Nothing truly prepares you for motherhood.
You may think you’re ready. You may have bought all the things you were supposed to buy and prepared all the accommodations you were supposed to prepare. You may even believe, naively, that you are mentally and emotionally equipped to devote your days to the care of someone other than yourself. But until you have a dog crate full of squirming, flea-infested babies who walk through their food dish, lay down in their litterbox, and then use their brother’s head as a stepstool to leap to the top of the cage only to crash down into the water bowl—only then will you truly grasp what you’ve gotten yourself into. (If you haven’t been following my blog, you might be confused or calling Child Protective Services right now. Please, calm down. The babies are kittens.)
On Thursday, July 21st, at 6:30AM, my house and my life were both pretty tidy. Yes, there were a few dirty dishes in the sink, and of course I needed to vacuum the dog hair (When don’t I need to vacuum the dog hair?) but otherwise, things were running on schedule. My to-do list included yoga, grocery shopping, writing time, and date night. None of those things happened.
After stalking mama cat (now named Maggie) for a few of weeks, I had finally located her kittens under a neighbor’s house. On a couple of occasions, with bribes of wet food and some very good sweet-talking on my part, I convinced Maggie to call her kittens out. I got the chance to glimpse a few of the adorable little fuzzy things, but she was still guarding them, and I couldn’t get close. Once, she even brought a few of the babies to my driveway. This seemed like a promising turn of events until the kittens climbed up into the underside of my car. Maggie and I agreed the visit was not going well, and she took them home again.
Finally, last Thursday, I saw my chance. When I went to feed Maggie that morning, she wasn’t waiting on my porch as usual, so I walked over to the house where she was keeping her litter. There she was, laying in the driveway, watching her kittens play all around her. At first I thought Maggie had four kittens, then I counted five. The truth was she had SIX growing babies. No wonder she was always so hungry! I could tell the kittens were healthy and well-fed. Maggie was obviously a good mama. They were seven weeks old and cute little bundles of energy. It looked as if I had interrupted climbing practice; the kittens were taking turns scaling the wooden fence while proud mom looked on. I gave Maggie a plate of food and went to get my humane trap.
Between 7:00 and 9:00AM, I had caught five kittens and Maggie. (Don’t worry, we caught kitten #6 a few days later.)
It was crazy! As my brother put it, it was like I’d found the perfect fishing hole and just kept reeling them in. I’d catch a kitten, bring it home and put it in the crate, re-bait the trap, come home to check on the kitten, go back to check the trap, and there would be another one in it. And repeat.
That’s when my to-do list went out the window.
The kittens took all of two seconds to settle in and become friendly. We could pick them up and cuddle them immediately, and they took to their kitten food like champs. Mama Maggie watched serenely, seemingly unconcerned as I carried off her children, but when SHE ended up in the trap, she was not happy. We needed to get her to a vet for her spaying surgery ASAP so that we could release her. I called a few places and found a clinic that would take her that day, so hubby and I jumped in the car, drove Maggie to the vet, got her checked in, and made it back home just in time to meet the notary at our house to sign the closing documents for selling our home in Austin. Whew! (I guarantee you I did NOT smell good during that meeting. Also, it was hard to sign my name 47 times due to a cat bite on my thumb that occurred during the process of getting Maggie from the trap into the carrier.)
Documents signed, notary departed, I let out a sigh of relief and then thought, I have a litter of kittens in my bedroom. This is going to be so fun!
I was right. Mostly.
I named the babies after the characters in Stranger Things. Meet Eleven (the tortie and only girl in the litter), Hopper (the brown tabby), Steve and Eddie (the gray tabbies), and Dustin (the blue one). The other blue one is kitten #6, named Will because he spent the first few episodes of the kitten saga lost in the upside down before rejoining the litter.
