Another Day in the Country
The process of compassion
© Another Day in the Country
Several weeks ago, as I was tending to the Lucky Ducks, attempting to train them, a new little creature showed up when I called the ducks.
It was an emaciated, gangly legged, half-grown, sad looking, calico kitten.
The treats I was giving my ducks were Meow Mix — a good source of extra protein, I’d read somewhere.
There are way too many feral cats running around in Ramona.
Several folks in town take it upon themselves to feed strays, but I’d given that up quite a few years ago. The breaking point, for me, came one day while I was walking across the road from my sister’s house, and I counted 15 extra cats following me home for breakfast.
They weren’t my cats. My cats are always neutered so there’s no procreation going on in my jurisdiction. These were cats that hung around, getting something to eat when I fed our animals, and had more or less adopted me even if I hadn’t officially adopted them. We had to get rid of them.
Our first cat in Ramona was what we eventually called a Staatz cat, because it was birthed by our neighbor’s old calico cat, across the street. She was a smart old momma kitty and liked the porch at Ramona House, claiming it as her second home.
Cousins’ kids who came to visit us loved the constant stream of kittens coming from this fertile old mother cat, who seemed to always have a litter or two every summer.
I do believe that every cat we’ve ever owned here in Ramona stems from momma kitty.
Skeeter, the cat I’ve lived with for 14 years, is a descendent of that Staatz cat. She’s a black-and-white “Holstein” cat while her mother was a calico that was wild and willful.
One day, my sister was mowing and discovered in the lilies at the corner of her house three kittens that belonged to that wild calico who ate chicken food and never would let us touch her.
If I fed our cat, Marshmallow, outdoors, she’d come, Johnny on the spot, and share his food.
When I started feeding our cat on the enclosed back porch, she figured out how to open the porch door.
Evidently, she taught a bunch of the other gypsy cats the same trick — hence the 15 cat / kitten lineup following me home to feed my one, neutered male cat.
I was in California for the summer, taking care of my grandson, when Jess called.
“That wild calico has kittens again,” she reported, “One of them is black and white — the cutest thing.”
“I don’t need another cat,” I said.
I also knew that feline was the dumbest mother cat imaginable. She was constantly having kittens, but none of them ever lived long past birth.
She was not a good caretaker, dragging them from one spot to the next, forgetting where she’d put half of them, depositing them in a culvert right before a rainstorm — that kind of thing.
We figured her lack of acumen was a form of birth control.
When I got home from California, that crazy calico cat had moved those three worm-infested, flea-bitten, malnourished kittens of hers into my back porch.
“It’s a sign,” Jess said. “Aren’t they the cutest things?”
The minute I tried touching one of the kittens, the mother started moving them back outside.
The black-and-white one was still behind the lounge on the back porch when I discovered what she was doing, and I locked the porch door.
I was going to tame and clean up that black-and-white kitten.
It took a while — way longer than I expected — but Skeeter and I have enjoyed each other’s company for a lot of years.
I’ve rebuffed, chased off, and refused to feed lots of cats in Ramona — some of them very persistent. And here was another waif out by the chicken house.
“It’s a sign,” my sister said, “Skeeter’s getting old.”
Whenever I was calling the ducks — “here Duck-ducks,” training them to come and go into the chicken yard after their swim in the pond — here would come that pathetically sweet kitten, out of the bushes, searching for scraps of food the ducks might have missed.
She was going to die, starve to death, too small for her age, too low on the totem pole of animal life in Ramona.
Finally, one night, after the ducks were in, I gave her the rest of the Meow Mix I had in my pocket.
Thus began our taming / feeding ritual with the goal of being able to fatten her up, pick her up, and get her into a cat carrier for transport to a vet to be spayed before any of the other feral cats impregnated her.
It’s another day in the country. Yesterday: Mission accomplished! The stray kitten is now a $250 cat, convalescing on my back porch, and she has a name: CaliCat.