Saturday, May 27, 2006

Unexpected houseguests

Unexpected Houseguests 1

There was a feral cat living in the woods behind my building. This past Monday was the last time I saw her, and the first time I knew she was a mommy. I was coming back from the laundry room, and she was on the sidewalk ahead of me. Instead of vanishing into the underbrush the way she always does, she started meowing. Sounded distressed. And then I heard it: teeny little kitten mews in the woods. One of the kittens was out of the nest, looking for her, and she was torn between whether to go put the baby back where it belonged or lure me away from the nest. I saw it, too. It was a minature version of her--white with stripes. I decided to let myself be led away.

A few days later, I heard the kitten again, very loud and insistent. Its voice was joined by another, just as urgent-sounding. Some of my neighbors came out to see what the noise was about, and one of them got right up to where the kittens were. He said there were three of them in a tree trunk. We were conflicted about whether to take them out of the nest or not. I figured Mama Cat was just off hunting somewhere, and would be back soon. We agreed to leave them there, untouched, because if she smelled human scent on them she might not feed them when she came back.

When I came home from work yesterday, I heard nothing from the woods. Today, however, more crying. And now there are only two kittens. That little whitish one is gone. I don't know what happened, and I don't think I want to know. The two remaining ones were so hungry that they came out of the woods to me. I sat on a rock in the gully that separates the woods from the lawn, and watched them climb down the tree trunk, come through the underbrush, and walk right up to me. They'd sniff me and back away, but they never left entirely. I'm pretty sure now that something has happened to the mother cat. Either she tangled with a ground hog (I've seen quite a few of them around this year), or got hit by a car, I don't know. The kittens were hungry enough start chewing dead leaves they found in the gully.

So I went into the apartment and got the cat carrier, put a towel in it, and went back out to the woods. I didn't even need to climb back into the gully -- they scaled the side of it to get to me. They're now in my kitchen. I fed them some dry cat food (it's all I have. They ate it, though), and gave them a little bowl of water. The water may have been a mistake. All they do is step in it.

I need to get them to a vet, to see if they're healthy. I'm pretty sure they have fleas, and goodness know what else. They've been living in the woods, after all. Of course I decided to play savior after my vet's office closed for the day. I doubt very much any of the vets in town have Sunday hours, and Monday is Memorial Day--no one will be open. So it looks like Tuesday, provided I'm not on the reference desk at an inconvenient time.

I have no idea what to do with them after a vet's visit. I can't keep them. My lease only allows for one animal, and that would be Delilah. The local SPCA is a little too quick to destroy animals. Now granted, these are kittens and probably easier to place than an adult cat, but still, I don't want to run the risk of them being destroyed. In reaction to the SPCA's practices, a group has formed that acts as a sort of pet adoption agency/foster center. These animals live in peoples' homes temporarily until someone else adopts them. There's usually a waiting list to get animals into this program.

Delilah's been in the kitchen to see what's making all the noise in the cat carrier (they were crying to be let out a while ago. They seem to have settled down now). I don't know what's going on in her head. She hid for a while, then sat on the bed staring at me for a while, and now she's curled up asleep--nowhere near me. Normally when I'm on the computer, she's right next to me in her bed. I think she's upset with me.

If Mama Cat is alive, I'm sorry for the distress this will cause her. But I've spoken with other people who saw this cat more regularly than I did, and she hasn't been seen in days. I feel justified in taking these little things in. I think they would have starved to death out there.

I just wish I knew what to do now. Maybe the vet will have some ideas. She probably gets things like this all the time.


Elaine said...

I can understand you feeling torn between the needs of the kittens and the worry that their mother might feel at returning to the empty nest.

We temporarily adopted a cat called Benson. He would arrive in the morning demanding food and my husband would share his mackerel with him. I insisted that we didn't give the cat anything too rich, so we ended keeping a box of cheap fish fingers in the freezer and would defrost one each time the cat turned up for breakfast.

It turned out the cat actually belonged to a neighbour in the adjoining side street. They also had a cat called Hedges. Benson and Hedges. Brother and Sister. How dreadfully common I thought to name animals after a tobacco brand.

Benson was run over shortly afterwards and it was a full two weeks before I realised we still had the fish fingers in the freezer.

G said...

Right - that was Saturday. Today is Tuesday. They're still in your kitchen, aren't they?

--V said...

Welcome, Elaine. I've been keeping an eye (and an ear) out for the mother cat, and I think she's well and truly gone. One of my neighbors told me the maintenance men have been setting traps (humane ones, I hope) in the woods around our complex, due to complaints about skunks. So my new theory is that she got caught in one of those. Of course the "humane" trap is only as humane as the person going to check it regularly to what's been caught. Even then, a feral cat would probably be handed over to Animal Control instead of being set free.

Benson & Hedges? Oh dear. This might make you wince a bit too. My mother owns the brother of my cat Delilah. Take a guess at what his name is. Yup. Samson. Sorry.

G--They sure are. Will be posting about that shortly (composing it in my head at the moment).