Tuesday, March 16, 2010
This is Tabitha. I just named her one week ago, when I got my first good look at her -- and realized she was a "she" and that she was profoundly pregnant. Before that she was just a flash of white that disappeared as soon as I opened the front door.
I first saw Tabitha last year hanging around a house at the bottom of our lane (we have a neighbor who will feed strays but never gets them spayed or neutered nor provides them shelter). Back in October when it first started to get cold she started taking refuge on occasion in the crawl space under our trailer. I never saw more than the top of her head as she would whisk out of sight under the house, whenever I'd come out.
As the winter wore on and got colder and snowier she started spending all her time under our house -- our dog Rosie would catch her smell coming up through the heating vents and freak out. On the very coldest nights and days we'd hear banging and clanging echoing through the heating vents. My best guess of what was going on was that Tabitha had dug into the insulation up next to the vent.
I started putting dry food out on a table on the porch in late December when I realized that she didn't seem to be going down the hill any more. The food would disappear when I wasn't looking.
Then last week, suddenly, Tabitha, not only didn't disappear when I came out, she came up on the porch and jumped up on the table while I put out the food. Over the last week, I started giving her wet food twice a day, and she became ever more friendly. I stayed awake half the night last night trying to decide what to do.
I'm just not the kind of person who can just ignore things like this, and not just because I realized that the smell and sound of kittens born under the house would turn my poor doggy frantic. This is not an easy decision. We've had as many as 14 cats at one time; that was 13 years ago, the last time a neighborhood tabby had kittens on my front porch and we took them in -- the last of whom, James Tyler, died just a few weeks ago. We still have six very elderly cats several with expensive, and time consuming chronic illnesses. We have given up a very large portion of our family income to care for animals that were all strays or abandoned. Money that might have been spent to fix the occasionally leaking roof, or the floors (which have odd boards cobbled over gaping holes), replace the toilets that have to be flushed with buckets, or save up for the inevitable day that the 30+ year furnace bites the dust. The good news -- we don't have to worry about the animals doing damage to our house, its falling apart all on its own!
But this morning, when I went out to put out a bowl of food for Tabitha, she not only came up on the porch for food as she's been doing for the past six days, she suddenly started rubbing all over me, and let me pick her up and pet her. I stood out on the damp, chilly porch in my nightgown and sweatshirt, holding this hugely pregnant purring cat, and made the decision just like that. She was coming in, becoming part of the family.
For the moment, Tabitha has a nice cozy cage with make-shift litter box, water and food, and a nice cozy nest, in our "junk" room. I had to move a lot of junk this morning to make a place. She seems to like it. I gave her several hours this evening to explore the room both with me present and on her own, before settling her back in the cage. She's extremely affectionate. In the top picture she's sitting in my lap -- her idea.
Tomorrow she pay a brief visit to our vet, to be tested for Feline Leukemia and other diseases before I turn her lose with our other cats. I put in an order with Pet Smart for a new, slightly larger, roomier cage, where she can give birth to her kitties. The cage is more for their protection than anything else, as we are not quite sure how our dog Rosie will react.
So as of today we have seven cats, and within a few days to week we'll have even more. I love kittens and cats. But I sure wish that other people in the world and in my neighborhood in particular would do their part to spay and neuter and provide adequate shelter and proper food for animals. I also wish I'd win the lottery. I probably have about as much chance of getting the latter wish as the former one.