The Very Feral Kittens
A friend of mine has a son who is truly a Cat Whisperer. He has the gift of taming feral cats. One day my friend told me that her son had tamed a feral cat that was pregnant. When the kittens arrived, she invited me to come over to see them. I can never resist kittens, and my sister had been considering getting another cat. She had a charcoal female named Teallie and a tuxedo cat named Luke. Teals was getting older and Luke was getting bored. We thought maybe a kitten would keep Luke from harassing her. So, early in November, we took a ride to their home.
The kittens were four months old and they were scattered around the house. Once they were corralled into the laundry room, I picked up the largest one, Tom. My sister went straight for the smallest, a female ginger, black, gray and white in a sort of calico/tortoise shell pattern. She was cooing at her and the kit was not at all sure she liked that. Her eyes were dilating as she backed away from all the goo-goo-gaw-gawing my sister was giving her, until her lips curled back and she hissed at her in an expression of contempt. Well, that was it, my sister was in love.
I noticed off in the corner kind of surveying this strange activity was a black, gray and white tabby. He seemed placid and detached, calm. I put Tom down, picked the other one up and he immediately started purring. I too fell in love.
My friend was involved with the Feral Cat Society and was taking them to be neutered and spayed, so we couldn’t take them home for a couple of weeks. I thought that might cool my ardor. I didn’t need another pet. I had my dog Cooper, and he was a handful.
On Thanksgiving Eve we went back to pick up my sister’s kitten. When we got there, she was appalled to see the kittens had notches cut from their ears. The Feral Cat Society does that so that feral cats that have been fixed and given their shots can be visually identified. Shelley almost changed her mind about adopting the kitten, but I thought of the clipped ears as love notches. She only had to pick up the kitten again to get past her disappointment over this minor blemish. And when I saw my kitten, I knew we were going home with not one, but two new pets.
My sister named her kitten Frida – after Frida Kahlo, who knew a thing or two about physical disfigurement. I named my kitten, Vince. I was and always will be a Green Bay Packer fan and a Vince Lombardi fan. But in hindsight, I may have subconsciously been thinking of another Vincent: Van Gogh, who knew a thing or two about damaged ears.
My friend sent us home with the caveat that if for any reason we couldn’t keep the kittens, we were to bring them back to her. We promised we would, not dreaming of how close we came to doing just that.
We put Frida and Vince in the single cat-carrier that we had brought with us, since I was sure I wouldn’t be bringing a kitten home with me. They were so quiet, I kept peeking in on them to make sure they hadn’t gone into shock or something. They were fine.
When we got home we left them in the carrier as Cooper, Teallie and Luke circled around them. Cooper was curious. Teallie and Luke were incensed, and made no effort to cover it up. They protested with hissing objections. It was typical hierarchical cat stuff. The kittens seemed quiet and submissive, so after fifteen minutes or so, we opened the cat carrier and it was all out war. Vince went on the offensive, snarling and growling. He hunkered down like a cougar ready to pounce on his prey. Frida hissed and scowled. Then Cooper decided he needed to break it up and dashed into the center of the scuffle only to be whacked in the face by Teallie. We rounded up the little ones who uttered other-worldly noises I had never heard from any cat I’d ever had, and I’d had many. We pulled out another pet carrier from the garage and put Frida in one and Vince in the other. Every time we came near either of them, they let loose with guttural growls and ominous hissing.
We had brought home the feline equivalents of Regan from The Exorcist and Damien from The Omen. They look sweet, but . . .
I had a sleepless night. The cats were in their boxes in the living room. All was quiet. I conjured up my nerve and walked over to Vince’s box. I gingerly unhooked the tabs that lock the handles together. Slowly, I opened the top flaps. In the subtle light I could see two green eyes staring intently up at me. No growls, no attack posture or hisses. It was now or never. I reached carefully down to attempt to stroke his head. The moment I made contact with his velvety fur, it happened, the loudest most distinct almost desperate purrrrrrrrrrrrr. I picked up my new friend and he melted into my arms, gazing up at me, purring passionately. We spent a half an hour together, bonding if you will. I placed him back in his box and went to bed. It would be the last night he or Frida would spend in a box.
The cats declared war amongst themselves for three days. We kept them apart as best we could, and that was a real challenge. By the fourth day, my sister and I agreed that if things had not improved by the end of the week, we would have to return them. The war began to turn into skirmishes, the skirmishes into a standoff. We weren’t without some scuffles as the five animals came to understand the pecking order. Vince occasionally reverted to the feral cat in him, but took his slaps and rebuffs as he accepted his standing in the chain of command: General Teallie, Colonel Luke, Major Cooper, Captain Vince and First Lieutenant Frida.
The feral kittens were staying.
Luke soon took Vince under his wing, and he stopped picking on Teallie.
Frida is small and genteel, rather delicate at seven pounds with a majestically large, fluffy tail. She’s also a klutz. I’ve quit counting the number of times she’s rolled off the side of the bed or couch.
Vince is my gentle giant. He weighs twenty pounds with not an ounce of fat on his lanky and athletic body. He is as mellow as any cat I’ve ever known.
To this day, the moment I stroke his head I get an industrial strength purrrrrrrrrr . . .