Friday, July 15, 2011

Of Cats and Cars

Holy Mother of the Cats—where on Earth do I start with the day known as Today?

I woke up early, which for me means the actual morning, because I was so worried about the cats. There are a couple batches of kittens out there, you see. Of course.

Now before anyone goes all OMGeleventy!!1! on me, let me just say that I've already contacted the local trap-neuter-release people. Because there are going to be some hysterectomies around here dammit.

You may be familiar with Splotch's batch of kittens, the ones charmingly named after various cars, as they were born in the back seat of an MG Midget; I've posted a picture of all four of them a few posts down. But of course Smudge, her sister, also had a batch of four.

She had them, in her infinite wisdom, on top of a pile of wood in the downstairs garage three weeks ago. She moved them shortly after to some place we couldn't find them; but the other day she'd moved them again, back into the downstairs garage. Into the trunk of a Citroën DS, to be precise, which she accessed through where the back seat should have been.

Now though we are cleaning up the yard and getting rid of old rusty cars and in general making decent progress, still, there are places we haven't got to, which includes the downstairs garage. And so this Citroën was of course full to the brim with hunks of metal and rust and sharp edges. And the kittens were there, in the back, on top of it all.

So we (well Tara, mostly) cleaned it all out the day before yesterday, even though she got soaked in a downpour moving pieces of car out and away into the back yard; and we managed to make a nice cozy place inside that car, with no sharp edges, no places they could fall into or out of, and with a nice cardboard box lined with a towel.

Two of the kittens however were not in good shape. One was just tiny, not even really half the size of the others; and the second had some kind of open wound on its neck.

And so I was worried about them, of course. Last night when I last checked the first tiny one was so weak and lethargic I couldn't imagine it living through the night.

It didn't. I buried it this morning, over in the area we have buried all our beloved cats, the ones we've known for years. The poor little thing didn't even get a name, but I put it over there with the others.

Now I do understand that something like one in four kittens just doesn't make it, and that that is how Nature does things. So I was sad, but not surprised.

The second one though had what looked like two abscesses on its neck. The were large swollen areas about the size of marbles. Now I am not a vet, and though I hear it's not that tricky really to lance a boil I'm just too squeamish. And I couldn't imagine it getting better on its own, and so I figured the little thing would eventually catch a raging fever and slowly die.

But here's the other thing. In my state rabies is not uncommon. And so, by state law, if an animal comes into the vet with a 'wound of unknown origin' it is supposed to either be quarantined for a whole six months, or put down. I didn't for a minute think it was actually an animal bite, as it's too young to have been in a fight, and it's been with its mother all this time and so protected; I can, however, imagine that it fell out of whatever cockamamie nest Smudge thought adequate and cut itself on some sharp bit of something. But bringing it to the vet looked like it might also be a death sentence. How would I quarantine it for six months?

Still, when the choice came down to almost certainly letting it die slowly and miserably if untreated, or possibly being put down quickly and painlessly, I called the vet. They made an appointment for 4pm. I know. It's a feral kitten. But I couldn't abide letting it suffer.

Then Tara came over. You see we were scheduled to do an iron run today, a load of light stuff in the bus. But since we were getting a decently early start, we figured we'd have plenty of time to get back for the appointment.

So we loaded up the bus with old doors and hoods, most of which came from behind the shed, where Tara wants to be able to mow. It's almost there now, but not quite yet. The pictures:

The usual side view, filled up with junk:

And the back:

So, despite all the drama with the kittens, otherwise it was all going along just fine.

We got about halfway to the scrapyard when the gas pedal went all the way to the floor and stayed there. Now luckily it wasn't accelerating or anything; but something had definitely come undone. We coasted to a stop in a parking lot full of trucks, one of which incidentally was a car-carrier full of old rusty things. Could we hook a ride, I wondered?

Now Tara I swear is a miracle worker. She got right down in the dirt under the front of the bus (the gas pedal is after all right there) and found that the throttle cable had come undone. And luckily, luckily there had been a rusty plate attached to the bottom of the bus that had caught the nut and bolt which had held the throttle cable in. So Tara simply bolted the thing back in, and in less than five minutes we were on our way again. Go Tara!

When we got to the scrapyard we drove around back to the light metals pile. The light blond guy who looks like Mark Twain was up sitting in The Claw, tidying up the place and consolidating the piles. At one point he gathered a fistful of what looked like old crumpled chain-link fence, and using it almost like a dustrag, swept the pile together, making sure to get all the little finicky bits. It was a sight, let me tell you.

I was surprised that The Claw, given its size and power, was so well-suited to such delicate work; however it wasn't long before it was back to its natural state, brute force. Here, apparently, is The Claw's method of engine removal:

I stood well back for that, let me tell you.

Even though it was a smallish load today, 'only' 820 pounds, we managed to pass a major milestone in our total. Because today on our thirty-fifth trip we passed fifteen tons. To be exact, we're now up to 30,640 pounds of scrap iron (not including cars), or 15.32 tons of iron removed from the property since we've been keeping track. And there's more set aside already, including a cache of my favorite, buckets of rusty bolts that we uncovered behind a wood pile today.

And we got back in plenty of time, even with the side trip to the fast food joint, and with Tara swinging by the repair shop to pick up her sewing machine.


When we got home, Smudge of course in her quite finite wisdom had moved her kittens. I don't know if she was reacting to the nice space we made her (they never like that), or if it was because we'd had to handle them some, or if Venus had moved into Scorpio, who knows. Well, there was still one left in the box, but of course it was not the one who needed to go to the vet. Of course not.