The following week was an endless loop of feeding kittens, bathing kittens, cuddling kittens, cleaning up after kittens, hosting people visiting kittens, making flyers about kittens, sending kittens home with adoptive families, looking for kitten #6, catching kitten #6, re-bathing all the kittens thanks to kitten #6, convincing Maggie to trust me again after releasing her post-surgery, herding kittens, briefly losing kittens before finding kittens under bookshelves or inside the bed, and taking many many many photos of kittens. During this time, there was not a ton of showering, eating regular meals, maintaining my house, or writing. Or sleeping. Or remembering what I did with my life before kittens.
The babies are an absolute joy. I’ve watched them learn to play and wrestle and climb. I’ve heard them purr and squeak. And I’ve felt them fall asleep in my lap as I stroke their tiny faces.
But, to be fair, the kittens are also disgusting and exhausting. I’ve watched them roll in the litterbox right after going potty in the litterbox (Hopper). I’ve heard their persistent mews at 4:00AM (Thanks, Eleven). I’ve smelled their not-so-little kitty farts (Cheers to you, Eddie). And I’ve cleaned up the accident someone had right underneath the center of my bed (I’m looking at you, Steve).
Motherhood, as it turns out, is actually kind of difficult.
Now, eight days from that exciting Thursday morning, life is finally starting to go back to normal. Hopper, Steve, and Eddie have all gone to their forever homes, and the three kittens who remain have stopped crying at night and using the litterbox as a playpen. I’m finally getting some writing time and have even taken a shower today. Woo hoo!
I’m so grateful that I found these precious babies and had the free time to take care of them. It’s been a gift getting to spend time with cats this young. I’ve loved every second of it (even the gross parts) and now I’m ready to send them on to loving homes. Hubby and I have decided that it’s not the right time for us to take on a new baby. We have an 11-year-old dog and a 24-year-old cat (no, that’s not a typo) who we love very much, and they are enough for us right now. Plus, there wasn’t a troublesome orange tabby in the litter.
I’m also grateful that we were able to get Mama Maggie fixed. She didn’t like being trapped and taken to the vet, but I know it was the best thing for her. Since my last post, I’ve learned that this was actually her third litter, poor thing.
I have someone interested in Dustin and Eleven, but little Will still needs a loving, patient home. If you’re in the Dallas area (or willing to drive here) and looking to adopt a new little fur baby into your family, send me a message!
Tips for Trapping and Caring for Baby Kittens:
- Buy or borrow a good trap. Kittens are tiny, so you need a trap that won’t hurt them but that’s sensitive enough to spring with very little weight. We have this one, and it worked great. Also, figure out how to work the trap BEFORE you need to use it. For me, the trap wasn’t intuitive, which meant I had to wake up Hubby to show me how to work it.
- Don’t be a hero. Wear gloves when interacting with a feral cat. I’m very fortunate that the bite on my thumb didn’t become infected. Thanks to thoroughly cleaning the wound, soaking in Epsom salts, applying Neosporin, and a fair amount of luck, my bite healed nicely, but it hurt like heck and I couldn’t open a bottle or a turn a doorknob without wincing for days.
- Don’t let personal feelings sway the facts when describing a feral cat. When we took Maggie to the vet, they asked how feral she was. I thought about how after weeks of patience she would now eat just a few feet away from me and how I had touched her twice (briefly) and not been killed, and I said she was “moderately feral.” When we picked her up from the vet, they informed me that she was “extremely feral.” Oops! Perhaps a chart of some sort would have helped me.
- Acquire a lot of towels. No matter how many towels you think you might need to care for a litter of kittens, you need more. Prepare to do a lot of laundry.
- Labels are important. Toothbrushes are excellent tools for kitten care. They’re useful for bathing, especially when you’re soaping up their tiny necks to keep the fleas from running to their head, and they’re good for gently stroking their widdle faces to remind them of their mama. But when you decide to take your own old toothbrush and use it on cats, you need to label it for that moment when you are severely sleep deprived and need to brush your teeth.
- Follow the Kitten Lady! This lady is awesome. Her bathing tips and socialization video both came in handy this week.
- Be creative with your marketing. There are kittens who need homes everywhere. How will you make yours stand out?