By Isabella @TheWandCarver
As Christmas approaches I’m feeling a bit less in ideas-mode about trees, crystals, and other possibilities. The truth is, I have “holiday brain” and can’t string two sentences together very well at the moment, particularly if it concerns facts and figures. As they say, when in doubt, write about what you know, so that I shall…Cats!
Those of you following me on Twitter and Instagram have probably seen the pictures I’ve posted of our new feral rescue tribe. Our neighbourhood always has kitties rushing to and fro, going from their homes onto their daily rounds. But suddenly we have a lot of extra cats playing and hunting on my street. However, since the majority seemed to play in the back garden of a neighbour two houses down I didn’t think much…just that maybe they had an abundance of outdoor cats. What I couldn’t have known at the time was that the entire lot had been born underneath the house directly beside of mine and they had stayed there secretly ‘til they were of an age to leave home, as it were.
I had seen, on many occasion, a gorgeous Tortoise-shell furred female cat with a lovely floofy tail scarpering from one place to the other very quickly for some time. I assumed she belonged to someone and was very scared of anyone she didn’t know. More and more I came to realise – especially after seeing her out with her brood – that she, and her children, were feral cats! We had counted five at the beginning, apart from the Mummy, one an all-black kitten, another a Tuxedo kitten, one a ginger Tabby/Tuxedo, one a beautiful tiny dark Tabby, and lastly, a gorgeous Calico furred kitten. As much as I do have luck with winning almost any cat around, these were not to be won over it seemed, so we watched them from a distance, wishing so much we could be a part of their lives.
A little time went by and one day as I worked in my workshop I looked through the door and the lovely Mummy cat – whom I had noticed was heavily pregnant – was looking as though she were going into labour right outside my door! She popped up and came right in, mewing and rolling around. I wanted to go to her but was afraid she would run so I simply sat talking gently to her. She then left after a bit. I think she may have wanted to have them right there and then but was afraid to commit to a human’s domain.
I worried a while for her and her kittens but within a couple of days she was back, lighter than the last time I had seen her and on the hunt for food. Or “going shopping” as I call it. Many times, before the new litter was born, she would have her tiny, dark Tabby daughter in tow for the shopping trip. Little Tabby, as I called her then, was not with her Mum. Still, every so often she still went shopping with her Mother, but I believe, more often than not, she was left to mind the little ones.
Eventually as time went on, counting the weeks, I expected to see babies! Then again, the last litter had lived under the neighbouring house for a very long time undetected so perhaps I wanted too much, too soon. The weather was getting cooler and cooler and shopping seemed to be proving poor for the little Mum. I knew she had to feed the wee bairns regardless. So, as you do, I began feeding her.
Obviously, feeding feral cats is not always the easiest of things. Firstly, they are scared to death of humans, naturally. Next of all, I don’t lay in a supply of dead rats, rabbits, squirrels, and birds which her palette is used to. The best I can offer comes from pouches or tins. Still, as my Mum used to say, “you’ll eat if you’re hungry enough”.
And was she ever! The little Mother could eat for England, her first taste of prepared cat food. And she began stopping by daily for a top up. Before we knew it, she was bringing her older “kittens” along! I say “kittens” because, whilst I roughly have an idea of when they were born, they look like full-grown cats. As it happens, they are only about nine months old! And, although we had seen the all-black kitten playing a couple of houses over, that one never came to partake of the free food provided. We believe the kindly older couple living there have made him or her their indoor cat now. We hope so, at least.
So, what do you do when you begin feeding five adult-sized feral cats? You buy a LOT of cat food! Yes, it may be cheaper to feed them biscuit food rather than wet but dry food is really a huge no-no for any cat, particularly for those used to eating fresh prey. Dry food, or biscuit food, sets them up for the possibility of renal disease in future. But I won’t go into a litany of the right and wrong ways of feeding cats at this time. The next thing you do is…give them names!
Meet Isobel, the Mother and Tortise-shell; Victoria, the runt / child minder / dark Tabby; Elizabeth, the Tuxedo; Pippa, the Calico; and Pip, the ginger Tabby/Tuxedo and “twin” of Pippa. Yes, they are quite fraternal, but they are ever so close, Pip and Pippa are, so we have decided they are twins.
And, yes, I did mention new kittens! I’ve only been able to get one sufficient snap of one kitten, a gorgeously fat and furry little gem with cream-coloured Tuxedo markings! There is another cream-coloured kitten, a Calico kitten, and a ginger Tabby kitten! They come out every so often but stay under the house as a rule. With the very wintry weather we have been experiencing, my daughter and I took huge old dog crate, cleaned it up, put cardboard panels over the side vents and in the floor which we also covered with aluminium foil [for conducting body heat, we hope], covered that with a pee pad and a big, thick clean towel. Of course, we took off the door as well. It has made a nice warm place for all to use during the coldest of nights…I do hope Isobel is bringing the little ones to it for those most frigid of nights.
So, you say…the title says the Twelve Cats of Christmas. Where are the other three? Ah, our beloved indoor cats! We have my daughter’s new boy cat, Sebastian; my son’s lovely Anthy, and my girl, nearly 18-year-old, Chili. And no Christmas tree!
Why? Because Sebastian would take that tree down in 5.2 seconds flat. It’s only a tree…and lights…and baubles. We have twelve lovely stars to love. That’s Christmas enough for us!
Many thanks for reading and warmest blessings x