The kitten project

Reading this blog, you might think all we do is renovate our house. Sawing, sanding, painting, visualizing, shelling out money. Yeah … it feels like that. Obviously, if we were that dedicated, we’d have finished the kitchen six months ago. Sometimes we get sucked in by a different kind of rehabilitation project. Something a little softer and furrier.

Along with being parents of a boxer and six cats, we also feed numerous neighborhood stray cats. They live tough lives, but one thing they don’t need to worry about is where to find food and water. I don’t know why there are so many cats in this neighborhood. Do the tenants of nearby houses and apartments “forget” their cats when they move? Do people come here to dump unwanted cats? Or do all the unneutered pets just keep providing the neighborhood with more offspring?

Occasionally we pitch in and neuter a needy cat. (We can’t afford to do them all.) For instance, several years ago a friendly young marmalade cat decided he liked hanging out at our house. He showed up daily, lounged on the counters, slept in my chair … and began marking his new territory.

Marmalade cat

“Oscar,” we said, “If you’re going to move in, you’ll need a simple outpatient procedure.” One hundred fifty dollars later, Oscar was neutered and vaccinated. A few days later I was chatting with a friend down the block. “Have you seen that little orange cat who runs around here?” I asked. “Yeah,” she replied, “He belongs to my mom’s roommate. Someone neutered him!” She must have read the look on my face. “Was it—you?”  (Oscar’s—actually Oliver’s—owner wanted to neuter him anyway, but was too down on his luck to pay us back. He moved away a week later and we never saw Oscar/Oliver again.) Since then, we’ve been careful to interview the cats thoroughly to ensure that they are truly homeless.

We acquired Checkers and Lacy the same way. Adopting a cat is easy around here. Just step out on the porch and make a friend.

Checkers and Lacy

A few weeks ago, I was amazed to glance out the window and see three tiny tabby kittens frolicking on our porch. “We have kittens!” I cried. And a very young tuxedo mama cat, already back in heat. Soon thereafter, mama and one kitten ceased coming around. We were determined to trap the remaining two kittens before they disappeared, too.

Two tabby kittens on the porch

tabby kitten Dot

We baited our live trap and waited. It didn’t take long to hear a loud bang and commotion. Rats! We’d caught the wrong cat! The next day we saw our own Fred (below) dining on the bait with his front paws carefully placed on the far side of the trigger plate. He exited just as carefully. (Fred is one smart cat, and not about to let someone else eat the yummy Fancy Feast.) We decided not to risk traumatizing innocent cats with the snap trap.

Headshot of tuxedo cat

Instead, we set up our large wire crate on the porch, with a string attached to the door and run through the window to inside. We set the food and water bowls in the crate.

crate and string trap

We let the kittens eat there a few times so they got accustomed to the set-up … then, Eric pulled the string and—bingo—we had us a couple of kittens! And they were NOT PLEASED.

In fact, the poor little things were terrified. But awfully dang cute.

kittens climbing the cage

The female (we assumed) had a little black spot on her nose. The male had a tabby streak on his nose. So, because we’re writers, we named them Dorothy Parker and Dashiell Hammett—Dot and Dash.

These kittens hated us. (It’s really hard to use “kittens” and “hate” in the same sentence.) But these kids were WILD, and they wanted nothing to do with humans. We estimated they were about 12 weeks old, which may be too old to be tamed. Their first week with us produced nothing but soft hisses and baleful looks from the back of the cage. Eventually Eric was able to place his hand next to Dash, the braver of the two, and even touch his back a little. But that ended when Eric tried to pick Dash up and all hell broke loose. Dash retreated to the sleeping box and has not come out to greet us again.

Our other cats pay little attention to the youngsters, but Uncle Duke is fascinated. He lays by their cage and is front and center whenever we interact with them. Duke formed a strong bond with Lacy and Checkers just this way.

Boxer Duke lays by the cage

If they won’t be handled, how did we get these uncooperative guests to the vet? Easy! We swapped out their sleeping box for a cat carrier a few days before their appointment. They loved hiding in it, so they were packed and ready to go at appointment time. Just as we’d suspected, Dash is male and Dot is female. They were a little overwhelmed and not feeling so good after their vet visit and day surgeries.

two tabby kittens in a cat carrier

They bounced back quickly and are now more active than ever. It’s sleep all day and party all night. We manage to sleep through the banging around, and when we get up in the morning, the cage is trashed and they’re exhausted. Hard to think that these little angels would draw blood if I got too close.

two sleeping tabby kittens

In the two and one-half weeks they’ve been with us, we’ve made only small progress in taming them. Both will lick wet food off my extended fingertip (as long as I stay outside the cage), and Dot is easily coaxed into playing with dangly toys. But they still won’t allow us to touch them and they skitter away when we approach the cage door. I’m unsure what their fate will be. We already have six cats, and we can’t take in any more. Our vet tech has shown some interest in adopting one or both, but I’m not holding my breath. They will need a lot of patient work to become domesticated. The Humane Society doesn’t accept feral cats. I suppose we’ll return them to the porch and freedom, but that’ll make us a little sad.

Meanwhile, who should show up out on the porch? Kitten No. 3 is back! We’ve named him/her Ditto, because soon we will do this all over again.

Tabby kitten No. 3

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5 thoughts on “The kitten project

  1. Garden, Home and Party

    You guys are so kind and how lucky to have cats in the neighborhood. The coyote population keeps cats to a bare minimum and when we had cats, (we’ve had 7 in the 30 years we’ve lived in our house), we had to make sure they were indoors by dusk. We now have only 2 dogs but we both miss the antics and distinct personalities of cats.
    I hope you can win over the affections of Dot, Dash and Ditto…love those names.
    Karen

    Reply
  2. Anita

    And if Mama is pregnant again, soon there will be yet another group of kittens! It’s shameful that people don’t neuter or spay their cats (and dogs too!). There’s simply no excuse. There are spay/neuter vans that hit all the area’s cities and they charge something like $20. You and Eric have gone beyond the call of duty in helping these poor kitties in your area!

    Reply
  3. Old Pearly Jenkins

    You both have such kind hearts. We are cat lovers in this house. A cat from the next street over seems to prefer hanging with us than with his family. My husband is constantly calling ‘Echo’s’ mum to come and get her cat. This morning’s text for her said ‘I’m buying you a super soaker’.

    A few kilometres away is a semi industrial estate and the perfect dumping ground for cats. Our local vet traps them, neuters them, then lets them go. If they catch pregnant females they hold on to them until they’ve had their litter, waits until the kittens are old enough and lets the mother go. Then they find homes for the kittens.

    Why do people continue to abandon animals? morons!!!

    Reply

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