I’ve been on a blog hiatus for over a month to focus on work. This time of year my job becomes an intense chess game with 160 pieces. It is too complicated to explain, and also exhausting. It requires an inordinate amount of thinking, contemplating, making strategic moves and balancing particular personalities with drop dead timelines. Therefore, my wittiness simply evaporates into the cesspool of spreadsheets and sales pitches, or sorts. But here is a post I wanted you to see….the great kitten rescue of 2011. Enjoy!
So last night our rolly polly pregnant cat (as a reminder, she was a stray and we sort of adopted her because we felt bad over the winter months) was definitely ready to pop. She was moaning and groaning like anyone would be while in labor. The kittens were moving and she was extremely uncomfortable. I instructed the cherubs to make a comfortable place for her to deliver her brood and watch her through the night. What I thought would happen is that they would all just fall asleep and mom cat would find a stray pile of clothes somewhere in the catastrophic arena that is ballerina girl’s bedroom and deliver her precious babies. But sometime in the night, little monkey got sick and tired of the cat whining and put her still pregnant butt outside. That was a mistake.
I heard her howling this morning about five a.m., but then she disappeared. We sent out the family search party, which included vpc nanny, as soon as everyone was awake, but the cat (and her kittens) were nowhere to be found.
Life went on as normal, and I was busy solving one work crisis after another. Then here comes the cat- sans kittens. Her tummy was flattened and saggy, her spirits up and she was hungry! I gave her food and waited patiently for her to lead me to her babies.
An hour or so went by before she began her journey back to her hidden nest.
But this was no ordinary journey. She took a nice healthy drink of water on an overturned bucket in our courtyard garden, then climbed up my 100 year old honeysuckle to reach a low roof under ballerina girls’ attic window. She walked carefully across one peak, to another, and then down a third. I saw her keenly scoot in between a roof and overhang, and then she disappeared. I immediately knew we had a bigger problem than I had originally anticipated.
Our house is old. Our house is complicated. Our house would be a stray cat’s hideaway dream. It is a messy mixture of remodels gone astray and new construction to fix the previous problems. Some walls are six inches thick with multiple layers, others follow building codes exactly, others are a hodgepodge of closed up doors and windows no longer needed.
Until this moment I had no idea that there was a hole in the siding of an eve that led to a secret space above our entryway. That, apparently, is where the three stray cats live, when they are not devouring pounds of food or digging through our garbage. How odd, but admittedly, it is the perfect place to have kittens, because that’s exactly what she did.
So I texted Darling husband with the details, and after a quick trip to Costco to buy me roses for mother’s day (love that man!) he donned his work overalls and got the tools to remove the kittens from the crawlspace via some “creative solution” that likely would include construction (or perhaps demolition. Eek.)
We had a fair indication of where the kittens were, the problem was getting to them. I harbor a deep seeded revulsion to tearing the sheetrock off of any wall because I know that once it is gone, it looks like a chop job forever. And my entryway is kind of cute; the sheetrock looks great! No way was I going to cut into my ceiling to remove the kittens that were somewhere above that six by eight foot room.
The second option was to approach from the outside, through the siding. That might work except for a pesky supporting beam above our front door.
We were running out of ideas.
Our third option was to take down the soffits and see if we could find a hole into the attic space- one left over from a vagrant construction worker perhaps. It was our only chance to at least spot where the kittens were hidden before the sheetrock met the crowbar already in book boy’s hands. (He was eagerly hoping to break something this very day.)
Darling husband worked slowly and methodically to peel away the wood from the overhangs revealing a rather large gap in the siding. (Curse you lazy construction crew!) He climbed up the ladder with his flashlight in hand to take a little look around. All three cherubs surrounded him with anticipation. But Darling husband has a big skull, and it is bald, so the nails poking down through the roof were inhibiting him from squeezing too far into the space. Time to bring in the heavy hitters: the cherubs.
Book boy was the first to explore the cavern for kittens. He bravely peered in and reported that all he could see was mom cat’s ears. Well, that was a good sign; at least she was close by.
