Happy spring to you – and happy kitten season.
If a peculiar bandit absconded with all of our calendars, we’d still know beyond doubt that we’ve hit springtime at Tabby’s Place. Feral cats are as clear as any DayTimer. Right on schedule, the kittens are popping up faster than daffodils.
This month’s adventures in babysitting began with one furiously feral calico. Captured as part of our TNR work right here in Ringoes, NJ, this tri-color mama is the very picture of a tiger mother – and I mean that in the tooth-and-claw rather than the literary sense.
Approach her three newborns, and Mama will end you. If, like the bravest Tabby’s Place staffers, you have the ninja-quick skills to extract those kittens, Mama will glower at you the entire time you’re holding them. Her angry eyes and James-Earl-Jones-deep growls speak 10,000 words of wrath.
There is something wildly admirable about this passionate mother. Mama calico would clearly give her very life for the sake of her triplets, and she’s not afraid of humans or Sasquatch or anything else that may get in her way of loving them. For their part, tiny Adelle, Rosalita and Janey (named, by our Boss-besotted veterinarian, for Bruce Springsteen song characters) are thriving in their zealous mom’s embrace.
They’re also already on hold to be adopted.
We’ll thunder down that road when the time comes. But, sometime between now (when the kittens are still so tiny as to need Mama’s milk and nurture) and their adoption around age 8 weeks, we’ll separate the little ones from their mom. Otherwise, like any good feral mother, she’ll do a fine job of teaching them to fear humans – and that’s a trait we’re committed to stopping with this generation.
Fortunately for this beautiful feral Mama, we love her – in all her wildness – as much as we do her little darlings. Love looks different in her case, but it’s no less real. At Tabby’s Place, Mama has been treated for fleas and parasites, fed lavishly, and will soon be spayed. It’s clear she does not wish to stay here, so she’ll fly free to her feral colony once the little ones are older – but it will be as a happier, healthier girl who’s launched her last litter.
Tabby’s Place’s TNR work brought us a very different, family later this past month. When we received a call regarding a feral mom with hours-old kittens in the depths of Philadelphia, we knew this would be a case of T and N…but not R. A gritty, greasy inner-city junkyard (the mom’s neighborhood of choice for birthing her babies) was no place for a cat.
Like a one-woman feline Fresh-Air Fund, Tabby’s Place’s Senior Veterinary Technician, Denise, raced down to the junkyard to extract the family. The news from the kind-hearted laborers there was grim: the mother cat had taken off with two of the babies, and now they were gone without a trace. Only two kittens remained.
The kittens’ squeals gave Denise an idea: if this feral mom was half as devoted as the calico back at Tabby’s Place, she might be persuaded to come out of hiding at the sound of her babies’ cries. With one hamster-sized kitten in each hand, Denise cautiously walked through the warehouse.
As if from nowhere, a wild-eyed orange and white mother cat appeared. Fearless and frantic, she rushed at Denise. Everything about this marmalade mom screamed, Give me my children!
Working quickly, Denise slipped the kittens into a carrier. This frazzled their mother, who began trotting off, with Denise in hot pursuit. One of the workmen hollered, “she’s heading to the office – but she never goes back there. There’s no way the other babies are there.”
Apparently he hadn’t yet learned: you can never say never when it comes to feral cats…especially of the maternal variety.
Sure enough, the orange mama had squirreled away her last two newborns in the office. With a drop trap and some patience, Denise soon had the entire family safe and sound – and headed back to Tabby’s Place. At left and above, you can see marmalade mom and babies settling in shortly after arrival.
With all apologies to the calico Mama, this marmalade girl puts all other feline moms to shame. Denise, who has cared for literally hundreds of mother cats and litters, proclaimed: “This is the best mother cat I have ever seen. Ever.”
As if working overtime to win that mother-of-the-year award, marmalade mom also decided that her second-favorite thing (after her kittens) was human love. Now that she’s safe and warm and knows we aren’t planning to eat her kittens, marmalade mom looooooooooves us.
She rolls. She lolls. She purrs. She makes “air-biscuits,” kneading her paws skyward as her kittens nurse and we cuddle her.
She is not going back to Philadelphia.
This “feral” mom is so friendly, in fact, that she’s not going outside at all. The mother who so loves her kittens and her rescuers will be adopted in a flash – preferably with at least one of her beloved kittens. Given her valor, it was only right that we let Denise name the entire family. A rabid baseball fan, she named them all for Phillies: mama Halladay and babies Cole, Chase, Chooch and Mayberry.
Time skitters away in kitten season, and we know our time with these seven babies and two moms is short before they’re adopted (or in calico Mama’s case, freed). For now, though, the “maternity ward” at Tabby’s Place is one purry, blissed-out place.
Thank you for giving our feral and not-so-feral moms and kittens hope, health and happiness at Tabby’s Place this spring. Your generosity is blessing generations of amazing cats!