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So Many Kittens

by Dianne K.

It seems like I have always had cats in my life. I remember them all, fondly, well mostly I remember them fondly, even though some were a little hard to get along with in the moment. They all had distinctive personalities and quirks. Cats are like that. No two cats have the same wants and needs. Even cats that look exactly alike are unique once you get to know them.

And kittens. There is nothing cuter than a kitten, and the kitten days go by quickly. I always say that we should treasure kitten time because it's not that often that a kitten comes into our lives. I remember kittens and how much fun they were. Several family cats began life with us as kittens. However, I've never had the pleasure of raising more than one kitten at a time.

So I am enjoying the distinct pleasure of watching six kittens and their mama make a home on my porch. They are feral, scared and hungry all the time. They have been in our community for a while, and various neighbors have complained about them, fed them scraps, tried to run over them, and even tried without success to trap them. Folks are leaving our complex, and some of them have left their cats behind. I think that's awful, but that's the way it goes. I talked to the manager about the kittens, and since our chat, all seems to be well in the neighborhood. I told her I would tame them, catch them, and have them neutered, eventually. That plan is taking longer to implement than I thought it would.

Six kitten napping in their favorite chair,
while mama guards them from below.

Mama showed up on my porch alone about a month ago. She was very hungry and thin. I had seen her around but had not been able to coax her up onto the porch. And then voila! There she was. She doesn't meow. I guess she never learned how. I think she probably is the offspring of one of the abandoned cats and she didn't have a good childhood. She looks young, but she is not a happy, playful cat. She is a survivor, and she is now a mom of six kittens. She takes that job very seriously. She knows how to hunt, and where to hide, and she's very timid. She communicates with me by staring at me and hissing. That's the only sound I hear from her. Life has been hard for her.

I didn't have any cat food on hand when she first showed up so I opened a can of tuna. She ate it all. Shortly after that meal, the kittens started showing up. At first it was just two kittens, then another one, then I realized that several looked alike and maybe there were more then two or three. They were still nursing. I think she was having problems feeding them all, being so thin. I have no idea what they were actually eating before, but I have noted that these days there are no rat droppings in the garden, all the little lizards are gone, and birds are scarce. Oh dear.

The first time the kittens saw me they scattered. They literally sailed off the porch, which is a four step drop. They flew to the ground and I watched them run under the house. There is a little crack between the porch steps and the house that they can slip through. After a few days of steady cat food, Mama was suckling them all at once right in front of me, and continued doing it while I watched, as long as I kept a distance. I finally realized there were six kittens altogether. Three gray and white spotted ones, two gray striped ones and one dark gray one. Mama is a short haired gray-striped cat, probably a teenager. Two of the kittens look like her. The dad came around once or twice. He is a big gray spotted oaf, and three offspring look exactly like him. He's an absentee father. So Mama is a single mother, with no child support, and few resources, except her wits.

When it's play time, the kittens bat around the stuffed mice and furry balls that I get for them, or they wrestle with each other, and bite tails, jump on each other, play hide and seek. Sometimes they play with my gardening gloves. One is missing at the moment. They pull the cushions off of the chairs, climb on the furniture, explore everything. I love watching those kitten games. The toys are scattered all around, just like a living room full of toddlers. I bought them little teepee beds, which they like to drag around. I've only seen them sleeping in the teepees a few times. Now that it's colder I hope they get the idea that they can cuddle up in them and stay warm at night. Ah well. Silly kittens.

I make food runs to the grocery outlet several times a week and buy everything I can find that might appeal to the big family. Now that the kittens are done nursing, they are growing like weeds. They can even eat kibble. Woo hoo. They have full bellies and shiny coats, their fur is filling out and they no longer wobble when they walk. They are still frightened of me but they run up when I bring out their breakfast. Mama leaves them occasionally and does her prowling, hunting thing, I guess. I saw her one day across the street, I think she was on lizard patrol.

Some days it's just Mama and one kitten sleeping on the porch in the sun. Other days they are all here piled up together snoozing, for hours. They like to sleep in the street in front of my house because it's warm there. Not good, so I try to shoo them away when they do that. They play in the garden, run around the back of the house to hide, or into the neighbors' driveways. And they definitely know where home is.

It's a wonderful life for kitten when they are well fed, comfortable, have a safe place to sleep, and a good Mama guarding them. Soon I'll have to catch them, fix them, and try to find them homes. Kittens days will be over before I know it. Lucky me for having this chance to watch the little darlings grow up. There is nothing quite as cute as a kitten, or six!

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