Thursday, March 29, 2007
Surprise By Name, Surprise By Nature
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the wonderful birthday present my garden gave me; sweet, adorable Kadootje. But that was not the whole story, because quite soon after Kadootje and I had met, she introduced me to a friend of hers, a very pretty blue tabby and white female cat.
During the time that Kadootje was still an outdoor kitten, she would pop around a few times a day for a cuddle and some food. After about a week, she brought this feline friend with her, who was also very much interested in cuddles and food. The way those two acted around each other, made it clear that this was no ordinary (if such a word could ever be applied to a cat) friend, but Kadootje's mother. What a wonderful surprise and that was also a fine name to call this pretty lady of the feline persuasion.
So there I was with two outdoor kitties. As Kadootje was still a kitten, it would not be difficult to introduce her to my cat family (it wasn't), but to introduce an adult cat into your cat family is a whole different ball game/kettle of fish all together. What to do with Surprise? If I would take her in, my other cats would surely fight with her, so that was no option.
Again, like I did with Kadootje before her, I put a collar on Surprise with a little note saying; if this cat has a home, please give me a ring. But alas, nobody called. Phoned Amivedi (lost and found pets organisation) and the vet, but no, there was no one missing this beautiful and oh so friendly cat.
In the end I decided on a compromise, all my cats are indoor cats, but Surprise would be my first outdoor one. I bought a nice and warm basket for her and put it on the porch near my front door, where at least she would be sheltered, warm and dry. Winters can be cold around here. And in the meantime I would try to find a loving home for this sweet cat so that she could be a much loved indoor pet too.
Like her daughter before her, Surprise would stay close to my house and garden. To make Surprise appear, I would only have to pop my head out of a window or door and hey presto, there she would be, like magic! The weeks passed and I asked a lot of people if they were in desperate need of a very sweet, cuddly and terribly pretty cat to have and to hold in their homes and hearts. Surprisingly, they all said no. Very strange that!
My house is in a very quiet area of the village I live in, with very little traffic. I like to go for long walks and very soon Surprise decided that she would accompany me on my walks and she did. This was not a good idea, as my path would often lead me into other, less cat friendly parts of my village and surrounding areas, with lots of traffic and other dangers to cats. And because Surprise wanted to be with me for as long as she possibly could, she would follow me everywhere, even into (for her) dangerous places. This I could not allow, but what to do?
So for weeks and weeks this is what I did: before I left my house I would look left, right and center to make sure that Surprise was not close by, check and double check, and then quietly sneak out of my own house like a thief in the night and be very quick about too, before she would spot me. Many a time I had to turn back (bummer!) because surprise!!!! Yes, I did give her the right name, but you don't know the half of it, yet.
One day I noticed that Surprise was calling and unfortunately I was not the only one who did. To make a long story short, Surprise got pregnant. I gave her lots of good food, dewormed her and gave her several baskets to choose from in which she would like to give birth. She rejected them all, unfortunately, and found herself a better kitten nursery, but where oh where did she find it?
One fine morning she appeared and she was quite slim again, so I knew that she had given birth. But where were the babies? Surprise usually had her food in my back garden and then quickly vanished through the hedge, back to her babies. And all though she could go through the hedge, I could not and I had to walk around. By the time I got to the front, Surprise was gone. This went on for weeks and I got quite worried, as there is only a short time frame, from 1 to 7 weeks of age, in which you can socialise kittens properly. After that it becomes problematic, to put it mildly.
As the weeks passed, I became more and more frantic, but she had hidden her babies very well and I could not find them until it was too late. One day, quite by chance, I saw Surprise walking down the road and I followed her and it was then that I found her kittens. She had hidden them here. Quite clever, don't you think, to have the kittens in an abandoned old boat? Click on picture to enlarge.
But alas, they were already 8 weeks old and I couldn't get at them anyway so that was, unfortunately, that. The next day hubby and I were going on a holiday, so there wasn't much that I could do at that point in time. I had asked a dear friend, who would look after the cats for me, to feed Surprise too, and he did.
One week later we came home and we were literally 5 minutes in the door and who appeared? That's right, Surprise! It was past midnight, I was tired so I decided to feed her and then go to sleep. I opened the door, gave Surprise her food and then, then ....................... I saw a gorgeous brown tabby and white kitten. I couldn't believe my eyes. Surprise started to eat and so did the little one. I thought I'd better get some more food and when I returned with more food I saw another kitten, a black one, walking up the garden path. Two kittens!! And they looked healthy and all though wary, they did not appear to be all that scared of me. And while Surprise and her two kittens were chomping away, I saw another kitten. This time a very beautiful blue tabby and white one. Three kittens, now that's what I call a surprise!
After they had finished their meal, Surprise led the kittens back to the boat and I went to sleep as I was very tired from the long trip home. The next day was a lovely sunny day and guess who came for a spot of breakfast, bright eyed and bushy tailed? Yes, they were all there in my back garden. And after their breakfast they stayed the whole day and the kittens played and frolicked to their hearts content and it was utter bliss.
Much to my surprise (grin) the kittens were not all that frightened of me and they allowed me to stroke them while they were eating. But as soon as they had finished their meal, they became wary of me and would only tolerate me at a 3 feet distance.
I couldn't let the kittens roam the streets, that was really far too dangerous for them, so there was nothing for it, they had to come and live with me for a while. So, that's what I did. While the boys were eating (yes, they were all boys), one by one I picked them up and put them in the spare room. There I gave them some more food and then I put Surprise with them as well.
The next five weeks I spend socializing the kittens, feeding them, getting rid of worms, fleas and ear mites. Going to the vet with them and their mother for their vaccinations and health check. All kittens were pronounced bouncing babies and healthy as could be. They were much admired by the vet and rightly so, as they are all very handsome chaps. Surprise was neutered so that we wouldn't have to worry about unwanted kittens.
Of course, I also had to find good homes for my darling boys and I did. The black kitten, Basil, went to live with a dear friend of mine. And for the other two, Teuntje (blue tabby and white) and August (brown tabby and white) I also found good homes. All the new carers were informed that these were special needs kittens and were asked if they felt up to it. The boys were now used to humans but still needed lots and lots of TLC to become proper cuddly pets. They had a lot of catching up to do in kitten nursery/kindergarten school.
It took me a long time to earn the trust of my baby boys and I knew that the people with whom they were going to live eventually, would also have to go the extra mile. And they all did, no problem. So I'm glad to say that instead of ending up as yet 3 more unwanted strays, all my boys are now much loved and well taken care of indoor pets.
This picture of August putting his little paw in my hand is very dear to me. This was the moment that he decided to put his trust in me. Of the three boys, he was the last to do so. It took a lot out of me, getting these kittens accustomed to humans so that they could live in the lap of luxury and be pampered pets, but it was well worth it.
And Surprise? Does she still live up to her name? Oh yes indeed, but that story will have to wait till another time.
Rich Cat, Poor Cat
Rich cat, poor cat
Beggar cat, tramp
House cat, alley cat
Store cat, champ.
The rich cat eats from a porcelain dish
Cream and chicken and lobster and fish
Poor cat sups from a dirty old tin
Scraps and bones and bits of skin
If you look at it, it's fair to neither
There ain't no justice in our world either.
Paul Gallico, The Honourable Cat