After Genius Cat got a box-house of his own, he went to the neighbor’s yard and brought Black and White Kitty to check out his new digs. He was clearly proud of his new home and that made us happy. Calico Lady also came by to inspect the box and was spotted hanging out in it during the day. Then, one morning, I looked out the window and saw that not only was Calico Lady in the box, next to here was a small puff of orange. In this photo he’s way in the back. I didn’t want to get too close and scare her off, so it’s not a great shot. But that’s a kitten in there.
In addition to the kitten in the box, there was a ball of fluff wandering around in the yard.
And then they were gone. Calico Lady hustled them back to where ever she’d been keeping them. The weird part was that when we went to bed that night, she was sleeping in the box alone.
The next morning, I woke up and looked outside. There, in the box, was a great big pile of orange fluff. I thought maybe it was SuperBad and wondered if Calico Lady had a Gentleman Caller the previous evening. I put my reading glasses on and peered through the screen. It wasn’t one large cat at all.
“Oh. My. God. It’s all KITTENS!”I squealed.
All those kittens surely meant Calico Lady was hungry. Luckily I had one big can of cheap sardines. I went outside to bring the fish to Calico Lady. You can see that her head had started to heal. She was happy for the fish, but very protective of the kittens.
But once I put the food down and backed off, she was really excited about the sardines.
Even her tiny baby kittens came over to check out the sardine action.
At first, we were afraid to get too close, but later in the day we came back to give Calico Lady some more food. She was willing to put up with us getting pretty close to her and the babies as long as food for her was involved.
There were four altogether. One was clearly the most adventuresome kitten:
And one little kitten was a brave little fella even though it looked like he might have an eye infection:
And that’s how kittens in the backyard became a Thing.
It was obvious Genius Cat couldn’t be expected to share his box with a whole pile of babies, so we made them a separate box. It was a hit.
We were worried that Genius Cat would get territorial and hurt the kittens, and so was Calico Lady, but it quickly became clear all he wanted was the status of being the Cat Who Comes to the Windowsill.
I was up to my ears in Cat, so when I ran into another little black cat that may or may not have been the same one from further down the block. I bought it a can of food but this time did not try to capture it.
With a whole box full of kittens in my backyard I knew I was about maxed out on cat caretaking, so the can of food would have to be as much as I could help this little kitty.
This box full of kittens had forced us into an additional level of involvement with the lives of the ferals of the backyard. If Calico Lady Momma was going to bring us her kittens, we were going to have to find homes for them and if we had to find homes for them, we couldn’t have her getting knocked up 3 times a year. In addition, she was skinny and starving — it was obvious that having babies exhausted her.
We started researching ways to get stray cats fixed. We quickly discovered that while there are resources available to spay or neuter pet cats for free, those resources were not open to ‘feral’ cats. Now, bringing the babies into our yard had softened Calico Lady’s attitude towards us considerably. She would let us pet her and as the kittens started eating solid food, we made sure to hand-feed them so that they would be accustomed to being touched by humans. They were much more tame than they had been. However, we weren’t sure how they’d react if they were trapped in a carrier. We weren’t sure it would work to pretend our strays were pets.
We learned that there are also resources available for stray cats, but to access those, you have to be certified through the city’s Trap, Neuter, and Release (TNR) program. Certification is free. We signed up for the next class, which was in two weeks.
Getting the kittens adopted was important, but Calico Lady Momma was a very attentive parent and the kittens were still nursing. She wasn’t about to let us take her babies.
We decided the best plan was to get certified, get the cats spayed/neutered and then separate Momma from babies post-op. The idea behind that was that if she was coming out of surgery and we scrubbed the yard of the kittens’ scent, we would put her outside, keep the kittens inside and she would look around for them for a day or two and then forget all about them.
So that was the plan. Let the kittens stay with Momma for a few more weeks, while they were still nursing, and then take action.