A Tale of Ten Kittykats
Oh where to begin with my kittykats, the only thing I can say is I definitely did not plan to have this many – it just happened!
There’s May, who is the eldest at 17yrs and queen kitty of the monarchy
Dweezil, Runty and Tiggy, all 4 years old
And finally Weemo, Toto and Bonnie, all 18 months old
I got May six years ago when my yoga teacher was moving house, and couldn’t take her cat with her. I got lucky and ended up with a beautiful big ginger and white baby, whom I adore. May was my first proper pet and I loved her as soon as I saw her. She had the place where I live, an old Victorian farmhouse, all to herself for two years until December 2008 when someone dumped four cats in our garage and life changed forever. . .
It was a fortnight before Christmas, the days were hard, dark and unforgivably cold. How anyone could abandon four six month old kittens in conditions like that is beyond my reckoning – utter cruelty is the only word to describe it. I first noticed feline movements other than May’s when I looked out over our courtyard one morning and saw two kittens scampering across. It took me and my mum completely by surprise!
I went outside and, after a good hour of patiently watching and waiting, saw them emerge from behind the shed and pad cautiously into the garage. On closer inspection I found four kittens in total, all nestled up together on a bale of hay, paws and heads jumbled up like a giant furry ball. They were extremely shy and nervous but equally as hungry and didn’t say no to a tin of Felix – they gobbled that up in five minutes flat!
The next day my mum got hold of the Cats Protection charity and explained our situation to a woman over the phone. Sarah came out that afternoon and saw for herself what a predicament we were in. She gave us two traps and said if we could catch the kittens and get them up to Bovey Tracey then the vets at the local surgery would flea, neuter/spay, worm and microchip them, free of charge. However it wasn’t all good news, because the kittens had been dumped on our property they were now our responsibility.
Absolutely unbelievable I know but when the chances of catching whoever dumped them were a million to one and considering the Cats Protection and other animal charities are over run with cases like this every day, we did the right (if not ideal) thing and accepted three of them without fuss as ours. My dad wasn’t quite as forthcoming as my mum and I but you should see him now, four years later, with a cat on his lap every night. He’s become a right softie in his old age!
Christmas 2008 was a year to remember, my mum cooked Christmas dinner while I looked after my newly-adopted babies, letting them have the run of the kitchen – and stopping them from getting under my mum’s feet!
Sarah also gave us a big cage to keep them in once they were indoors, because they were feral to start with and hadn’t been around people before. I spent over a month taming them and getting them used to human contact before I let them have the run of the house. May was not at all pleased with these new arrivals, she went from being the only cat in the house to one of four within the space of a week.
She adapted wonderfully well, bless her, and was soon asserting her authority and showing those young kittykats who was boss! By spring the following year the three musketeers had settled into our home like they had always been part of the family – I mean it when I say I couldn’t imagine life without them.
But as the title suggests, this wasn’t the end of the kittykat sage, not by any means. Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that four kittens were dumped in our garage that fateful Christmas and we only kept three of them. That’s because one of them gave us the slip and ran off before we could catch her. We thought we’d never see her again but low and behold she returned in July 2009 with five kittens of her own – that was enough to give my dad a heart attack!
It was the last night of a dance show I was performing in, and my mum, dad and brothers had come along to watch the show. We came home late and saw a cat with a trail of kittens playing on the crossroads, about half a mile away from our house. It was too dark to recognise any of them, but the next day they were all sitting in a line in the courtyard, one after the other, like little statues. I was gobsmacked but secretly delighted – our runaway kittykat had come home at last, and with her new family too. I named her Felix, after the kitty on the brand of cat food!
Her kittens were too adorable for words, they weren’t more than six weeks old – it melted my heart to see them gambolling around our garden in the sunshine. We have a veranda at the front of our house and they spent many happy weeks there, playing and just being kittens. Felix fed them her own milk for a while, and we started putting kitten food down for them after that. I couldn’t believe how fast they were growing, one minute they were the size of my hand, the next they were nearly as big as May!
It was a hot summer that year, we kept both doors open all day in the house as well as the big sash windows, to keep the place cool. Hence to say our new arrivals soon became curious and started wandering in and out of their own choosing, which worked perfectly and made taming them a dream compared to the first three.
There was no cage malarkey involved which I preferred, just gentle stroking and petting until all of us, my dad included, could pick them up and give them cuddles and have them sitting in our laps purring away.
It wasn’t all plain sailing however. I’d love to say Tiggy, Dweezil and Runty recognised their long-lost sister as soon as they clapped eyes on each other, welcomed them with open paws and took on aunt and uncle babysitting duties like they’d been looking forward to it their whole lives – but they didn’t. Oh no, they treated poor Felix like she was the enemy, chasing and fighting her at every opportunity, as if she’d started a war by coming back home.
