To catch you up from last week’s post, me and my neighbors have just caught four feral kittens that had been nursing in my backyard for the last 5 weeks. I’ve tossed them into my townhome.
The next step was finding where they’d hidden in my house while I’d been outside. I’d walled off the dining room from the kitchen with a phalanx of furniture the kittens promptly surmounted. They’d hidden so silently, so well. Kittens, like all wild cat young, survive by hiding in brush in motionless silence, until called out by mom. Without mom to summon them, my job was harder.
“What the hell does she say to you guys, anyway? C’mon, gimme a hint.”
I discovered through my own research in the field that wild kittens love to hide behind refrigerators in that gray fungus garden that sticks to the floor just below the coils and hot blowing air. I also discovered that particularly spirited female B & W kittens surmount haphazardly erected barriers of benches and dining room chairs and hide behind desks and impossible to move couches that you can’t see underneath. After more gloved combat opposed by inspired but totally useless spitting behavior on the part of kittens, I removed all four subjects to their new home, my infinitesimal kitchen, and sealed them in with food, and of course, a box of litter. In the unending and contentious debate of whether cats or dogs or little kids are smarter, I can definitively answer that cats are smarter in one respect: they pee and poo without being told what to do.
I quickly learned that my angry guests were not in the least grateful for an air conditioned kitchen with a yellow linoleum floor. In fact, they remained downright arrogant every time I entered the room: spitting, and falling over themselves to see which one could shrink down to nothing and crawl into its own skin backward in an attempt to will itself into the baseboard, to create the greatest possible distance between me and itself, beating out its sibs if only by a nanometer. I also discovered the propensity of these beings to crawl underneath, on top of, or behind one another in order to allow one’s companions to be the first line of defense, a modification of the human shield maneuver perfected by Saddam Hussein during the first Persian Gulf War.
Of course, the behind the refrigerator DMZ had to be blocked off to prevent a mass exodus of refugees. The first couple nights, I received my share of scratches. But beyond the hisses they were pitiful, trembling lumps of grey, black and white. They’d stack themselves into piles like four-story fur palaces, usually in the remotest corner of the kitchen, sandwiched beneath the overhang of my floor-level cabinets. Whenever I’d come near, they’d cower at the baseboard.
The vets were called in. Two dudes. People aren’t important enough for home visits from doctors, but vets still make house calls. They inoculated the bunch. The runt, Clio she was later named, was the kittenguineapig. They needed to draw a sample of blood to tell if the lot had feline leukemia or HIV. Clio, the tremblingest, tiniest of the bunch, was the most defenseless choice. She was so small she could’ve passed for a hamster. Clio was one of the B & W’s, with a big black splotch covering her nose just off center, like a meandering bulls-eye. She had the markings of a milk cow. We wrapped her in a towel and drew what must’ve been half the blood from her six-inch body. Jill came over and helped me manage the catastrophe. She had such a way with cats. Clio fell asleep in her arms after the ordeal was over.
Now we found out all about them. There were three girls and a boy. The largest of the bunch, one of the grays, was a male. The most spirited (the least approachable), was the other B &W. She was near the same size as the other gray female. None of them had names yet. I’m not good at naming animals. Too much pressure to sound original.
The days passed. I had a large green floor pillow (I don’t know how else to describe it), now long since deceased, that I covered with a big maroon bath towel, also now long since dead, that I fixed for them to sleep on. These luxurious items were soon festooned with sawdust, the only kind of environmentally friendly kitty litter I would buy. There was a scratching post house. It was a small barrel smothered in carpet with the center cut out so they could romp inside. And then there was the food. I always go overboard. I bought tons of these little tins of Science Diet and IAMS, and left out way more food than they could eat each day. They promptly ignored most of the fish-rice flavor combos, which dried up and smelled pretty shitty.
I’d hear them playing. You should hear a kitten play with another kitten. It’s more like a merciless ambush most of the time. Bang. Bop. Slide. Pow! I’d open the double doors to my kitchen and waltz in. The kitties scattered to the corners. I’d just sit my ass on the floor, and wait for them to discover the wonders of the human shoe, which in the feline world is an immensely satisfying theme park ride.
After a few minutes, one would saunter out bravely from the corner pile up, and yank on my shoe lace. Then she’d pounce on my shoe, and rappel up my leg with painful little climbing cleats. In no time, the others joined in. I became the jungle gym. The kittens discovered that fingers and forearms could also be fun. I knew death by a thousand cuts. Gloves were optional equipment. Shoelaces trailing from footless shoes were a blast. An old shoebox was much more fun than the carpet barrel scratching post. They’d let me pet them while we played. But not the spirited B & W. She’d not let me handle her. And still, every time I entered the room, it was like starting all over. Even if I’d played with them a few hours before, I’d be greeted with spits and hisses by all. The larger B & W female never got over her Man-shy. And so that became her name.
The next to be christened by neighbor/earth mother Jill was Inspector Gadget, the big male. How he came by that name is an entertaining and painful saga that I’ll relate in the next episode of Four Feral Felines: How Inspector Gadget Got His Name.
© 2021 by Michael C. Just
Mike’s novel, The Dirt: The Journey of a Mystic Cowboy, is available in softcover or eBook formats through Amazon.
You can purchase the book through this website. Or go straight to amazon at https://www.amazon.com/s?k=the+dirt+journey+of+a+mystic+cowboy&crid=1S40Q4BXSUWJ6&sprefix=the+dirt%3A+journey+of+a+m%2Caps%2C180&ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_23
Mike’s other titles, including The Crippy, The Mind Altar, and Canyon Calls, are available through Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002
Two of his short stories have recently been published online. The Obligate Carnivore has been published by the Scarlet Leaf Review @ Category: MICHAEL JUST – SCARLET LEAF REVIEW
I See You, Too has been published by the 96th of October @ I See You, Too – 96th of October