That’s a bit of a spoiler. Prepare for a surprise ending.
One Saturday summer evening, I was almost home from work. It was a twilight time of day, a magical time of day, when the lightning bugs are out, and the warm summer smells of growing things are in the air.
I turned left onto my little road, and just ahead on the right, at the end of my driveway, I saw Jackie sitting, waiting for me to come home.
Or was it Jackie? It looked like her in the dusk. It had her markings, but when the beams of the headlamps shone on her, for a quick second, there was a reflection of both eyes before the cat ran back onto the driveway and climbed over my gate. Where was Jackie going in such a hurry? Why was she running from me? And did my eyes deceive me, for Jackie only has one eye.
I parked at the gate, and when I went through it, Jackie was sitting on the other side, waiting for some canned food.
The next morning was a bright Sunday. I threw open the door, and in the clearing directly in front of the door, two small dark shapes scrambled away in a panic, in such a hurry that I couldn’t tell what they were. What they left behind was clear enough. He was a small orange fluffyish kitten.
He looked at me with one sad eye, and meowed a tiny squeak.
Good Lord. What was happening here? How had he gotten here? He let me pick him up and put him on the picnic table where I feed the cats.
I have a system for feeding the cats here. I got a huge donation of dry and canned food earlier this year. I shimmied the picnic table under the awning a bit so that half of the table was under the awning and half was out. I caught Packett several times standing on the table eating cat food right out of the cat feeder, so I put a medium-sized crate on the table and put the gravity feeder inside the crate. One or two cats could get in the crate at the same time to dine, and the crate protected the dry food from rain and falling leaves and pine needles, and Packett couldn’t get into the crate to get the food. There was a problem when serving up the canned, though.
Too many dirty bowls. I tried to put out enough bowls to hold enough canned food for all the cats. The cats have a different opinion about how things play out, and sometimes they all crowd around one small bowl for no good reason. Then there’s the flies. They love canned food, too, so I had to learn about how many cans to open so there wasn’t a breeding ground with a food supply for insects.
The answer was a plastic chip-and-dip tray with divided sections. Easy cleanup. Shared portions. They are cheap, and you can get them at the grocery store, and they come in fun colors. ‘Cause cats love them some fun party trays.
The little orange fluffy guy joined the other guys immediately. He pushed his way to the food tray. Later in the day I saw two more kittens in the undergrowth. So there were three!
And later yet I saw another one.
Then during the evening, I went outside, and a large cat that looked JUST LIKE JACKIE flew off the picnic table, and dashed down the path to the shed, holding her left front leg out straight in front of her.
Apparently I have a mother who has brought her 4 babies right slap over the chain-link fence to safety and food. Except that when I do a kitten headcount, I see one more unaccounted-for kitten.
Five. FIVE. Plus a mother.
The time is now officially TEN PAST CRAZY.
Welcome to Catcatcher Corner.
Little Orange is a sweet boy, but everyone else is feral. FE’ ReALz.
Little Orange goes to the vet to be seen for his problem eye. I start a course of ointment and clavamox, but it’s hard to scoop him up and medicate him twice a day. If you’ve ever tried to medicate a cat, you’ll understand, and even if you haven’t, you have an imagination. You’re imagining the cursing I’m doing.
A few weeks of fattening up happens, and I leave town for 2 ½ days, and Sugar reports that the cats are gone. When I return, they return, and they do this cycle one more time, minus one gray tabby kitten, before it seems they are settled here.
So now it’s time to trap.
The first baby goes to the vet, and she weighs about 2.8 pounds so she’s almost three months, and she is spayed.
Little Orange gets a home, along with Darlin’ Baby (sorry for the spoiler), with a SugarCousin.
Little Peachy gets neutered.
Little Torti gets spayed.
In between the trapping of Little Peachy and Little Torti, the Mama goes into the trap, so yay me! And yay Mama! No more babies to worry about.
I put a towel down in the back of Old Yeller, set the covered trap with Mama in it, and head to the vet.
When we get there, and I unload the trap, I notice that there is bright blood on the towel, but not blood like she is in heat. This was odd. She is still protecting her left front paw, although I had seen her use it if she is walking carefully, but never when she is moving fast.
We get the trap on the table, and tip it slightly to one side, and that’s when we see it. A growth, as large as a grape, on the base of her left front paw. Keep in mind that she is an average-sized cat, and her paw is about the size of a grape.
The growth is infected, and smelly with rot, and bloody and oozing pus.
Even if I could handle her, which I cannot, I would have to medicate her BY MOUTH twice a day and clean her wound at least once a day. And I would have to keep her confined for the duration, and I have no good solution for that.
She’s a wild cat. The obstacles for me are technically insurmountable, and even if surgery is successful, if it’s cancer, she’ll lose her leg, and there’s a possibility that the cancer could be throughout her body.
Sorry as I am about all this, it seems that she has brought her family to me, to safety, and that it’s time to let her go.
She went to sleep peacefully, not rotting away in the wild.
Good night, Mama Cat. You sacrificed what any mother would sacrifice.
Under the trees, she holds her left paw off the ground. Now I know why.