Ballerina girl was next, and she was small enough to actually reach in and pet mom cat, but she couldn’t see a thing because of that pesky crossbeam. They took turns ascending the ladder in hopes of catching a glimpse of the tiny kittens. But each time they were disappointed. I began to wonder if mom cat had even produced kittens or if she was a serial cat killer who drowned them in the river when birthed. Hm.
But she was not moving from her spot next to the crossbeam, and there must be a reason for that.
“Well, we’ll have to go through the sheetrock,” Darling husband finally announced in defeat.
“No way are we going through that sheetrock,” I protested defiantly. “It will never look good again and I’m quite sure that this is the only completed room in this entire house and I’m not willing to give it up for the sake of that cat. There has to be another way!”
“We need to tear off the roof,” book boy exclaimed.
“That’s not an option. It’s never going to stop raining and our whole entryway would be ruined,” I said.
“We’ll have to leave them there,” ballerina girl said with despair laced through each syllable.
“We can’t leave them there. We’ll have rouge cats living in our attic, pooping, peeing, and multiplying above our hallway. It will be worse than rats! We have to get them out of there while they can’t walk or we are in big trouble.”
For a few minutes the five of us just stood looking at each other, then I finally grabbed the flashlight to head up the ladder.
Now I have to digress just for a minute to admit that I am not good with ladders. The last ladder I was on (okay, I was being kind of ridiculous because I was siding the house without a buddy, hauling a nailer up a wobbly ladder, and leaning over quite too much) almost killed me. I fell, of course, and hurt my leg so badly that I couldn’t walk for a week. Thank the Lord for left-over painkillers from a recent root canal that got me through that week and kept me out of the emergency room (no insurance…you understand.) So you can imagine the anxiety that was welling up in me as I climbed the ladder (this is a newer, nicer, more stable ladder, and Darling husband was holding it still) with the flashlight in my hand, but I was determined to save my sheetrock.
I squeezed my big head between the overhang and the wall to take a look around. I certainly couldn’t see much of anything but two ears in the darkness. Mom cat was right there, next to the beam, and she wasn’t moving, but instead purring gently as if to welcome me to the secret hide-out where she and her brothers had been living for months.
Actually, it was quite an ideal spot. She was curled up on a thick layer of insulation, and the place smelled clean and fresh, quite like it was when we sealed it up (less the hole on the far side.) I appreciate a clean cat, and I reached in to pet her. She greeted me with a slight satisfied meow and rolled over a bit. I felt her flat floppy tummy and then started searching for tiny little creatures that I suspected were hidden in the darkness.
It didn’t take too long to find the first one, all curled up and warm. I yelled down to the troops to get clean towels and gently cupped my hands around the sleeping body. Then I gently lifted it away from mom cat and delivered the tiny black body it into the waiting hands of Darling husband. There was a collection of oohs and aaahs from the cherubs and I went in to find another. The next one was orange, then another black, but mom cat was still lying quite still and motionless. I searched all around her, but still could not find any more. Yet she remained motionless. Odd. So I pushed her aside and felt behind her as she, now irritated, finally stood up. And there it was, another tiny one hidden in the back. When I pulled it out we were happy to see another orange kitten (too many black cats on the property already!)
Now the cherubs were in heaven and the kittens were quickly falling back to sleep in the towels. “You need to wake them up, make them fuss so that she’ll come get them,” I urged them as I carefully climbed down the ladder. They moved them around and a chorus of kitten chirps echoed in our entryway. Now mom cat was mad and searching for her babies. She made her way across the attic and through the hole, down the roof and into our house where we led her to the bedroom. Once the family was reunited, we let them settle into book boy’s room for the night.
So now we are a family of five, with one monster dog, two guinea pigs, two official cats, three strays, and four kittens, all together on the gentleman’s farm. But there is something so sweet about new life, and these babies are adorable. I was worth the trip up the ladder.
And here are the recent pictures of the kittens- all grown up and ready for new homes. Let me know if you want one!