It all started one weekend when I was coming home from the grocery story. There happens to be a black and white cat that hangs out by my place. On this specific day, I noticed something was slightly different. I have no idea how I didn’t notice it before but the cat (which I had no idea was a female) appeared to be very pregnant. Now, I have never seen a pregnant cat before but I’m pretty sure this is what they looked like!
Even though this was a stray cat, I felt responsible for her. I love animals and she hung out by my place all the time. I figured I’d call shelters/rescues and let them know that I had found a pregnant cat and go from there. Well, when I called the city and multiple rescues I was shocked with what I was hearing. I heard from multiple places that their policy when it comes to cats is to perform a terminate spay. In other words, they would terminate the pregnancy. In chatting with them they explained to me that the cat overpopulation problem in Houston was extremely bad and there are simply too many cats in shelters without homes already. Although I understood what they were saying and why, it was a very hard thing for me to accept. After much deliberation, I concluded that I could not participate in a terminate spay. However, if I wasn’t going to do that, I would accept the responsibility of the momma cat and her kittens to ensure they do not further contribute to the over population problem.
Thus begun the journey… First step is I needed to catch the momma cat. I set up a humane trap for her and waited. To my delight, the trap worked and I was able to get a hold of her! Unfortunately, she seemed noticeably skinnier than before. It turns out she had already given birth. I instantly knew the situation just got much harder. I had no idea where she hid the kittens and since they can’t live without her, I let her go.
Over the coming days I set out food for her so that she could nurse her kittens and keep them healthy. I also set up a camera so that that I could track of her comings and goings. Eventually I finally found out where she was keeping her kittens! If you look closely, you'll see the tinniest of little faces in the picture below.
I decided I would retrieve the kittens and then use the kittens to trap her. Step 1 of the plan was a great success! I had the tiny kittens in hand, set up the humane trap and my camera as a backup to make sure I wouldn’t miss a thing. Well this is when I learned I was severely underestimating momma cat. She somehow managed to not trigger the trap AND the camera and was able to retrieve two of her kittens before I had noticed. Heartbroken, I knew what I had to do. I couldn’t separate the kittens from the mom so I let her get the rest of them. Here is a picture of when I had the five little ones in hand.
Then came the waiting game. At this point I had learned that the mom would be extremely hard to catch. Thus, I decided the best course of action was to wait. Wait until the kittens were old enough to survive without the mom so that I could get just them. With the use of the camera I was pretty sure I knew where the kittens were so it was just a matter of waiting for the right moment.
I worked with a rescue to determine the best time to go after the kittens. Once the kittens were 5 weeks old and with a storm approaching Houston, I decided it was time to go in after them. I put on coveralls since they were hiding under a house and went after them.
To my absolute surprise, as soon as I stuck my head in through the foundation opening and looked to the right - there they were. A pile of startled kittens. I couldn’t believe it!
I slowly started retrieving them and putting them into a little bin. Once the shock wore off, the kittens began to run. I was able to retrieve 3 of the 5 kittens at the entrance to the foundation. I then went underneath the foundation and crawled around with my headlight looking for the remaining two. Unfortunately, there were far too many crevices and small spaces where they could hide and I wasn’t able to find them. I was disappointed I couldn’t find them that day but I knew the journey wasn’t over.
Let me preface the next part of the story by saying I have never had a cat before. I can’t emphasize enough how little I knew about kittens. Luckily, I have a fantastic support network like Partner 4 Paws Rescue and Competent Pup trainers who provided me amazing advice. The first couple days with the kittens were difficult. They were extremely fearful and would hiss at me whenever I would get close. For those that haven’t heard a kitten hiss… it is terrifying!
So I started to come up with a plan for how I would get the kittens comfortable being around me and being handled by me. A friend of mine mentioned this cat treat goo that her vet uses and apparently cats go crazy for. I went to the pet store to pick some up (for those curious, it’s called Churu). I put some on my hand and waited for the kittens to approach me. Once they smelled the treat on my hand they slowly made their way over to me and began licking it off my hand.
Not only where the kittens eating from my hand but they also let me hold them! I was waiting to give them a bath until they were comfortable and I felt that now was a good time. I gave them a warm bath and made sure to keep them warm and cuddled up afterword. This was such a momentous day for the kittens in their developmental journey! I was so unbelievably happy with the progress that we made that day. Here I am keeping them warm and once they were all nice and clean in their new bed.
For several weeks things were going great! The kittens would play constantly and cuddle with me and the dogs. We would even go to coffee shops together to aid in their socialization. Peoples reaction when they found out I had a bagful of kittens was hilarious!
We were quickly approaching adoption day when we had a setback. I noticed there was a patch of hair missing on Orville’s paw. I took them to the vet and found out he had ringworm. For those that don’t know, ringworm is extremely contagious to cats, dogs and even humans. This was a very tough break for the kittens. This meant that they would have to isolated during a very important developmental period in their lives. Not only that, kittens are extremely playful and have a deep desire to explore and climb everything. Having to isolate them not only affected the kittens but it also affected me. Emotionally, it was very hard to see the kittens sad and frustrated being locked up. Eventually, I decided to buy personal protective equipment so that I could safely spend time with the kittens. Just look at that little face when I held Swes again for the first time. That look says it all.
After several weeks of difficult treatment (lime sulfur dips are the worst. I’m sure cats all over the planet would agree with me), the kittens were finally free of any signs of ringworm and were free once again! Once released, it was like they were making up for lost time. Cuddling with me, cuddling with the dogs and climbing everything and anything in sight.
Now that they were free of ringworm, it was adoption time. There was an adoption event scheduled for a weekend I was supposed to be out of town. I was sad I wasn’t able to be there for my kittens but wanted them to have a chance at finding their forever homes. I am happy to report that Wilbur was able to find a loving home! Orville and Swes however were stuck with me for a little while longer. I was also told that Swes was being a bit of a diva and throwing temper tantrums since I wasn’t around. Lucky for her, her tantrums are still cute. One of the things I was surprised by was the amount of affection Swes and Orville were showering me with after a weekend apart. Just look at the amount of love in these videos.
Not long after, I got word that someone was interested in adopting my two remaining kittens. I still remember getting that text. I was still in bed and when I saw my phone with the message, it was almost like the kittens knew. They immediately proceeded to lay down on top of me as if to say, “please, we want to stay here”.
Although bittersweet, I was happy to see the kittens go to such a wonderful home. I was a bit nervous about spunky Swes specifically since she showed on a couple occasions that it was hard for her to deal with me not being around. I can’t fully express how happy I was when I got the first picture from the foster family of Swes cuddled up with her young daughter. I knew then things would be okay.
One of the things I loved most is just how much I learned about cats. I learned that they can be playful and affectionate. I learned they make the cutest little monster sounds when eating. I learned that they can climb just about anything. And I learned that observing cats is as funny as watching stand up comedy!
Orville, Wilbur and Swes, the pups and I loved having you and you will always hold a special place in our hearts as the first milunova foster kittens.