Tuesday, August 06, 2019


If you have been reading Ocean for the past several days, you'll know Ed and I are in the middle of capturing the feral cat family that lives at the farmette, so that each kitty can be spayed and vaccinated. For several weeks we have been feeding the kitties inside a cage and in a large animal carrying case. Last Wednesday, we tried to close the doors on them, but they got out. Yesterday, having learnt our lesson, we had stronger systems in place and we managed to trap Dance, the young mama cat, and her three younger siblings. In the evening, we trapped one more little one, leaving us with the challenge of capturing the remaining two young kittens. Kittens that are wiser to the loud bang of a closing trap door.

Storms passed over the farmette last night and heavy rains soaked our gardens and grasses. But by early morning, the clouds receded and there was that promise of another pretty summer day. Ed and I are up early once more.

The three spayed and vaccinated kittens are in the sheep shed bathroom recovering, as per vet instructions, but Dance was released last night into the garage. We are fairly confident that she is still nursing babies somewhere high in the rafters of the building. She needed to be with them.

This morning, I was much relieved to see her come to our door when I was doing my usual food preparations in the mud room. She meowed her usual meow and rubbed against me as always the whole walk to the picnic table. And she ate like a little piglet.

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Once she was fed, Ed set up the cage and the carrier for the remaining kittens. This was a challenge. They tiptoed around the contraptions, sniffed the food through the openings, but they would not go in. And then we learned something: they associated terror not with the cages, but with Ed.

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When he got up and moved out of eye range, they cautiously meandered into the traps. At that point it was easy for him to simply add length to the string he was pulling. Within a few minutes, both kitties were trapped. And so we now have three more young ones at the vet.

I snipped flowers during the entire ordeal. This is what the cats are used to: me snipping flowers. I was feigning normality.

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Once the two little ones were caged, we opened the sheep shed bathroom window to let yesterday's batch out. Two scampered out immediately and ran to the wild grasses and bushes at the far northern end of the farmette. I haven't seen them since. Ed is sure they'll find their way back. I'm a little more skeptical. They have lived all their young lives within a few feet of the garage. And do they even want to come back? We'll see.

The third kitten held back. She sat on the window sill, not daring to move. I say "she," because we were told that of the three, two were boys, one was a girl. The one left behind had that less bold demeanor that I associated also with Dance. Too, she was likely hurting more as her surgery was more invasive. And so it was not hard to pick her up and carry her to the garage.

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She meowed in bewilderment, likely suffering the sudden loss of all her siblings, but, she is safely in the garage, resting on a pillow there and presumably Dance is in the rafters. The cheepers are now out and about and the cats really do like their presence.

We are not complaining! Things went well, though we're already talking about the next batch of kitties -- those in the rafters. If they survive, they will be our next challenge. And, too, there is the ever elusive Stop Sign, the grand mama of them all!

Ed tells me that when he dropped off today's kittens at the vet's, he met a guy with two Have-a-Heart traps, each with a feral cat inside. He said he lived on a farm near Platville (that's 70 miles away). People routinely dropped off abandoned or feral cats at his place. He goes to the trouble of bringing them to the clinic in Madison, because it's the least expensive one in south central Wisconsin (they charge $40 for spaying and giving a rabies shot for each cat plus $10 if you add a distemper vaccine). The cats he brought in today are number 56 and 57. And so when we groan about trapping seven cats and driving only four miles to the Spay Me clinic and dishing out $350 for these kittens, let's remind ourselves of the good farmer who drives 90 minutes each way twice a day and has now paid as much as $2850 in an effort to do well by the cats that show up at his barn. There are really good people out there on this planet.


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Always with a view.

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And in the afternoon, I play with Snowdrop.

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She is in a phase where she loves to play pretend games and recently, they have involved pretending, often through lego characters, to be horribly naughty. I pushed her on this today and she told me that all the boys in her class misbehaved. I don't know most of them in her summer program, but even so, it didn't take me long to come up with at least one whom she admitted was not horribly behaved. Still, it's the ones who move fast and aren't (yet) aware of their physical boundaries that have her worried.

So we play. And talk.

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And eventually do art.

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In the evening, two things of note happen: first, Ed brings back the remaining three kittens from the vet. We put them in the sheep shed bathroom, but in lingering with them for a while, I notice that two are immediately all over the place and one is hesitant. I'd called the Clinic to ask for a more accurate specification of their gender. In total, we have four boys and two girls. Sure enough, this one more subdued kitten, the only one who doesn't look at all like the rest, is a girl. In the past months, I had pegged her as such. She just seemed.... girlish.

And now, in the bathroom, Blue (name given by Snowdrop) is acting like her sister (Pink) earlier in the morning: probably in pain, definitely frightened, easy to pick up. I decide to take her to the garage, where she could reconnect with her sister. (The other two kittens will be released tomorrow.)

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The other thing that happened tonight? Stop Sign came knocking on the farmhouse door again, wanting food. It was tempting to trap her right then and there. But I hesitated. I thought we had spooked all the cats enough for one set of days. Too, Pink and Blue probably liked seeing their mother again.

Still, as Ed and I looked on, we thought that maybe we made the wrong call. She... really looks kind of thick around her middle...

How many kittens can a mama cat have? On the average, three litters a year, with four kittens per litter and ten years of reproducing. Stop Sign has already beat the averages. She is next in line for the trap!

Still, right now, I do have a sense of satisfaction. Peace even (if you can block news stories). Six kittens plus Dance spayed and vaccinated.

And the garden -- doing just fine in the late evening light.

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