I know, I know, you're not supposed to feed stray cats.
But when three very tiny kittens showed up on my doorstep the first week of December, what was I supposed to do? They were born out of season at the beginning of a New England winter. I just didn't see them surviving. So I fed them.
And yes, I know that cat populations tend to increase exponentially, and what that means down the road. Still, I didn't see any options. Well, any moral options.
Two of the three are still here; one of them disappeared around the end of March, and I assume it was killed. The two that are left have been given the working titles of 'Smudge' and 'Splotch' because of their facial markings. Splotch, especially, has this funny face with what looks like a drip of India ink right down her nose.
They aren't exactly tame, Smudge and Splotch, but they do sleep on the doorstep, just by the glass door, where I can see them at night. Splotch will even purr when I talk to her, though she runs away when I approach her outside.
In late March their mother of course had another litter; this time, though, either she only had one, or only one survived. This little guy (or girl; I can't tell yet) is probably just coming up on five weeks old right now, and is the fattest roundest roly-poliest chubbiest thing you will ever see. He is sublimely, ridiculously, outlandishly cute. I mean, I know, that's what kittens do for a living, is be so adorable that you simply cannot resist feeding them. Still, Holy Mother of the Gods, look at this:
So, you're asking, just what-all has this to do with hoarding? Well, because it always comes back to those rusty hunks of rusty rust, the junk cars of this place.
Now Splotch is a little odd. She's not even full grown, yet she's of a distinctly round shape. I figured she was just getting too much chow, and started to cut back (they will all eventually have to revert to catching the mouses all on their own anyhow, or, at least, that is The Plan). My mother, however, wondered if she might be pregnant herself. I have been watching her, with this in mind, but she didn't seem to be getting any bigger.
Last night around midnight when I put some food out in the downstairs breezeway the little grey and white chubby kitten came running up to me. He does this, as he quite likes the chow; and he lets me pat him while he stands there with all four feet in the bowl. He will, in fact, even purr as I pat him. But after he'd eaten a bit he wandered back into the downstairs garage and started mewing. It was strange. What? I asked him, What's wrong? But he kept mewing.
Thing was his mews sounded funny. They sounded, well, double. Like two kittens were mewing at the same time.
So I walked over to where he was. Sure enough, the extra mews were coming from the car, the yellowish MG Midget, one of my dad's junk hoarded cars.
There in the back, where there really isn't a back seat, in an area still filled with rusty junk, were three newborn kittens, fallen down behind the driver's-side seat. I could just about see them.
Splotch not only was pregnant, she'd gone and had her kittens. In the back of a junk car. Of course!
I folded the driver's seat forward a little and fished them out. If I hadn't been able to pull the seat forward I don't know that I would have been able to get to them; as it was there wasn't room for a mother cat to get herself in there to rescue them. They were wet-looking, very squirmy, and still had their umbilical cords. As far as I could tell there were three, and once I put them in a box lined with a blanket they quieted right down.
I couldn't see Splotch anywhere, but I could hear someone growling. So I put the box in the front seat of the MG, not far from where she'd had them, and assumed she would find them once I left.
I then went and looked up everything I could find about newborn kittens. I know that if they are not fed within the first twenty-four hours they won't live, and I was worried. I researched emergency formula, and what it takes (a lot!) to bottle-feed newborn abandoned kittens, just in case it came to that.
When I went out an hour later one of the kittens was gone. I assumed that Splotch had found it and taken it somewhere she thought more suitable. They never like the nice nests humans make for them.
But when I came back just before going to bed the two kittens were still there, and hadn't been moved. Ai yi. And while I figured she wasn't far, how on earth was I to find her amid all the junk that is still there? We've made some inroads in cleaning out the downstairs garage, but there are still corners that are inaccessible. Well, inaccessible to humans.
So I stepped over by the other car, the Citroën by the front of the MG, and just listened.
And there it was. A loud purring. A very loud purring, the kind a mother cat makes when nursing.
It was coming from under the hood of the MG.
You know, where the engine is.
I had no idea how that was even possible, as an engine is not exactly enclosed, and has all these tangled bits and air pockets and just what the Hell? But I went and got a flashlight anyway. Now the front end of that car is missing some bits, having been in an accident; so I could shine some light in there from the front, without opening the hood. I couldn't see anything, but when I aimed the flashlight at certain areas the purr changed to a warning growl.
Eventually I had no choice but to open the hood, though I didn't want to disturb her.
And there she was, up by the dashboard, in what amounted to a little metal box; Tara tells me it is actually the battery compartment, though there is no battery in there now.
I was afraid that she'd take off; but she seemed willing to stay put despite the growling.
So I picked up one of the other newborns, and brought it to her. She growled some more at me, but seemed very interested in the kitten. I wasn't sure quite what to do with it; I thought she might take it herself but apparently she didn't want to get too close to me, so in the end I dropped it next to her. (Turns out it wasn't far at all, just a few inches, though at the time I had no idea where she even was or what it looked like). I did the same with the second kitten, and soon heard little mews and slurping noises.
So, crisis averted.
I'm guessing though that Splotch is not the brightest bulb. For one thing, apparently she can only count as high as one. For another, really, inside the engine compartment of a rusty old hunk of rusty rust is an appropriate nest? What?
We tried to get some pictures, but I didn't want to disturb her by opening the hood again. I'm afraid she'll relocate and only take one of the kittens with her if I do, to some place I really can't get to. But we did get some video:
Crazy thing. I wish them well.