We looked everywhere. In the downstairs garage behind the Citroën, in the corner in the Austin-Healey, up in the battery compartment of both that and the MG in front of it, up on the woodpiles under the windows where Smudge had given birth to the things in the first place; nothing.

Then we looked in the shed, where Aleister and the other kittens have been hanging out. Also nothing. We looked and looked and found no sign of them, save for the yellow kitten who was left.

Four o'clock came around. I called the vet, and told them I couldn't come in, since I couldn't find the kitten. I started to worry again.

Tara mowed the lawn a little, and I took Aleister inside where he was safe (the others are little enough that they hide). That didn't last long though as the mower ran out of gas pretty quick.

Then, for some reason, Tara got the idea to look over by the shop.

You have to understand. The shop is on the north edge of the property. It's rather a ways from the downstairs garage, or the shed. Not that far for a human, no, but for a cat, dragging a kitten?

But underneath one of the old bugs there it was, a kitten, the yellow and white one. We listened for mews. After a few minutes we determined that yes, the other one was there. I called the vet back. They could still take us. So Tara fished the poor thing out and we bundled it into the cat carrier and all three (myself, Tara, and my mom, plus I guess the kitten makes four) went down to the vet. And he examined it.

Well. The good news was that it wasn't actually a 'wound of unknown origin.' So the state didn't need to get involved after all, and there was no choice between a lengthy quarantine and putting it down.

But now this is where it gets pretty icky. Because what it was was this:

There are these things called cuterebra. Basically they are a type of botfly larvae that find their way under the skin of some animals (usually they go in through the nose or mouth), mostly rabbits and squirrels, but sometimes also cats. Each 'boil' contained a, well, maggot, basically. You can Google it yourself (I did) if you have the stomach, but I'll warn you there will probably be pictures.

The vet removed them, over in the back room where we couldn't see it, bless him. He asked if I wanted to see the larvae and I said HELL NO, thanks.

So. This is where we are. This kitten is three weeks old yesterday, born to a feral mother. A feral mother who isn't exactly going to be winning any Mother of the Year awards. Why if there were such a thing as KPS (Kitten Protective Services) you bet your ass I'd be reporting her.

And given her natural stupidity I'm pretty sure that if we just put the kitten back with its siblings Smudge would just move them again. I have no idea where exactly she'll move them to, but I'd bet good money it will be some place completely inaccessible, down in the dirt and the rust. And that little kitten we brought to the vet has basically an open wound, one that needs to stay nice and clean, and which will probably heal fairly slowly, as it's rather deep. The vet even gave us antibiotics, though the amount I have to give it is so small there isn't even a line on the syringe.

This kitten mind you is otherwise quite healthy; it mews plenty and is very squirmy and strong, and it's nice and fat and well-fed. And we'd already gone through all the trouble of getting it treated, and so it seems counter-productive at best to just throw it back out in the wild to take its chances.

So I'm bottle-feeding it for the time being. At three weeks old it doesn't require the round-the-clock feedings (seriously, like every two hours) that newborns do; it should be able to start eating some solid food, or even drink the formula from a bowl, in a few days or a week. Still it's a bit of work.

So I guess we have a new cat, in addition to Aleister (that makes four total, which is still totally doable here). Because from what I hear, bottle-fed kittens turn into very lovey and devoted housecats (after all the person feeding them is basically their mother).

What we don't have though, is a name for the little thing. We're pretty sure it's female (it's pretty small still and hard to tell). Tara of course suggested Maggie, which, though I like the sound of Maggie the Moggie, still, ewwwww. The intake form just listed her as 'kitten', which on the typed-up label for the antibiotics ended up as Kitty Mymom'slastname, so perhaps Catherine would work too. Any suggestions?

What a day. I hope the rest of it is peaceful.


Anonymous said...

Don't know, I rather like Mymom'slastname, although that's going to be hard to yell with a "no!" at the end when little Mymom'slastname starts to climb the curtains ...

If the kitty were male, perhaps your could call him "Sir Name," but "Madame Name" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Just wait. She'll tell you her name.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I would suggest "Lucky." It's not as creative as the names your cats usually get but it's accurate.

Lorena said...

Of all the posts to get me to de-lurk, it's the kitten post -- and I'm delurking to suggest one that someone before me just did: "Lucky." Because that kitten sure is! Of course, with all that you've already gone through for it, "Trouble" might not be bad, either.

stellans said...

I think Catherine the Great is a wonderful cat name. After all, aren't female cats called 'queens'?

The Writing Goddess said...

Likin' "Lucky" or "Trouble," - had a cat named the last, once.

Weird isn't it - I fully believe in survival of the fittest and all that, but have done my share of nursing baby critters (that usually died anyway.)

Tonia said...

Thalia, you are a sucker. I say that with great authority, being one myself. You are a good person and I wish I knew you beyond the blog so I could tell you so, every day.

I just adopted an "unadoptable" kitten who turned out to be a boy, which was slightly disappointing, as most of the names I liked were girl names. I give you my cast-offs: Pippa, Tamzin, Inkling, and Ariel (given the car Mom hides them in, maybe that would be better as Aerial).

(My guy ended up being Simon, which is a contraction of SnotMonster, which he is, and why he was deemed "unadoptable.")

Anonymous said...

How about Chance, because you gave her a chance to live?

A lurker from Indiana.

Jennifer George said...

How about "Pop Tart"? Dunno, just thought it would make a good pet name. These things just occur to me sometimes. :)

Rosa said...

The cat my boyfriend & his roomates dragged in off the alley and healed of awful near-death neck wounds & infection with expired human antibiotics, they named it Cat. Obviously I don't have any good name ideas.

But, if you're corralling idiot mama cats at some point, I've found a Havahart squirrel trap is plenty big enough to catch scrawny feral cats.