Months ago an ugly stray cat started begging for food on our front porch. For the most part we tried to ignore it, but the cat was very sweet, loved to be pet and generally soaked up all the attention we were willing to give it. Basically the opposite of Gonzo in every way.
It was a muddled white color, with intense blue eyes and a goofy look to it. I started calling it Joseph, because the poor thing reminded me of the bad guy in the movie Contact. You know, the freaky-looking religious fanatic that tried to blow shit up?
Within a few weeks we started to suspect that Joseph was pregnant. It was time for a name change. Josephine seemed appropriate, but mostly I just called her Lil’ Whore. We began feeding her because ignoring her was no longer an option. She had babies coming soon!
One day she was gone for awhile and when she came back she was super duper skinny, begging like a mad-mama-cat for food. She showed up multiple times a day, but our front porch was no longer her hangout. Her kittens needed her around for protection and food. We saw her cross the street, into the wooded area, where we assumed she was keeping her kittens.
On May 14th, the day before we were leaving for Aruba, Lil’ Whore showed up at the house with six kittens in tow. Six!!! Based on her size we thought she would have three at most. I called my brother, begging him to help take care of eight cats (instead of the initial agreement – which was Gonzo + food on the porch for Lil’ Whore). Thankfully he agreed.
Lucas used a large plastic storage bin and rigged it so that the kittens would have shelter and protection from the elements while we were gone. They seemed comfortable in the house and when I saw what a great job Lil’ Whore was doing with the kittens she was given a new name. Lil’ Mama.
When we got back from Aruba the kittens were not in the house we made for them. We assumed they were gone and felt somewhat relieved until we realized they had discovered the back yard, along with a hole leading under the house. We convinced the kittens to come out, counted six and sealed up the hole.
It took a few days for the kittens to get used to people, but Lil’ Mama trusted us and they learned from her. When we opened the back door they would all come running for food, climbing over each other and up the back steps in excitement. They were already eating wet food and occasionally enjoyed crunching on dry food.
The only issue we ran into was with some pretty bad eye infections. The little runt had it the worst – its eyes were swollen and red, oozing gooey grossness that sealed its grey-blue eyes shut. I nicknamed the runt Gooey, but that didn’t last for long. We took the little kitten to the vet and the medicine we were given quickly healed up Gooey’s eyes, along with a few others that had minor eye problems.
This week they turned six weeks old. They have learned to pounce on each other and they play non-stop in the jungle that we pretend to call a backyard. Watching them grow up has been such a cool experience.
Three days ago Lil’ Mama abruptly lost interest in food. In the morning she ate slowly, but had little interest in her bowl and didn’t wolf anything down like she typically does (seriously, she could eat with a desperation I have never seen before). We were a little concerned because she seemed somewhat lethargic so we decided to see how she was doing at dinner. By that time she was completely ignoring food. She let the kittens nurse on her … why I don’t know. It seemed like they were slowly draining the life out of her.
The next day she disappeared. The kittens did not respond well. They looked so lost, staring up at us with their sweet little faces. Can a kitten look despondent? Because that’s how they all looked … especially Gooey. Gooey refused food, instead opting to stare into the water with grief. The ugliest of the kittens, I imagined that Gooey was looking for Lil’ Mama’s reflection.
Yesterday Lil’ Mama still wasn’t back. After seeing a male feral cat and a raccoon (it lives under the house next door with a few babies) in the yard we decided to let the kittens into the house for the first time. We put them into the small room that connects our kitchen to the backyard. We set up a small litter box, a sleeping area, a bowl of water and some food.
Last night we realized that Gooey was in trouble. Most of the kittens were still not eating well – only two were really trying. We decided then that we would get kitten formula in the morning and start bottle feeding them. I sat with the kittens for short periods of time, going back and forth between their room and the main house, continually trying to coax the kittens into eating. It wasn’t working.
Gooey faded quickly. He was the smallest of the kittens by far and a day without food left him incredibly weak. I felt like I was watching him slowly die.
Which I was.
This morning when I checked on the kittens I thought Gooey was dead. When I saw him breathing, just barely, I sat on the back steps sobbing. It is one of the saddest things I have ever seen.
Gooey died sometime between 8:50 and 9:45 am. Lucas left to get the kitten formula and when he got back Gooey was dead.
Luckily, aside from the kitten we plan to keep, the rest are loving the bottle. I hope (so intensely) that they will survive without their mother. They are all incredibly sweet, playful and adorable. I love them so much and hope that Lil’ Mama is okay somewhere.