Maybe in their minds she had, in the wild it’s survival of the fittest – it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about lions in Africa or abandoned kittens in Devon, all cats have a second nature which takes over and makes them behave with a born instinct. No amount of human intervention could stop that kittykat feud!
By early autumn we agreed to do the one thing we’d been putting off – get in touch with Sarah and tell her the story. She came out to see them and was bowled over, said she’d never dreamed feral cats could become domesticated as well as this and that the Cats Protection would be able to find homes for beautiful kittens like these, no problem.
To be one hundred percent honest I wasn’t happy at all at giving them up – they were my kittykats, I’d spent weeks, months, taming them like I had and now Sarah had come along, seen what a great job I’d done and was going to re-home them and let Cats Protection take all the credit for what I’d done.
Call me what you like but I wasn’t going to take that lying down! It wasn’t only about how tame they were either, Sarah described them as “beautiful” and I knew what she meant – they weren’t ordinary tabby or boring black and white like our previous three, but unusual colours.
Fatty was white and grey, Annice was a tabby/tortoiseshell, Fudge was golden brown and black, Golly was completely black, and Smoky was a silvery-grey – she looked like a Russian Blue cat. I hated the way it was based on looks alone, as if that’s all people care about when they choose a cat.
Animals are living creatures which need love and attention, they’re not some accessory to match your handbag or soft furnishings. My parents understood how I felt entirely, but had to gently remind me of the practicalities of keeping ten cats – the long and the short of it being we wouldn’t be able to afford it. I was devastated but knew there was nothing I could do.
With a very heavy heart I set the ball rolling, the following week I took my five babies up to Bovey Tracey so the vets could do what they had to do. They came back to our house to recover, the boys were bounding around the next day like nothing had changed but Smoky was feeling a tad more delicate.
It’s not so bad when tom cats are neutered, they have their balls removed and the job’s done, but for females it’s an actual operation – a small and quick one of course, but they’re still cut open and have their ovaries and uterus removed which is more invasive than what’s done for males.
A few days later I did one of the hardest things I’ve ever done – said goodbye to my kittykats. I put them in cat baskets and my mum and I drove them up to a place on Dartmoor where they would be kept until they were re-homed. We were greeted by a woman called Jill and she put them in a shed outside, in separate cages similar to the big one we had at home.
Every fibre in my body was screaming STOP! but I couldn’t – the decision was out of my hands now. I’ll never forget the confused look on their little faces when they watched me leave. I kept telling myself they’d all find homes of their own and would be loved individually and have more attention shown to them than I possibly could have if I’d kept them all – but that didn’t stop my heart breaking.
Now that could have been the end of the tale but, as fate would have it, it wasn’t – not by a long shot! Just as I was getting used to my kittykat family being half of what it used to be we had a phone call – it was Jill saying we had to come up immediately and take our cats back because she’d never known such feral animals in all her life. I couldn’t believe my ears so my mum and I went up there at once.
Jill said they’d scratched and bitten her and wouldn’t let anyone touch them – she showed us the marks on her arms to prove it. I feigned innocence when I managed to put them into cat baskets no problem and had to stop myself leaping round with joy as we took them back to our car. My kittykats hadn’t liked the way things had happened any more than I did, and were determined to do something about it – which they had. I’d taught them well!
Even though I was ecstatic to have my angels back with me I knew it was going to be difficult looking after them all – cost being the main issue. I gave one kitten away to a family friend, Carol lived on the edge of Dartmoor in a house with outbuildings which was perfect for Smoky as it was what she was used to. My heart broke saying goodbye for the second time but at least this time I knew where she was going and that she’d be genuinely loved and looked after.
Another kitty wandered off and has never come back to this day – Golly was always a free roamer by nature, I’d often see him several fields away when he was barely a month old! He used to disappear for two to three weeks at a time then would turn up and stick around for a few days before going off again – only one day he never returned.
I still get a pang when I look at old photos of him, and wonder what happened to him. He could have got run over by a car or caught in a snare but I like to think he may have found another home – there are plenty of farmhouses within a five mile radius of our house and I often imagine him having befriended a lonely farmer who took him in.
That just left the troublesome trio, add them to May and the three musketeers and I had seven kittykats in total, which was more than enough for me – but life still had one more ball to throw at us!
You may have noticed I didn’t mention Felix once when I took her kittens up to be re-homed and that’s because, a few days before it happened, she vanished once more. Yes she’d given us the slip again, just like that. I swear she could read our minds, how else could she be so elusive?!
