January 26, 2021

Distressed ‘meow’ brings pleasure surprise

            On a cold, rainy Saturday, I sat on an upside-down 5-gallon plastic bucket. The farm’s to-do list was stuffed in my Carhart’s pocket, but I wasn’t getting up. My mind was too busy thinking about two things: 

§  What happened in the past year.

§  What was making me laugh, six feet away.

       With the upside-down world brought about by COVID-19 and polarized politics, I was glad to be distracted and laughing at the circus-like play of three almost-grown furballs. Last summer, we had no cats. Now we have four—a mama cat and her three kittens.

            We are critter folks. We love our two schnauzers, a big red mule, five llamas, seven miniature donkeys and a miniature horse that might birth our first miniature mule. In the past, we’ve had as many as 75 goats, a Morgan-Arabian horse, a pair of draft mules, eight Belted Galloway cowsa flock of bantam chickens, four Royal Palm turkeys and five Great Pyrenees pasture dogs. And I should say, the veterinarians love us, too. 

            But we weren’t looking for cats.

            Last September, they found us. Or we found the first one, a 2-week-old kitten, meowing behind a shovel in the tool room. It was ever so tiny. We searched for its mama. No luck. We started feeding it milk-replacement formula with an eyedropper. 

Still no mama. 

After visits to the vet for shots and "fixing," the littermates—Sister,

Bubba and Rascal—were reunited in their customized cat cage in the

storage barn.

And then one day, a black blur darted from beneath a work bench. Ah, ha! There goes mama cat. 

A few days later, we heard cries and looked inside the hayride wagon. Two more kittens. We decided to keep raising the first kitten in a box at the house and let Mama take care of her others.

At weaning time, we used our armadillo trap to corral Mama. With some crawling and reaching, the two little ones were caught. They were introduced to a three-level cat condo and kitty food. Mama visited the vet for “fixing” and to get all the necessary shots.

With the goal of reuniting the litter, I moved a 6-foot by 8-foot chain-link dog kennel into the barn and covered the sides and top with chicken wire. Cats are curious and climbers, so I built ramps to a high shelf. They like the top-floor perch. A plastic dog crate provides a hiding cave. Heat lamps warm two beds inside the big cage. And on the other side of the chain-link wall is an adjacent heated bed for Mama, so she can commune with her offspring. 

Now all three kittens are “fixed,” complete with shots. We aren’t looking to create a feline factory, but we’re making a home for these. When winter turns to spring, we’ll open the cage’s door so Mama’s kittens can join her as barn cats, prowling for mice. We’ve started ringing a bell at chow time, so they’ll know there’s a reward for their work.

A year ago, you and I had no idea that COVID-19 or ugly politics would turn our world rattle our lives. Let’s keep praying better days are ahead. In the meantime, I am surprised to find much-appreciated pleasure, sitting on an upside-down plastic bucket and laughing at the playful, personality-packed kittens—Rascal, Bubba and Sister.

Mama cat—once shy and afraid—rubs against my legs and purrs, hoping that I will scratch her back. We’ve made friends. And when I step inside the kittens’ “house,” they clamor for ear scratching, too. There’s a lesson in this. It doesn’t matter whether it’s people or critters—kindness begets kindness.