Published in the Miami News-Record on October 12, 2014
About a month ago one of the kids noticed that our momma cat, Chuck Norris, was putting on some weight. I inwardly groaned because I knew it meant that Chuck was in a family way. Her last litter of kittens was about four months old at the time and while we like to keep a cat or two around, we don’t want to get crazy with feline overpopulation.
Typically when we notice a cat is pregnant around here there is usually time to prepare for the blessed event. I told the kids we had about a month before the kittens came, but Chuck Norris, well, she likes to keep us on our toes. A mere week after our discovery, we had another discovery: four teeny tiny kittens in a barrel out by the shop. Our oldest daughter’s pup, Josie, took to barking at the kittens, which wasn’t much of an issue considering their ears were still shut, but apparently Chuck didn’t much care for it. A little over a week ago she moved her babies to an unused doghouse right by our front porch. Josie didn’t bother them there and all seemed right with the world. They figured out how to crawl and wiggle out into the sunshine and loved being paid attention to. They just needed giant sunglasses and they’d have been little kitty Kardashians.
And then the rains came.
While I was at homeschool co-op and our oldest was at home, she discovered one had nearly drowned after she wiggled out of her house. After some drying and lovin’-on, she perked up, Abby secured them all back into the doghouse while the rains kept coming. Then Chuck decided that her accommodations were worthy of a scathing Yelp review and left her kittens high and dry. Actually, low and soaked. So in the middle of a downpour, we moved a barrel to the porch, put the kittens in it, and Chuck deemed it suitable.
And then the winds came.
The barrel started filling with water, again soaking the poor critters. When I went out last Monday morning one kitten was gone, two were soaked to the bone, and one was barely breathing. Chuck would have nothing to do with them and kept bolting away when we tried to put her with the wet little varmints, running for cover like she was insisting the rain was going to make her hair frizzy. We found most of our Monday school day whittled away by bottle feedings and mewling kittens. My husband was less than thrilled that our No Indoor Pet policy had been pushed aside in our humanitarian (felinatarian?) attempts. I was adamant that we were doing the right thing and that we were only showing our kids how to be kind to animals.
But at 3 am when those kittens started hollering that the milk replacer was gross and they missed their momma and could they see Santa and “Are we there yet?” all rolled into a bunch of “She’s touching me!” type shrill squeals and meows, I found myself having misplaced my kindness. I found myself with a scratching, wiggling ball of fur in one hand while I blearily tried to fill a miniscule bottle with milk replacer and warm it so as to not scald the poor thing’s gizzard. It was a flashback to when my own kids were newborns, although with less scratching, but pretty much the same amount of yowling.
Since then Chuck has been forcefully placed into a confined area with her kittens and is only let out when the little ones aren’t screeching with all their might. She glares at us when we let her out and I’m pretty certain that look says, “I’d rip your heart out right now if I could.” And again, it is reminiscent of when my husband and I had a newborn. I’m pretty sure I blearily directed that thought at him more than once at 2 am.