While we waited for our TNR certification, we continued to make friends with the kittens. As each day went by Calico Lady got healthier and more comfortable with us around the kittens, until we were feeding them canned cat food from our fingers while she crammed her whole head into the food dish and ate like each bite was her first in a year. The brothers enjoyed having a safe place to explore and wrestle with each other.
Genius Cat was also grooving on the regular food and affection.
After watching Genius Cat cede food to Calico Lady, then his box, and now watching him with her kittens, we came to the conclusion that Genius Cat must be her son. Looking at his markings and guessing his age, we determined that Genius Cat must be her son with the Maine Coon-looking fellow we’d seen around last winter. It was obvious the current litter was fathered by SuperBad. So what we had back there was a little family — Momma, her four babies, and their older half-brother. Now, dear reader, do you remember the two little kittens Calico Lady was bringing around back in July? Well, their real Momma’s owner had managed to get the little black one adopted, and had thought they found someone to take the black and white one. But that fell through and the neighbors didn’t want a kitten, so they put the unwanted black and white kitten in the back yard, figuring the kibble they put out to feed the neighborhood cats would sustain the kitten as well. Well, the poor dear was terribly lonely, and once he noticed that there were cats and kittens and food in our yard, he started angling to get accepted as a member of this family.
He’d been Genius Cat’s buddy, but once the kittens came Genius Cat seemed to mature into his role of Older Half Brother and no longer wanted to hang out with a silly youngster like Black and White Kitten. So Black and White Kitten set his sights on making friends with the little ones.
The same way Calico Lady Momma was nervous with Genius Cat around her babies, she was also nervous about Black and White Kitten hanging out being a big galoof. But he had no better plans, so he patiently campaigned for acceptance. It was fascinating to watch cat society in action.
For about a week, Black and White Kitty hung out in the middle of the next door neighbor’s yard, on the other side of the abandoned car in my neighbor’s yard. He would peer under the car and watch everyone, and you could see him pretending that they were all playing together when really the kittens didn’t know he was there and Calico Lady was making sure he didn’t come any closer. it seemed like he was so lonely that make-believe friends were better than no friends at all.
After about a week, Calico Lady let him linger at the outer edge of our yard and the kittens adopted him as a playmate. Genius Cat had grown up and left Black and White Kitty behind, but Black and White was still mostly kitten and was happy to roll about and chase things with the babies. He also really liked wrecking their box.
Since he was generally there at mealtime, Calico Lady started letting him eat after everyone else had their fill. Getting allowed at meals was a turning point in his acceptance into our backyard colony.
There was a pile of branches and weeds next to Calico Lady and the babies’ box, and within a few days of being allowed to stay there during the day, Black and White Kitty started sleeping there full-time. At this point we started putting out a litter box to keep the smell of so many cats staying local. Black and White Kitty thought at first we’d put out a special box just for him, and spent a day sitting in the litter box as if it were a private beach, but the brothers liked to play in it too and eventually someone went and ruined their new plaything by pooping in it. We were immensely pleased to discover all the cats started using the litter box without any suggestion on our part. Black and White Kitty was less pleased to discover no one had made a special box for him — even though he had a basement he could sleep in two houses away — and went back to sleeping on his pile of branches.
We started to get more concerned about the little kitten with the infected eye. Even though he was eating and playing and wrestling with his brothers, the eye was getting worse, not better.
We started researching our options. Even if we could trap him, we couldn’t afford to bring him to the vet and we were concerned that if we brought him to a shelter he’d be destroyed. Joe looked up kitten eye infections on the internet and figured out it was more than likely an infection that gets into the eye before the inside eyelid has retracted. There was an ointment available online. We ordered the medication and decided we’d capture the kitten and give it a course of treatment.
BooBoo Kitty, as the kitten with the infected eye had come to be named, had a special connection with Joe from his first day in the back yard. Joe was convinced he’d be able to grab the kitten, medicate the kitten, release the kitten and then grab it again in 12 hours when it needed more medication. I did not think that plan would work, but also knew I had no shot at grabbing the kitten at all so had to leave it to Joe to find out for himself that plan wasn’t going to work. It was quickly apparent we were going to have to catch BooBoo Kitty and bring him inside.