Rags to Riches: A Cat Story
I'm going to tell you a story about a cat called Mom.
One fall day I was cleaning up the garage and preparing for winter when I noticed a little kitten scurry from under one work bench to another. I started a little search effort and soon found that kitten cuddled up with another kitten! How did two kittens get into the garage when the nearest farm to ours is about a mile away? At first I thought someone had dumped them (sadly this happens in the country more then you would like to know) but they were completely terrified of me so it became clear they had never had contact with people before. I let them be and continued to clean up while thinking about what I am going to do with these two. While I was a bit aways from the garage I noticed a fully grown cat (with one weird ear), mouse in her mouth running into the garage with the exact markings as the kittens. Mystery solved. There is a chicken farm down the road that just has a ton of wild cats roaming around so I assumed this mom needed to find somewhere better for her kittens to live over the winter then their over populated barns. I tried to have some contact with the mom cat but she was terrified too and hid from me.
Cats on a farm are more of a work animal then a pet so to say. Not to say you don't have the same love you would for any pet, just that they are also around for a reason. There are a lot of mice that will get in every nook and cranny of your house, garage, out buildings and just destroy things. We already had two faithful mousers who called our wood stove warmed garage home but they didn't seem to care about the intruders and quite frankly I couldn't go near them to get them out anyway! So they stayed and the mother cat because affectionately known as just Mom.
Over that winter the kittens grew and come summer they disappeared. Mom stayed though and I spent that summer just being around her. She was still very leery of me but by the end of the summer I could pet her. Just one stroke on the back and she would scurry away. She was pregnant again next spring and when I noticed she had gone skinny I had to start stalking her to find where she had hidden them. In the eaves of the dog house… can't say she wasn't a good mom (Those kittens were tamed and given to good homes by the way)! We moved on that year to little scratches behind the ears and neck and she would even give a purr once and awhile! Progress!
Winter came and went again and more kittens ensued. Cue me stalking her again to find her kitten hide-y holes and taming and finding homes for them. That year we made a big step! I could lift her off the ground! Just about a foot high and then back down again. We practised all winter and finally in the spring before she could get pregnant (…again…) I was able to lift her into a cat carrier and Mom finally got spayed. They estimated she was maybe 6 or 7 years old by this time. The weight of kitten-rearing could finally be taken off her shoulders and Mom could retire.
Over the summer she started taking an interest in looking in the house through the windows and so I thought it was high time my beloved little Mom could spend the cold Alberta winter in the house for the first time. I started just leaving the door open when she was by the window and she would sneak in extremely cautiously only a metre or so and then bolt back outside. She began to venture in further and further and I always left the door open for a quick exit if she felt uncomfortable but after awhile she would get comfy and stay for a bit. That is when I started shutting the door. I made sure whenever she went near the door to open it again so she knew she was never "trapped" in the house. Once the bitter cold hit she decided to finally become a fat house cat.
Now she is enjoying her full cat retirement and it only took three years to get her there. She only comes in to sleep in the winter. Summers are way to busy for hunting to be stuck inside. She meows when she wants out which means she doesn't require a litter box (…huge plus!) And she is the hardest working hunter I have ever seen! I've seen her bring home moles like a lioness dragging a gazelle between her front legs. She's even brought home a bat!? What the?! How?!
I snapped this photo last weekend and I thought it embodied what a hearty and wonderful animal she has turned out to be and I am happy she decided to move into our garage 7 years ago.
Fun Fact: We kept one of her daughters and two of her granddaughters to keep the little family going. It was kinda sad when we decided to get the granddaughters fixed. Like ending an era of Mom's excellent cat genes but seriously….too many kittens!!