Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Feline Phenomenon

I've never been adopted by an animal before. I remember as a child wondering what it would be like to have a puppy follow me home. No puppy ever did. However, several weeks ago, a kitty adopted our family. She was really an overgrown kitten-- a little (no, a lot) shy, a little wistful and fairly tenacious. Betsy and Tacy, the cats I've had since I moved to Idaho, seemed to benignly accept her, and she went from watching from the fringes to staking out her favorite napping spot in one of the flower beds. She's always seemed to like the kids, coming out from her hiding places when they play outside and lingering near them. Tobiah loves cats, and whenever he sees her, he staggers toward her, arms outstretched, saying "Dee-dee! Dee-dee!" She always let him come much closer than the rest of us.

I named Betsy and Tacy for the Betsy-Tacy book series, so when this new kitty seemed to be sticking around, it seemed only logical that she should have the name of Tib, the third friend in the books. The name seemed to fit, though we generally call her Tibs now.

She was meowing when I took this picture.
Tibs continued to stay around, and gradually we noticed she seemed to be gaining weight. Rather, her tummy suddenly started greatly protruding. Hmm, we said. This could get interesting.

Sure enough, two nights ago Brent came in from taking the garbage out and announced, "We have grandbabies." Tibs was giving birth! It was an interesting birthing spot choice--in one of the large arborvitae pots. These pots are a handy size for collecting clippings, so we kept them when we bought the bushes. This pot had been sitting next to the garage for some time-- it still contained last year's lavender and hyssop that I had trimmed back. The more we thought about it, the smarter this spot seemed--it's in a fenced in part of the yard, eliminating the threat of the wandering neighborhood dogs, it keeps the babies contained (no pun intended) and keeps the family all somewhat protected. As Tibs is a shy, semi-wild cat, and Brent had discovered her in the actual act of giving birth, I thought I'd wait a bit and give her a little space before going to see the babies myself that night.

We waited till just before bed, then went quietly out with a flashlight. Tibs was scared and ran and hid under the canoe when we came close and the tiny mewing sounds coming from the pot told us the kittens were upset she had left. Four bitty white and black kittens, clumsily huddling together in a little heap.

The next day, we checked on them often. Tibs was actually cautiously friendly to us. She's back to being skinny. We showed Katya and Tobiah the kittens but didn't let them get too close. Katya smiled and was interested but then wanted to run and play.

Watching Tibs with her kittens makes me wonder if all newborn mammals are similar--all they want to do is nurse and cuddle close to mom. Tibs takes short breaks to eat, stretch her legs, then right back to the babies. She is always near them.

It's exciting to have new babies around. We did nothing to encourage Tibs to stay when she first appeared--didn't try to make friends with her or pet her, but she has clearly chosen us. It's hard not feel at least a little like watching over these tiny somethings, so vulnerable and helpless. It will be fun to watch them grow. Here are a couple photos of them. It's curious how they look so similar to each other. As Brent says, if she wasn't fixed and female, Tacy could pass for the father.

This photo was taken when the kittens were a little more than 12 hours old, and the following one was taken a few hours later.

1 comment:

Mindy said...

How sweet! This is a great post - I loved reading about how things have developed with Tibs. Keep us posted on the situation!