Jane Austen with Kittens
You’ve probably heard of this movie that mashes up Jane Austen and Zombies. Well, there’s a story unfolding around our house that feels like something out of a Jane Austen story, but it involves kittens.
If you haven’t been following the kitty situation chez nous, here’s a quick recap: In spring of 2016 a local feral cat had kittens. The mother and kittens became regular visitors to our back yard over the summer, and as the months wore on we socialized the kittens (Phoebe and Fiona) and finally brought them into the house in November. The mother is friendly but too feral to adopt. We already have a grumpy 14-year old black cat named “the Mini.”
So what happens when you bring two spry young female kittens into the house of a 14-year-old neutered male cat? You’d think nothing, owing to the gonad-free life that the Mini has been living since George W. Bush was President. But apparently not.
You see, one of the kittens — Phoebe — has been madly in love with the Mini since the beginning, before we even let them into the house. Last summer, when they were wild and living outside, Phoebe, Fiona, and their mother appeared on the deck several times a day. If the Mini was sitting in the patio doorway, Phoebe would rush up to the door and go nose-to-nose with him through the screen, purring madly. While the other two cats displayed a mixture of mild interest and utter indifference to this black furball who lived in the mysterious world on the other side of the patio door, Phoebe was enthralled and would rush to see and sniff him whenever she could.
The Mini showed no interest, even by October, when the kittens started coming inside occasionally, nor in November when they moved in permanently. He would either ignore Phoebe’s eye-batting and snuggly invitations or actively swat her away. So it looked as though we’d have no real trouble with these as-yet-unspayed kittens, until Fiona — who had previously showed no interest in the Mini — went very explicitly into heat.
The G-rating quickly took a dive, as Fiona turned her eye on the Mini. And not just her eye; her modus operandi was to turn her tush to Mini’s face in a presentation so brazen and vivid that I expected the Vice Squad to burst through the door at any moment. Mini responded by biting her on the back of the neck, arching his spine, and assuming a position that would be referred to as “mounting” except that his aim is off, and despite the humping and yowling their naughty bits rarely seemed to be in the same ZIP code.
According to my research, a female cat stays in heat for a few days, then is done with it until the next time. But Fiona has apparently not consulted Wikipedia because she’s been in a state of heat — whether real or imagined — ever since, without a break. As a result, this furry tango with the Mini happens at least three times a day, sometimes at meal times, which is highly disturbing to the mood, and I find myself sitting there over dinner with cat screwing sounds drowning out the Spotify playlist, thinking “the only thing missing is the banjo kid from Deliverance.”
But where does that leave Phoebe? For the first few weeks, she would just sit there, eyes agog, as the love of her life ravaged her sister — or perhaps more correctly, ravaged the carpet while hunched over her sister. Unlike the copulations of apes, this furry yowling would go on and on, for what seemed like hours. Phoebe’s unrequited love was tragic to witness, which means, in Victorian romance tradition, it can only get worse. And it did.
Early in January, Phoebe finally caught on to this “heat” thing, and started slinking around the Mini with a whole new slutty look in her eye. Unfortunately she’s a bit of a klutz in the romance department, and she can’t quite bust the right moves. Whereas Fiona simply sticks her tush in the Mini’s face until he catches a whiff and springs into action, Phoebe prefers to slither alongside him and to roll over and purr like, well, a thing in heat. The Mini’s response is either to walk away or to growl at her and then walk away.
There is no happy ending yet; the house remains a den of exploitation and sorrows. I hope this will be resolved “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” style by sexually lobotomizing the kittens under the veterinarian’s knife, after which we can go back to the usual snuggles and hisses.
For those who have not been following the kitty saga over on Martine’s FB and Instagram, here’s a quick rundown:
July 2016. A neighbourhood stray cat, who we’d seen as a kitten the summer before, showed up with two wee kittens in tow. They were absolutely adorable, diluted calico (three color, but very muted), and very playful. But they were also feral, so they’d slip away if we tried to approach them.
August 2016. We’d been leaving a bit of food on the back deck, so the kittens and their mamma (who we’ve come to call “Kitty Mamma”) make daily appearances on the deck around sundown. We think they’re probably living under the deck.
September 2016. By now the kittens are used to us and will come right up to us but won’t quite let us pick them up. One of them has beige on half of her face and the other has beige on all of her face, so we call them “Half Face” and “Full Face.” Kitty Mamma stays slippery and elusive, but she doesn’t seem to mind us paying attention to the kittens. They’re showing interest in the inside of the house, and Half Face in particular seems to have an enormous crush on The Mini (our 12 year old black cat, who stays inside).
October 2016. Half Face and Full Face have actually been in the house a few times, but only for a few minutes. Half Face gets really nervous if we close the patio door behind her. By now we’re wondering what we’re going to do when winter hits. There’s no way we’re going to have three cats! We’re exploring ideas for insulated kitty shelters to leave outside. Oh, but the adorbs!
