Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Who's Kittens Are These?

Aren't they cute? These little bundles of joy were what I found in the goat shed when I peeked inside to clean it out from the pig, Matilda's when she lived in this pen. That was about four weeks ago. 

At the time I wasn't sure who was momma but most barn cats don't like you handling their kittens so I left the straw undesturbed where they lay and didn't touch them. Still it was iffy if she would let them be and not hide them once more elsewhere. I've had a few barn cats that let me cuddle with their offspring but continuously move their kittens.

So it was with this foremost in my mind that I peeked inside the shed the next day and fully expected them to be gone. They were, only it was just two feet over to the new pile of straw and the goat kids were banished to the corner where the kittens had been. I had to laugh.

The next day while doing chores, I spied Mindy Sue here with a tabby kitten in her mouth coming out of the goat shed and  headed for the round hay bales. Now I was really confused. I thought these kittens were Katie's for reasons I soon tell.

Mindy Sue had just layed the kitten down when Katie here ran over and picked it up and hauled it back to the goat shed. I had to leave but I wondered how many times those poor kittens were hauled back and forth before the argument ceased between these too. And it poised a question, who for sure was the momma to these kittens? Without King Solomon to sort things out, I figured I wait and see for time surely would tell.

I knew that Mindy Sue had had kittens a few weeks before therefore these kittens were too small to be hers but stranger things have happened. We brought home a extremely undersized kitten for its age and nursed it until soon too attached it remained as a house cat. 

The discovery of her tabby kittens earlier gave me a bit of a fright. A couple weeks at dusk when it gets a bit hard to see inside the chicken coop, I'd reached blindly into the corner where the hens lay there eggs expecting to find a hard oval egg or two. Instead my hand felt something soft and I jerked back. Then I heard a mew. I know that sound very well and reached into the dark corner once more and pulled out two tabby kittens. That was a first, kittens in the hen's nest. Yes, my run has lots of holes in it and I'm trying to get by since the whole thing gets moved in the fall and I don't want to do the work twice but I'd never think to look for kittens in a coop. Not sure how the hens and the momma was going to work things out, I figured I'd wait and see. To Mindy Sue's credit, it was a nice weather protected spot, if the hens cooperate, and allowed the strange cohabitation. It was going to be interesting to see what happened.

  How do I know they were Mindy Sue's? I saw her slip in to check on them as I exited the coop so I was sure who their momma was. The next day when I collected eggs, I found one kitten dead and the other missing. What happened I can only guess. That would mean Mindy Sue had more kittens hid somewhere else and they didn't grow very well. Otherwise the kittens were just too small. Mindy Sue could still be morning her kittens though and want to claim these as a replacement. A house cat we had when the kids were little stole the neighbor cat's kittens once.

This whole thing made me wonder about another incident just a few days before. It was in the evening when I was doing chores, I walked through the gate to the milking shed, milked Mercedes and was walking back through it when I saw a tabby kitten that wasn't there when we'd come through just minutes before. It was dead and reminded me of the dead gray kitten that was brought to the main goat shed when I was kidding out Meagan. They had to have the same momma. Not having first seen the kittens in the goat shed, I did not know where this gray kitten had come from. 

The tabby kittens did not stay in the shed long and one day when I was pitch forking hay, I heard mewing once more. They were under a flap of hay. I moved them back to the goat shed once more with little hope that they would remain.

I figured out that Katie was the mom as she continued to bring me one dead kitten at a time as each day I did livestock chores.

Within a little over a week, they were all dead. The cause of death is unknown. They seemed pretty healthy so their passing is a mystery as it so often is with barn kittens.  

One of the sad facts of rural life is that very few kittens live to adulthood. I've had several queens bring me their ailing or dead offspring. (Female cats are called queens.) I guess they see me mothering so many little goats, calves, and pigs that they just know who has a soft heart. The amazing thing is even some of my wildest queens have come to me in pain over a loss. One in particular comes to mind  and her story is heart wrenching as she would drop a dying baby in front of me and cry and cry. The same momma who wouldn't come anywhere near me at any other time in her life. I had several dye in my arms as I cuddle them close but could do nothing as dead knocked at their door.  You have an intimate relationship with life and death when you live a rural lifestyle.

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