck on a regular basis. I used to have a bird feeder back there. Here she is hanging around under my finch feeder hopefully waiting for a little bird snack:

I took this photo through a window (on May 5, 2007) because she always ran away when I appeared outside. I thought she might be one of the kittens that was born here in 2005, so I was very interested in her reappearance. I had no clue that she was already a Mama Cat, but I should have known.

[When a long-haired black cat loitered here two years before in 2005, her presence predicated the sudden appearance of five kittens from underneath the deck and I fervantly believe that one of them grew into our Mama Cat, the mother of my children. The working theory here is that the dark recesses under my deck are somehow very attractive to pregnant cats...I have since removed the bird feeder because it just didn't seem fair to the birds. Oh - and let's call that long-haired black cat "Grandma".]

(my journal entry from August 19, 2005):

"Yesterday was Friday and I had to go to work. I was making breakfast, washing dishes, etc. when, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a flash of animal movement on my deck which I thought was a squirrel (likely) or a woodchuck (also likely.) On my second look, it turned out to be a kitten! And on my third look, there were two kittens!

"Kittens! Kittens alone are definitely strays. Kittens alone must be fed. I have no cat food! Milk! I have milk. Wait. Milk is bad for cats. But I have milk. OK, milk. Jeff gave me a bowl for the black cat. How does the black cat fit into all this? Oh-milk! OK-I put the milk out and they scurry under the deck over near the hose. Wait. Watch. They're back! They're drinking milk! There's three kittens!

"Then I thought of canned chicken in the pantry. Wait! Tuna fish! Flew on tiptoe to plant rack and got a plate. Put half a can of tunafish on the plate, chopped it up and scared them away again when I opened the door to put it out. They came back. Now there are five. Five kittens! Five was my favorite number when I was five!

"Last night was exhilarating. I stopped on the way home and bought cat food. I saw a couple of the kittens on the deck when I got out of the car. I divided a can of cat food onto three plates and some kitten activity was just starting when Jeff arrived. I went to the front door and hushed him and we tiptoed into the house to watch the fun through the back door.

"The most handsome kitten has tufted ears like a Maine coon cat and is very shy-sometimes only his eyes and ears show as he peeks at us over the edge of the deck. The bravest kitten is soft gray stripes with wispy white paws (now read carefully - this is me in 2010 talking to you - here is the evidence that I first met Mama Kitty when she was a little kitten recently born) and the second bravest kitten is just the same except that the whiteness of her paws is bold and well defined and she has a brilliant white chest and chin ( Now look at this photo of Mama Kitty in 2008. Look familiar? Hmmm? Doesn't she have a "brilliant white chest and chin"? And doesn't the photo to the left show that "the whiteness of her paws is bold and well defined"?) There is a long-haired black who looks just like his mother and #5 is a nondescript tabby that I don't remember very well.

"But this morning I am bereft...Where did I go wrong?...Did I peek at them through the door too often? Did I talk to them too much?

"A bowl of water and three dishes of food sit out on the deck now. Waiting.....waiting.....except for the birds, things are very quiet. Very different from my fantasy of them waiting for me outside my door this morning, alert but less afraid, until finally I would be able to sit outside with them while they ate, unperturbed....oh well." (end of 2005 journal entry)



Sailor appeared under my truck parked in the driveway as I arrived home in the car during a midnight monsoon on a dark, rainy Sunday night - June 3, 2007. He spent our first night together in a cat carrier in the bathroom. By the next night he had a name and he’d been to the vet. Dr. Poster said he was about 7 weeks old (but he was probably closer to 5 or 6 weeks.) He could eat solid food, but his eyes were still blue.

I had a sudden revelation that the bird-feeder kitty was probably this little boy kitten's mother. With the vague idea of somehow helping her, I shamelessly decided to use her kitten to lure her to stay in the area. The next day, even though it was still wet and drizzly, I cruelly put Sailor into the cat carrier and placed him alone outside on the back deck. It took only a combination of his pathetic mewing and some judiciously placed food for me to discover that not only did he have a devoted mother - he had two adorable twin sisters!

(note Mama Cat on the path in the background)

It was a very cold & rainy June, so I set up a feeding station on the deck under a blue tarp to keep the rain off. I photographed the two sisters through the kitchen window on June 16, 2007, barely two weeks after Sailor came inside.

From outside, Sailor’s family watched Sailor and me. They waited for mealtimes. I put a lawn chair on the back deck and the two sisters (I had started calling them T.C. - for Tortoiseshell Cat and Smokey) would sleep there in a knot, sometimes all night - sometimes with Mama. Life changed again in August 2007 when T.C. casually walked into a cat carrier that I had baited with food and allowed me to close the door behind her (now it was her turn to spend the night in the bathroom.) Within 24 hours I caught the more timid Smokey in a raccoon trap and, after their hysterectomies, Sailor's sisters started living in a giant dog cage in the back of my pickup truck. For a while I was too busy to take pictures (but check out this short movie of life inside the cage.)

In October 2007, Smokey Boo Boo went to live with Jeff. T.C. Sissy stayed in the house with me and Sailor.

Mama Boo was left outside all alone.
To be continued.............

(A visit from Mama Cat on Halloween 2007)