Saturday, July 23, 2011

Kittens with Mittens

A kitten is the most irresistible comedian in the world. Its wide-open eyes gleam with wonder and mirth. It darts madly at nothing at all, and then, as though suddenly checked in the pursuit, prances sideways on its hind legs with ridiculous agility and zeal. ~Agnes Repplier

I have been wanting barn cats for about a year, because in June the squirrels attack my peach tree without regard to our ownership of it. I was hoping that the neighborhood cats would do as there are plenty around, but...well, there is a story behind this one.

The squirrel attacks are well calculated and strategic. I will be washing up at the kitchen sink and see one squirrel run from large trees in our neighbor's yard, through the chain link fence, and up the peach tree. After procuring his prize, it will run down the peach tree with the unripe peach in his mouth to take it back to my neighbor's yard to eat it undisturbed. Some get spooked and run into the fence with a peach too big to fit through the fencing, which can be funny. Some are wasteful, taking only a bite or two and then dropping that one to go for another. Others get rather cheeky, eating a peach right on top of the fence in plain sight or on my back deck! While one is running one way, another squirrel runs the other way so that there is back and forth traffic most of day, unless there is something to stop them.

This did not use to happen when a neighbor's cat, who used to come visiting with his mother as a kitten when we first moved here almost thirteen years ago, decided to adopt us as his primary family and visit his mother and sister two houses down whenever he liked. We called him Smoke with Mama Cat and Patch being the other two, but their real owners called them Dusty, Nyla, and Callie, respectively. They all ate at both places, but it was clear Smoke had claimed our place as his territory. At that time we had a dog who had been trained not to pester cats and was dog aggressive, which meant that any dog that dared even looked at our yard was in serious trouble. This made a lovely safe haven for the cats, once they realized they could boss around this 75 pound German Shepherd and he would chase away every dog.

This also worked so well for the peach tree that it once broke under the weight of the peaches that had not been thinned out by those rascal squirrels and a few of the unwise were brought to our steps by the triumphant Smoke. It was then that I realized that my daughter had a true curiosity about the exposed parts of animals even while the cat was continuing his meal that overrode the ick-factor for her, much like her mother and father, I suppose—that is all I am going to say on that note for those of you who are more squeamish.

Smoke loved that child and from the time the Princess could walk, he began follow her more than he would me. I was a little jealous having been his favorite previously, but they did look so adorable together.

Smoke died when the Princess was four...I cannot believe is has been six years! Patch, although not as people friendly and rarely letting us pet her, staked her claim on Smoke's vacated territory. I was happy to have see her on the back deck asking for her morning milk each day, sometimes her mother came also. This, of course, served us well as the wily squirrels continued eying the tree from afar.

Sasha, our first German Shepherd, died just over three years ago. We did not have a dog for nearly nine months. The cats noticed, but the neighborhood dogs still made a very wide berth around our property.

Then we brought home Hanah and everything changed. Hanah is very dog-friendly and chases EVERYTHING else. Included in everything are squirrels, which would be fine if she was perimeter trained as Sasha was, and, most unfortunately, cats too. Mama Cat and Patch kept their distance, but still came for the morning milk. I thought I had opened the window just enough to feed the cats and for them to get acquainted with the new dog. I had just turned and in a blink Hanah had jumped through that small opening and was off getting acquainted her own way, which was to chase the cats all over the deck in a fenzy. Thankfully the gate was closed so they could escape the deck and more thankfully Hanah did not jump over the rails as the cats had done. I just did not think she would be so agile and I forgot that she is smaller than the one we had before by 30 pounds. After that episode the cats decided that the morning raw milk was not worth the risk and stop coming completely. In fact, they run away every time they see any of us. This from cats who used to lie at my front door when they were hurt. I have missed them.

As I mentioned in a recent post, Hanah was a hyper active dog because she had been a working dog. My inside cat Jamie did not think much of her either, but then he is about fourteen years old and has outlived two dogs and another cat. He believes the house and everything in it belongs to him, but he gave Hanah some time to realize this by keeping his distance. She would still chase him, but after Jamie stood his ground a few times and her being told by me to leave the cat alone, she has settled some and does not chase him much more than any of our other dogs did in play.