November 2016. OK, now we’re in trouble. The kittens have been coming inside to eat, through the basement door. (Not Kitty Mamma, just the kittens.) One cold night we let them stay there overnight, in the utility room. It gets worse; now we have proper names for them: Half Face is Phoebe and Full Face is Fiona. By the second week of November they had pretty much moved in and were no longer going outside. They remain pretty slippery though, and will only be picked up if you get them when they’re eating.
November 16, 2016. We decide to take them to the vet to get inspected. I had to work downtown that day, so Martine volunteered to handle the daunting job of rounding up two very slippery kittens and stuffing them into a cat carrier and taking them to the vet. Disaster strikes! In the parking lot of the vet clinic the cat carrier malfunctions resulting in Fiona getting her head stuck in the door. She’s squealing because she is being seriously strangled. Martine tries to open the latch enough to free her head but in the process gets bitten very hard by a panicking Fiona, and a panicking Phoebe bolts through the opening and across the parking lot. She’s gone, and there’s no way to find her. The clinic is almost two kilometres from home, so there’s no chance she’ll find her way back on her own.
Late November 2016. After getting Martine bandaged up, shot with a Tetanus vaccine, and interviewed by a government rabies specialist, we begin the process of trying to find Phoebe. Every day — twice a day — we go back to the vet clinic and explore the surrounding streets and yards with flashlights, rattling a food can, and squeaking her favourite toy. Nothing. We put fliers in every mailbox for six blocks around, and tape posters up on poles and bus shelters throughout the area. Nothing. We visited animal shelters and posted items on the various online cat rescue sites. Nothing. Well, we did (literally) get a call from a Nigerian scammer. (No, really.) This goes on for two weeks, with no sign of Phoebe. We’re crushed. As Martine said, at least when she was outside here she had her mother, her sister, a safe place to sleep, and food. Now she has nothing. (*Sob!*)
November 29, 2016. Phoebe has been gone for almost two weeks. Martine gets a call from a lady near the vet clinic saying there’s a small grey cat on her back deck right now. Martine races over there. Too late, she’s gone. Martine searches the area and only succeeds in spooking a raccoon. Later that night we both go back and search the yard and the surrounding streets, with no luck. We leave some food on the woman’s deck.
December 1, 2016. The vet clinic calls to say they’ve seen a small grey cat in their parking lot. They’re not sure it’s Phoebe but it might be. Martine races over there, but it’s too late. We’ve been back to the woman’s house and the neighbourhood several times, but it all seems so futile. We talk about setting a trap on the woman’s deck, but it’s cold these days and if Phoebe gets trapped at night and isn’t found until morning she could easily freeze to death.
December 2, 2016. It’s Friday, and we decide to try the trap. I figure we’ll try it for the weekend, and remove it if we don’t catch her by Monday. We go over there and set the trap on the woman’s deck at about 4:30, with an open pack of wet cat food as bait. By now we haven’t seen Phoebe in over two weeks, and we’re not 100% sure the woman’s or the vet’s sightings were even her. We go home and I start to get ready to make dinner. RRRRRING! It’s the woman. Something is caught in the trap. It’s only been one hour! We race back there thinking “How can it be Phoebe?” and “How can it not be Phoebe?” As we arrive I say to Martine, “this is when we find out if this lady is crazy. Maybe we’ll find a stuffed teddy bear in the trap.” We approach the back deck, and there she is. Phoebe is in the trap!
She’s now been home for a day, and the adjustment has been weird and contrary to all expectations. Phoebe is now affectionate and non-slippery (we can pick her up whenever we want), but her slippery sister Fiona is terrified of her. The Mini also doesn’t like her much, and growls at her. But this is Phoebe’s hour, and we’ve never seen her happier or more well-adjusted. I guess there’s a dominance order that needs to be established or something. Hopefully it will all sweeten up quick.
In the meantime, reference the October 2016 item above. Correction: we now have three cats.
[Originally published on Facebook, December 3, 2016.]
The Blork Blog turns twelve years old today. Loyal readers will have noticed that I post a lot less than I used to back in the glory days, but this sucker still has a pulse. There are 65 half-written (and for the most part, no longer relevant) unpublished “drafts” mouldering away in here, plus another dozen or so sketches of posts in my various virtual scratch pads. But for reasons that likely don’t need explaining I have trouble drumming up the enthusiasm to see them through.
Perhaps this will change in 2013, or perhaps not. Personal blogs are largely irrelevant these days, with Twitter taking care of linkage and brain farts, and the dreadful Facebook taking care of pretty much everything else. But as you know, the pendulum swings in both directions, so perhaps there will be a resurgence of relevance, or at least interest, or maybe I’ll get inspired to completely change the direction of this space.
I’ll most definitely post my last-year’s reading list some time in January, as that’s been a tradition since 2003. After that, we’ll see.
In the meantime, here’s a picture of my cat:
The Mini doesn’t like the direction this blog is taking.