Monday, December 12, 2011
Farm cats are a must around the barn. It seems not only that they keep mice in check but they add a friendly welcome to the day. In summer all the cats seem to spread out all over the farm, hunting mice and gophers and not needing as much food or care as they do in winter. They often move out to the haystacks and grain bins. There nature takes its course and spring kittens are born. They have all summer to grown up.
Then comes fall and the colder weather. Every furry feline makes a beeline for the safe warm haven of a barn. My little barn is no different. However one fall I remember a small, thin little female arriving in the loft. She was feral and I don't know where she came from. I would see a glimpse of her now and then but she was terribly shy. The access to food held her there though and she thrived and grew sleek and glossy.....and disturbingly rounded! Yes she was pregnant. Most fall kittens born on a farm have a hard time. The nutrition levels are lower and the cold weather we have is harsh.
This little cat was pregnant far later than usual and I sighed and worried. I couldn't get near her and I am sure if I had caught her she would have been ferocious. Then after it seemed she couldn't get one bit more pregnant she disappeared. She had gone off to have her kittens.
At the time I had the loft about half full of small square hay bales. I also had out free choice cat food and a pile of blankets I had got at the goodwill in town. The cats loved it and could eat and snuggle up together to keep warm in the coldest weather. Still I was worried about the little cat. Then about three days later I heard the mewing of kittens when I came in the barn to feed the horses. I carefully climbed the ladder to the loft and peeked across the floor. There in among all the cats were 4 tiny kittens. Happily nursing their mother and fat as butter balls! They were also snuggled up to my mother cat Mamacita.
It was wonderful. The two mother cats took good care of the babies and they were one of the best Christmas surprises I ever had. All four grew up and became great hunters and were quite tame. As for their mother.....she would disappear every spring but with the onset of fall she would return to her haven with my barn cats. She never did get tame but she was a great provider and more than earned her catfood. She was a wonderful addition to my farm and I will always remember her and the Christmas Kittens!