With Hanah calmer and all the neighborhood cats avoiding our yard, we had the stage finally set for my plan. I wanted a bonded pair of kittens, hopefully two males. I was not too particular about the gender though, when I found out about a cheap service that does spaying and neutering with the goal of encouraging people to get feral cats fixed in our county, but the cats do not have to be feral to qualify. I had been praying about this, but every time we had an opportunity to get cats, it just did not work for one reason or another...until recently. I was getting my raw milk at the farm I usually go a few weeks ago and there were a bunch of kittens. I happened to see the farm owner and asked if he would be willing to part with two when they were old enough. He said they were nearly there, just a week or two, and to give him a call. I did call about a week later, but being a farmer, he just was busy and did not get back to me.

About a week later we were coming back from Cave Spring, not the Fishing Rodeo, but about a week before it...uh oh! I just realized as I was going to link to that post as I remember writing it but for some reason I guess it did not get posted, so I have not yet told you about our relaxing Monday off which was a comp day for my husband, our picnic lunch taking along our dog Hanah who so wanted to dive into the creek and enjoy lapping up the cold water, our stopping in the town's square for some exquisite key lime fudge and the ice cream cones on our way out. Ah, was a lovely day, but getting back to the subject. On the way home, we would be just a mile south of the farm and why don't we stop and see if they have any kittens left?

It is rare to see the farmer out near the store, but again there he was and he immediately apologized for not calling me. Yes, they had some kittens left, but they were staying cool under a trailer and the Princess and I had to practically crawl under it to get them. I did not see the gray one I hoped to get—I just have a thing for gray cats—but I never had tuxedos before and really wanted them. With another little prayer, I picked two. At the time, I thought they were from the same litter and one was just the runt, but I have been out to the farm since for milk and noticed that there were two or three mama cats that seemed related to each other and who were not too picky about which kittens could nurse. So it seems that one might have been from a later litter and perhaps should not yet have been taken from the mama. However, they are very playful with each other and are thriving. They even have hunted to nurse on Hanah when I could get her to lie down and not step on them! The kittens seem forgiving of her awkward, rough treatment and probably will not easily run off.

They have been a delight in the mornings when I take them out of their pen in the garage to play outside while I garden and care for the rabbits. We did not know their genders when we got them, being young and mostly black so we gave them names so it would not matter. I am pretty sure of their genders now...I think (but then I was wrong about one of the rabbits, which my daughter will not let me forget).

Midnight is the smaller, a female with soft, long hair and a black face yet lots and lots of white whiskers. Her front paws have just a touch of white on her toes and her back right white sock has a long black spot on the back of it. Don't let that small size and sweet face fool you though! She is the wilder of the two and sneak attacks are her game. Hidden from under the leaves of my cucumber or zucchini plants, she awaits for just the right moment to make her moves. She is always looking to pounce or climb on something and its size does not matter at all. She will climb up my pants on up to my shoulder just to bite on my braid. She is spunky.

Sharii (sha REE) is one of my made up names; I have so very many. He is the larger with a white blaze on the face and had short silky hair. He is more people oriented, although that seems to be mostly towards me. He will climb up on me also but will often sit on my shoulder while I am bent over gardening or he will climb over the gate into the rabbitry just because I am there. He has had to be saved out of the peach tree a time or two and the first time he would not leave my side until I placed them back into the pen. He is more of lover, readily purring very loudly when held, and happy to just lay on my lap...until Midnight decides his tail is too much of a temptation.

God always has such wonderful timing and I love that He does give me the things for which I prayed, even to two sweet barn cats who will not be scared off by our dog and will keep mice and squirrels out of their territory.

~ My Lord, You always amaze me in how You give just what I need even when I am not completely sure what I need. Thank you for the delight this kittens have been and will be. Please make them very good hunters, always loving, and tolerant of our dog. ~


  1. SEEKING;They are absolutely adorable! I'm so glad you posted pics, being, as you know, a total cat lover. Midnight is gorgeous. Shari reminds me of our Kirby.

    I have found males to be far more loving & people oriented, especially once spayed if it is done early enough. Females are wonderful but in the wild they are the main hunters & providers & when we have had females, as we always did in the early years, they were not as smoochy as the boys. Then the Lord began providing male kittens & I would now always choose a male first. When raised with dogs cats cope very well & usually dominate. I hope you have years of pleasure from your sweet boys.

  2. They are adorable and they grow so fast...way too fast!

  3. Seeking, those are simply gorgeous kitties! I love them to bits! I am totally jealous of your loving little barn cats. My house cats couldn't care less of my existence as long as there is food in their bowl, and the only ones they cuddle up to are the boys when they are sleeping.


Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.