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Notes from a Western Life
Ranging Far and Wide on the High Plains and Beyond
Linda M. Hasselstrom's Blog

Kitty Cat's Family: The Rest of the Story

Kitty Cat with some of her kittens, May 2013.

. . .
For more of Kitty Cat’s life, see the Cat Stories page of this website and see my blog post for June 15, 2013.

But here’s the rest of the story.

We first began seeing the stray we called Kitty Cat in November, of 2012. We didn't especially want a cat, but when she was cold and hungry, we took care of her. In return, she cut the population of rabbits considerably. We think she hunted so efficiently that the great horned owls had to go elsewhere for sustenance.

On April 18, she presented us with five kittens. We immediately began providing food and a litter box and all five kittens quickly adapted. When they were several weeks old, Kitty Cat hauled all but one of them to the woodpile beside Jerry’s blacksmith shop, where we found them: cold, scared and yelping. We hauled them back to the heated shop and kept them all confined for a few more days.

Then she moved them again, to the blacksmith shop where she and the kittens could come and go under the big sliding door. So we left them, thinking she was trying to teach them to be independent. And she continued to hunt: almost every day she brought in a rabbit, several baby rabbits, several ground squirrels, or birds. The kittens grew and used the litter box and ate expensive food while we began trolling among our friends for folks who needed cats.

We took out ads in the newspaper. We put up posters in local pet stores, grocery stores, vet clinics. We told our friends, endlessly, that the cats needed homes.

Finally we had to have Kitty Cat spayed or the cycle would continue. I wrote the following letter to the newspaper.

The Cost of Your Abandoned Cat

Someone dumped a sweet half-grown cat near our ranch, perhaps thinking she could “live free in the country.” We took her in.

Spaying the cat and giving her essential shots cost $430.52. Neutering her five kittens and providing their shots would cost $1000 we can’t afford. We’ve fed them, at $10-15 per week, since April. The kittens are playful, litter box trained and love to be petted, purring vigorously. Unless we give them away soon, we must kill them; we have all the pets we want. If we stop feeding the kittens, they will decimate our birds or be killed by a coyote. Daily the mother cat brings in a rabbit, or several gophers or birds, trying to teach them to live on their own.

When you adopt an animal, you are honor bound for its life time to feed it, neuter it if you can’t care for its offspring, keep it healthy, or find someone who will. Please do not adopt animals without being responsible. Want a free kitten? Call me at 255-4064.

Within a day or two, we had multiple phone calls. Some offered advice about low cost neutering and spaying, others offered homes. Now she and all five kittens have found permanent homes elsewhere.

I have just written the following letter to the newspaper:

To the Editor

Here’s a followup to my letter about our abandoned cat. She and her four kittens are now in permanent homes. Here’s some of what we learned:

The nonprofit West River Spay and Neuter Coalition, spayneutercoalition.com, holds regular clinics and will help neuter cats for $35 female, $25 male. South Dakota West River Spay and Neuter Coalition, P.O. Box 286, Deadwood, SD 57732; Telephone: 605-593-5550; dnnwatson52@gmail.com. The group always needs volunteers and donations; call 605-593-5550 for pickup if you can donate to their Wish List.

Rapid Spay, (PO Box 200) Peaceful Pines Plaza, 7410 Black Hawk Rd., Suite 5, Black Hawk SD 57718; rapidspay.com 605-721-SPAY (7729) FAX: 605-721-7728; e-mail: fixyourpet@rapidspay.com; offers low-cost neutering.

Ask a veterinarian; some will provide low-cost services. Local humane societies are usually overworked and underfunded. Before abandoning a pet, post notices in pet stores, vet clinics, groceries; newspaper ads. Many individuals make great efforts to adopt or place these pets in good homes.

Experts say neutered cats will stabilize the population in an area, keeping wild or stray cats from moving in. Thanks to everyone who called and offered homes and information.

Of course we will miss Kitty Cat and the lively kittens. We seriously considered keeping her and one or two of her kittens, neutered, to provide a stable population here. But in fact, the great horned owls and other natural predators keep the mice and rabbits in check. As I have previously written, cats have a tendency either to slaughter needlessly or to become complacent and eat only the food provided.

And then there are those litter boxes for cats that are allowed to live in shelter in the winter.

There are many ways to keep pets responsibly and we have made our choice; we wish everyone who has adopted these and other pets very well and hope that we don’t have to go through this process again.

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Kitty Cat's Family

Three of the four kittens available for adoption.
Three kittens play with a toy on a string while the mama cat eats in the background. Photo taken June 25, 2013.

. . .
On April 18, Kitty Cat presented us with five kittens. Two are orange tiger striped with some white, and three are marked like their mother: white with gold decorations.

We suspect the father is a tough old tom we’ve seen around the place at intervals for several years. A retreat writer who spotted him mentioned torn ears and a self-sufficient stalk. We recall that before Kitty Cat disappeared last winter, she had seemed afraid when she was eating in the barn: constantly looking over her shoulder and leaping at the slightest sound. We suspect the other cat was stalking her and the kittens are the result.

A cat’s gestation period is usually 58 to 65 days, meaning the kittens were conceived between February 14 and 21. A retreat guest saw Kitty Cat briefly about the 21st and she showed herself to us March 3. Since then she’s been living primarily in Jerry’s shop, enjoying the comforts of her Cat Loft. A week before her due date, we installed a small carrying crate lined with old towels and she began sleeping there many nights, nesting.

The problem of names is, of course, at the very forefront of our minds. We refused to provide Kitty Cat with a proper name, because we were afraid her wandering ways would take her into the jaws of a coyote and it might be more painful to mourn a named feline than a generic one. Friends, wishing to be helpful, offered numerous possibilities for nomenclature connected either with writing or ranch mythology. We declined.

But now we are in a stew about how to name her offspring. Kitten 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 would be in keeping with the austerity of their mother’s name, but somehow lacking in the pizzazz we expect them to bring to Jerry’s efforts at wood-working. Kitty Cat enjoys leaping to his shoulder when he’s absorbed in a project, though so far she hasn't done so when he’s operating the table saw. So he is already imagining what it will be like to have five kittens leaping and hissing every time he starts a drill or sander. Or napping on the shelf with the sand paper. Or tippy-toeing across the rack of clamps or scaling the heights of the dust-collection system.

One kitten has been adopted and Jerry is considering keeping one, but the rest are available for adoption, free, now that they are old enough. They are socialized, litter-box trained, and used to small dogs, our Westies Cosmo and Toby.

If you’re interested, email me at info@windbreakhouse.com or leave a message with your telephone number at (605) 255-4064. That telephone is answered only by voice mail.

To see many photos and read about Kitty Cat and the kittens, see my Cat Stories page on this website.

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