He's gone. A haunting silence whispers his absence. No more early morning playtime, waking us up with the sound of tiny feet chasing a yarn ball across the kitchen floor.
What happens when you start feeding one homeless cat--she tells all her friends. Soon after, they begin arriving, in shifts, one by one, morning and night, like clockwork. They start hanging out in the yard, sit near the garden, watching, while you pull weeds, or they climb up on the bench in the morning, taking the sun. Sometimes they bring their offspring, and leave them.
"Pepé" (the day we found him; he's one of ours now)
It is illegal here to have more than four domestic animals living in one household. We’ve reached our limit.
How many have come and gone over the years. Pluffy: from his first days this tough little gray mastered surviving the frigid, bitter cold and frequent winter storms outside. Too skitterish to be approached, too independent to domesticate, too elusive to catch; we watched him grow from infancy to adulthood. Two years ago someone shot him with a BB gun; was it man or animal that then gashed his skin in symmetrical swipes producing a gaping wound where his insides showed. Even then he would not let us help, knew what was happening, and scampered off somewhere to die. Blackie, the neighborhood casanova--never missing a meal, not once in three years--one day mysteriously disappeared. The abandoned white female with the pretty face, another long-time visitor, suddenly disappeared as well, in the same week. The two yellows, occasional visitors, abruptly stopped coming.
Perhaps someone is catching, collecting or killing them. Or they may have simply moved on to another supportive neighbor gravy-train. One leaves, two more arrive. Where are they all coming from?!!
We built a shelter under the cedar trees, of straw and wood and tarp, for when the snowbank reaches five feet in the back; and shovel paths down over the wooded hill so they don't get stuck when the blinding drifts make passage treacherous. Every year you say: Enough. No more. And then one or two little ones arrive again, without their mother. Fit in the palm of your hand, fix you with those big, innocent eyes. You’re smitten.
It costs about $65 to spay a cat here. If we could catch the mother and “fix” her, or find a home for her, that would help. But she has been outside too long, distrusts humans; no one would take her. Or try to catch and neuter the father. We know who he is--the last two litters all looked remarkably like him, same color and type fur, same face, same eyes.
Yesterday afternoon we took wee Jack and his little twin to the SPCA, who will put them up for adoption. Leaving off a beloved pet when you can no longer care for it is difficult enough. Rescuing and dropping off random orphan kittens is no less easy. We opted not to take a tour of the cages in the back, housing unwanted, abandoned and/or abused animals. It's enough to make you cry. It is a very big problem, though--Everywhere--there are just too many of them.
Many of the animals have been there for months, still waiting to be placed. Luckily this SPCA has enough room to house them all. They post their pictures on their website, with little blurbs of introduction: "I am a shy cat but can adapt myself well to your family. I am curious, affectionate and calm," says one. "I am nervous and will need a period of adjustment," says another. They make known their preferences. Not everyone likes being held. "I prefer to be on the ground," says one named Jake, "than in the arms."
Meanwhile what to do about Li and Lou (Jack's older brothers, who are about five months old and roughly about the same size now as Li-Lou, their mother).
I'm really a dog person. I never much liked cats (except for tiny kittens) and was actually allergic to them. I would love to have a dog, but things don't always turn out how you imagine. I have overcome the allergies and learned to appreciate the feline personality, and now know far more about these delightful creatures than I ever did before. My mate (you guessed it!) is a cat person. Our cats are all ones that we found abandoned and on their own, or in need of rescuing. The photo above shows four of a gang of five that we sheltered for a time and adopted out two years ago. They lived for a month in our garden shed. I joked the other day that we should be living on a farm somewhere out in the country--it would be so much easier!
But we don't. And there you have it. What is one to do.
Kittens, anyone? Anyone???