We didn’t see her again until June 2010 when, you guessed it, she appeared in our garage with not five but six kittens. This time it was me who nearly had a nervous breakdown! Poor Felix didn’t look in good condition at all, she was smaller and scrawnier than last time we’d seen her, and didn’t look as if she had enough milk to feed all her kittens.
We were quicker off the mark this time and managed to catch Felix first and take her up to Bovey Tracey where she was spayed etc. I breathed a sigh of relief once the operation had been carried out and we could take her home – I’d have no more nightmares of kittens popping up ever again!
We kept her in a cage indoors overnight, which she inevitably hated. The vets told us to keep her calm and rested for twenty four hours but she was only in the cage for twelve before she was trying to break out of it. We let her out and she went looking for her kittens immediately – only they weren’t there.
While she had been out of the way it was a golden opportunity to catch her kittens and take them to the vets, which we did. I’ll never forget those two days, I saw the inside of a car more than I did my own home, travelling up and down to Bovey Tracey with my parents four times a day. I didn’t catch all six of Felix’s kittens, only half of them – the other three had the same vanishing gene as their mother!
The day we set Felix free was the last time any of us saw her again, and those three kittens too. It reminded me of Golly all over again but I didn’t worry so much this time – at least Felix was there to look after her kittens and I wouldn’t have to worry about her coming back pregnant and poorly again.
The kittens I managed to catch we ended up keeping – not that we didn’t try to find homes for them however. I put an advert up in our local pet and country store and we had a farming family come up to see them, once I’d tamed them for a few weeks. The mother and daughter fell in love with the biggest and cutest looking out of the three, and took him home the following day – but it didn’t work out.
After a few days he was brought back again because, as the mother informed us, he stopped eating and drinking and only came out from behind the sofa to relieve his bladder. He was pining away for his original home, bless him!
We didn’t see any point in trying to find new homes for any of the kittens after that, their happiness was the most important thing to me and if they wanted to stay with us then that’s what would happen. What was an extra three when we had seven already! Weemo, Toto and Bonnie became the latest additions to the kittykat family, and the last, much to everyone’s relief.
You may have noticed my family and I didn’t stick to ordinary names when deciding what to call the kittykats, it was a fun business to say the least! Here’s a re-cap of all their names, and the reasons behind them:
Dweezil was courtesy of one of my brothers, this is also the name of one of Frank Zappa’s daughters – he was a musician and my brother is a fan of his music. Let’s just say Dweezil the cat and Dweezil the daughter have something in common, both knowing eccentric artists!
Runty was another name which flowed off the tongue, chosen by my other brother. She was the runt of the litter and still is a slip of a thing, even now she’s fully grown – she’s second smallest out of the kittykats!
Tiggy was an easy one, he’s a bouncy tabby cat and looks just like a mini tiger – I sometimes call him Tiggly Wiggly as he’s always showing off his bum!
Annice was my idea, the first time I saw him I said he’s too pretty to be a boy, he must be a girl! Of course the vets soon put me right but it was too late by then, he’d been called Annice for so long we couldn’t change his name. He has such a beautiful face, white with brown markings and eyes that look as if they’ve been outlined in kohl. We all call him gay kittykat!
Fatty Fatty Boom Boom, Fatty for short, was a no-brainer – even when he was a kitten he was bigger than his mum, and now he’s fully grown he’s the biggest kittykat out of them all, even May. He’s the size of a terrier!
Weemo was part me, part my brother. When he was a few months old he had this habit of widdling on whoever’s duvet he happened to be sleeping on in the middle of the night – so you’d wake up in the morning with wet, smelly sheets. Not nice at all, I’m thankful to say he grew out of that stage pretty quickly!
Toto is the tiniest of the kittykats, she was clearly the runt of Felix’s last litter – when I first saw her she was small enough to sit in the palm of my hand! Having said that she was the boldest and brightest out of them all, I named her after the dog in the Wizard of Oz. Toto suits her nature, and size, perfectly!
Bonnie is almost Toto’s twin, they’re sisters and are the same colour almost to a tea. We call them the marmalade kittens, they’re ginger and black and have the most beautiful markings. Bonnie is slightly longer and taller than Toto, that’s the only way we can tell them apart!
So that’s the tale of how I came to end up with ten kittykats. Nearly four years on it feels like I’ve always been a crazy cat lady, my friends and family often joke I’ll end up a spinster in thirty years time, with dozens of cats instead of a husband and children. I call them my babies even now and put them before any boyfriend so who knows – it could happen!
- Posted in: Miscellaneous
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