We don't rejoice at the arrival of yet another feral cat. When those who turn up are half -starved kittens, my anger is kindled toward the always anonymous individuals who take no responsibility for the animals sharing their space.
My response to the discovery of a feral kitten in our Gradyville woodshed wasn't one of open-hearted welcome.
For several days I set out small helpings of kibble and water; I crouched in the woodshed, coaxing softly whenever I spied the kitten. After nearly a week of this, we set up the hav'a' hart trap and captured a stripey male kitten, carried him, hissing and spitting into the guest bedroom where we stationed a litter box and food dishes in the little bathroom. My computer desk lived in the guest bedroom, thus I was in there frequently, talking to the kitten, attempting to stroke him. We called him 'Wilbur.' Wilbur scarfed down our offerings of food, resisted our efforts to socialize him.
A few days later, glancing out the kitchen window I saw a striped kitten stepping daintily along the retaining wall by my herb garden.
A quick check found Wilbur stretched on the guest room windowsill.
So, there were two kittens!
Kitten number two was easier to capture. Jim and I took up positions at either end of the wall, The kitten dithered between us, frightened, but she stayed on the wall. As she darted toward me I snatched her bony body and, holding her closely, carried her indoors.
Placed side by side, it became obvious that Wilbur was slightly the larger and had a white streak on his nose. The kittens were siblings, which made their arrival together the more suspicious.
I expect that when I was seeing the 'shed kitten' both were in residence, skittering into the wood pile so swiftly that I didn't discern there were two.
As the summer progressed, the kittens lost their starved appearance, their tabby coats became soft and sleek. Willow, the little female, often sat on the edge of my desk if I typed or read, welcoming conversation and petting.
Wilbur remained sullen, not so much fearful as disinterested in humans.
Any attempt at cuddling or stroking evoked flattened ears, struggles, 'huffings' that were barely above a growl.
Spay and neuter, inoculations, were carried out.
The kittens were given the run of the household and the dooryard with the other feline residents.
Wilbur's surly disposition seemed to keep the other cats at bay, but Willow, with her shy demeanor, was often the target of bullying.
Nearly a year passed in this manner. Willow tip-toed warily about, happy to find a vacant lap, or to sleep at the foot of the bed, a bit removed from the furry heap of the regulars.
Wilbur, steadfastly offish, was a greedy cat, blimp-shaped. My suspicions were confirmed that he was the culprit who was habitually leaving smelly mounds a few inches from the litter box.
It took me a half hour one evening to lay hands on him. With him finally in my grasp, I announced,
"You're an ungrateful wretch! You don't like us, you don't want to be a pet."
I lugged him outside, certain that he would find his place in the familiar yard, eat and coexist with the other outside cats.
I saw him less than a half dozen times after that evening and then he was gone.
I still sometimes wonder what else we could have done to 'save' him.
Willow, always shy, continued to have both yard and house privileges.
She was three years old when we began the transition to the Amish farm.
Our son was staying in the Gradyville home and appreciated Willow's company. However, the adverse attentions of the yard cats intensified, sometimes leaving Willow cornered, trembling in a puddle of her own urine.
We wished that we could find her a home where she could be a pampered 'only cat.'
For the past four years Willow has shared the barns, the porches, the padded baskets of the outdoor cats at the farm. She didn't suggest coming into the house.
We've often needed to protect her from Crumple the Interloper or Sally the Troll who have threatened to take over her food dish.
Willis, that Lord of the Manor, often gave her a cursory swat on the ear as he strolled by--letting her know that her status was a humble one!
Willow was alarmed by the uproar of the new farm owners moving in, and as we were collecting our belongings to move out, it seemed that I saw her only at a distance, hovering near the stable or darting away from the lower porch.
I knew that things needed to quiet down before I could catch her and insert her in a cat carrier for the move up the ridge.
The new owners suggested that Crumple the black tomcat could stay.
When I apologized for the delay in collecting Willow I was assured that the children of the household had befriended her.
Matters came to a head last week.
Chatting with J. A. during a chance meeting at The Mustard Seed, he announced that Willow had become so accustomed to the family that he was certain--if I wanted--Willow would allow them to put her in a cat carrier and convey her to us.
There was something hesitant in his tone of voice that caused me to look at him with inquiry.
"You see," he said, "Its like this. The children have become attached to Willow and she and my younger daughter have formed a bond. She curls up in E's lap, purrs, Willow had a little wound on her leg--probably a bite from Crumple--and we've brought her in to recover from that. She's fine now, but she's used to coming in. She 'meows' at the lower porch door every evening and E. goes down to let her in for the night. She has her food and litter box downstairs. We'd like to keep her."
Willow doesn't offer to come up to the main floor, to mingle with the little dogs or make the acquaintance of the beautiful Persian calico.
Willow has at last found her rightful place; familiar territory, indoor warmth on winter nights, and most importantly, the affections of a little girl who has made her special.
My niece, also a lover of cats, posted this meme today.
A bit sentimental, perhaps, those of us who are confirmed cat rescuers will understand.