If you’ve been following on social media, you know that we inherited some cats when we moved into our house. While I bristle at the “cat lady” designation, the truth is, I do love cats, although Tommy is more of a dog person (he’s allergic to cats).
I say that we “inherited” these cats because we didn’t choose to have them and we don’t have any control over how they breed and if they live or not. We can’t cuddle them or vaccinate them. And when we leave, they will stay with the house. But despite all that, over the past year we have come to really love them. In our darkest times, we have enjoyed their antics, even their grumpy ones. And we’ve had a unique view of how truly wild animals behave and relate to each other.
So this is a short history of the cats and an answer to the question: “How many cats do you have?” For those who like cats, you may enjoy this. For those of you who do not, I would stop reading here if I were you. :)
When we first moved into the house, I kept hearing what I thought were kittens mewing in the back yard, a large, untamed jungle area in the back of the house. Tommy was sure I was hearing a bird, because there are birds which can sound like cats. Eventually we saw our first kitten in a woodpile. It turned out to be four kittens. The mother was very skittish and we couldn’t get close to her or the kittens.
We started putting food up near the house and it took quite some time but eventually they started eating it. Soon they would spend some time there while we were sitting in our hammocks, even taking food from our hand.
We named the first four kittens as follows: Mittens, because of his white paws; Goofy, because he had wonky eyes; Raccoon, for his black mask; and Coco, for her brown markings and diva attitude.
There was also a really ugly, stray kitten, not from that litter, who started coming around. We called him Reese because of his brown and orange coloring. He was accepted into the group and eventually we came to like him and his scrappy attitude too.
Meanwhile the father of the kittens, a big tom who we called Tank because he was a big, mean bruiser of a cat, would come around and chase the kittens and there would be a lot of yowling. We heard that it’s typical for wild tom cats to try to kill the young males, even their own. The mother of the kittens was around less and less.
Kitten counter: 5
Eventually those cats grew bigger and we started to see the very pregnant mother back in the yard again. We tried to chase her off because we didn’t want any more cats in the yard. But, sure enough, she dropped four, again two black and two striped. We named them Smudge, for the white smudge on his nose; Shadow, because he was completely black; Darryl; and Tinky, because she was the smallest.
Kitten counter: 9
Around this time we started losing cats. Mittens, Reese, and Darryl disappeared and we suspected they had died somehow, although we liked to think they just found homes elsewhere. A couple of the males, Raccoon and Goofy, would also leave for long periods of time. We would see them in the neighborhood but they would only come into the yard once every few weeks. And sadly, we found Shadow dead in the yard and Tommy had to bury him.
Kitten counter: 3
So we were down Coco from the first litter, and Smudge and Tinky from the second litter.
Then one night while we were sitting on the veranda we heard some tiny mews from the yard. I went down to investigate and found a tiny kitten in a planter. I brought him upstairs and made him comfortable. Then we heard another mew and Tommy went down and found a second kitten! We showed both kittens to Coco who Tommy had suspected was pregnant but she didn’t seem interested in them so we assumed they had been abandoned and took them inside for the night.
The next morning, Coco was on the veranda meowing and looking desperate. We brought the kittens out to her and she immediately started grooming them so we knew they were hers after all! We named them Stevesie and Owen. They were the first of the kittens that we were able to pick up and pet and we have had a lot of fun with them!
Kitten counter: 5
A few weeks later, we noticed that Smudge was acting strangely, and having trouble walking. At the same time, Coco was having trouble controlling her bowels. One morning, Smudges back end became paralyzed and he was dragging himself around. We set out a box for him and he dragged himself inside. For days we fed him there at the box and he would drink water but not eat much. Up to this time, he had had no tolerance for the kittens and would hiss at them when they came near, but now that he was weak, he allowed them to crawl all over him in his box. It was both sad and adorable.
One day, Smudge wasn’t in his box and we glimpsed him in the jungle back yard. He was gone for a few days so we thought he had gone off to die. Then one day he was back and acting completely normal!
Meanwhile, Coco had diarrhea for something like three weeks and Stevesie started to be lethargic. We suspected that all the cats had distemper because the various symptoms fit and it is highly contagious.
Coco eventually recovered but sadly, Stevesie did not. I’ll spare you the details of that but it was obvious that he was going to die and even Coco rejected him. Tommy had to bury another kitten. For weeks afterwards, Coco would try desperately to get into the house because I think she thought we had him inside.
Kitten counter: 4(Coco from first litter, Smudge and Tinky from second litter, and Owen from Coco’s first litter)
Later, Owen started to lose patches of his hair and eventually was almost hairless. We started to call him Rat Boy because of his hairless little rat tail. All the cats developed bald patches here and there. Again, there’s nothing we can really do about it because they are too wild to treat.
And that’s where we’re at with them now, four patchy kitten/cats. When we leave some of them will have to learn to fend for themselves. The house has been rented after we leave so we hope they will take pity on them and feed them. But we will miss them, patchy hair, rotten attitudes, and all!