Carol Jane Remsburg
New Life Wrought by Winter
Last fall brought an abundance of "foundlings." Those transient felines who appear at the porch door and cry for their supper; their numbers are many but mostly their visits are sporadic until last October. The first was an enormous old veteran of the wars—a large tom of black and white. Daughter and I dubbed him "Moonlight" because he only showed up after dark. Hubby just called him "Meow-Meow" because that's all he ever did. He wasn't shy a bit, rather felt it was his due to be fed. Thus he was.
Moonlight showed up every evening for several weeks. Then came a new visitor, a little gray tabby with the prerequisite black stripes. In her looks, she was as common as they come, you see her or her twin everyday somewhere along your daily journey. This one was unusual in the fact that she wasn't skittish at all; she was also pregnant. She was eager for affection as well as food. I named her Thomasina for her loving and kind nature.
Meanwhile, the resident house cats—Stinky, our big orange tom, was having fits over the visitations. As big and as tough and as strong as he is; Stink screams like a scared little girl—then runs. Now Pyewacket, or just Pye if you prefer, is our younger female; a calico. When she tells you to get somewhere else that tiny little cat does it with authority. This little, innocent looking SWEET cat belts it out like Ethel Merman in her heyday—no microphone needed here. Everyone for a half a mile away heard Pye's protestations. Damned cat screeches worse than a fish-wife if the tales be true.
That would be about the time of evening that the 'house kitties' got put back inside the house so I could feed the others. The old tom knew how to pose and posture and plead a good case. He was full of it but always managed to earn his dinner. On the other hand, Thomasina, was simply so loving and so sweet you wouldn't help but mother her and feed her. Winter was coming and soon. Thomasina was a smallish cat and her pregnancy was pronounced and heavy on her—well before she was due.
By mid-November, the visitation was nightly for both the old man and the pregnant tabby. Come the end of November they awaited my arrival home and greeted me each night with such a racket that I couldn't help but laugh and pet them and feed them in abundance. They never lacked for food, that much is certain.
Christmas came and Thomasina could barely walk—she was so young yet so huge in her pregnancy I worried. Ought I take this small vagrant to the vet to have him check her out? It seemed with that thought she disappeared. Moonlight didn't come to call for his dinner much anymore either. Though nightly I put out the food and it would be gone by morning. I was left with only hope. Then the winter became wicked and very cold and the storms came.
Each morning I would clean up the bowls and put fresh kibble in and by night I would repeat but add a can of wet food atop it—three bowls—just to be sure. Days and nights turned into weeks while I continued to worry. Hubby and I could find no hiding spot nearby that could be a haven for Thomasina and her kittens. We knew when she had them it would be hard for her as she was so terribly small.
During the worst of the weather the kittens were born. We could only figure that by their size when we finally saw them in mid-February when Thomasina brought them to show us. They were so tiny; images of their mother. They were skittish and shy while yearning to be petted. It all took time and quiet. That was when we found out where Thomasina had holed up—beneath the garage in an old hole that Sissy, our dearly departed dog had tunneled years ago.
Over the next month and a half—we would see them or see Thomasina or see none of them; it would be a couple of evenings in a row and then nothing for two or three days straight. Old Moonlight had run off elsewhere for the time being. Likely he'd found a soft-touch who could allow him indoors—or so we thought.
It was by late March we figured it out, we dumb humans. Thomasina had moved on; however, she'd left her babies to our safekeeping. The largest kitten was very affectionate so I was able to determine her sex, a female. I named her "Missy". Somehow or other her tail had been crushed, just how we never figured out. I watched and waited and we debated over whether we were keeping these kittens and if intervention would happen. Nature happens. Nature healed that little kitten and her tail; misshapen it is, but it's quite viable. Had she taken ill—intervention would have happened.
The other kitten, the "little" kitten simply begged to be loved but was so afraid. Hours were spent on the back steps with the food and sweet talk and patience were required. Finally we knew, we had two little females. Missy would hog all the food so we had to be there as they both ate. The little one was just as talkative as her sister. Thus, her name is "Gabby."
Every morning now, after the shower and before the coffee—they greet me. They've adopted the garage as their home bounding up the steps and into the loft for safekeeping and they know their bowls. They get their morning rubs and cuddles only to be followed in the evenings with the heavier foods.
Watching them in the soft April sunshine gamboling about amid the greening of the tiger lilies, I had to stop and realize they'd never known such ease before. They've only been alive a few short months. Almost all they've known is hardship and cold and privation.
They've become giddy with glee as all children do. They race to follow me to the clothesline and then tackle each other in a running tumble. Everything is still new with wonder for them and they are eager to enjoy it all.
This week I'll have to go to Petsmart and buy that 'cat-carrier' I never wanted to have to buy; one large enough to house them both. Within another month, they'll have to be fixed. Yes, they have a home here for as long as they'll stay.
Now, not only will I have indoor kitties, I'll have outdoor kitties too. And while the indoor kitties are struggling to deal with it, our little babies are having the time of their lives—with the garage and heat simply steps away if they get cold or wet.
Sometimes your judgment in life isn't how you interact with people, it's how you interact with all life—the big and the small. For now the babies are safe and frolicking. They know no fear nor famine. They know only that they are loved and that the sun is warm and kind. They also know they don't like the lawn mower. They just can't have everything. But so it is with all of us. I'd like to see each one of us happy with the morning sun warming the day. For we humans it's so hard to do with all the other debris that cloud our lives. I know I struggle with it. Who knows? Maybe tomorrow . . .
Nature gives us gifts. These little babies are such. I hope you get yours soon. The sun will shine brighter for you and I hope it does.