There is a kitten lying in a basket in our hall as I write. It is not my kitten. It (he, she I have no idea) is a feral kitten, the offspring of a feral cat that I have been feeding for the last few years and that I have written about before. A feral cat who seems to be pregnant every time I open the damn backdoor. A fertile, feral cat for sure. And a feral cat whose kittens I have never, and I mean never, seen. Until yesterday. Yesterday, for the first time in about five pregnancies, I saw a kitten frolicking beneath the hedge in our back garden. With her mam; the famous fertile, feral cat. I was delighted. I was thrilled. And even took a few snaps.
This is the same kitten that is now lying in a basket in my back hall. The kitten is in bad shape. This little kitten who I was watching impishly playing with its mother yesterday is now lying prostate in the basket, possibly on death’s door. I’d take it to a vet but for the fact that it is near midnight. I came upon the kitten outside the backdoor as I came home from a few convivial pints in my local. My immediate thought: this was the not-so-unusual practice of mother cats dropping their kittens at back doors in the hope of being fed.
The kitten, however, did not move, as I approached. It just lay there, stock still, until I realised that it could not move. And then I saw a big, black tom slink off into the bushes. And now the pieces of the jigsaw were beginning to fit. Now I knew why I never saw the offspring of my feral, fertile cat. Big Tom was killing them. A cat-lover told me as much when I asked her why I never see any kittens. ‘The toms kill the kittens, Gerry, to bring the mother back into heat – to make her sexy for the male’. I didn’t want to believe it. But here was proof. Here was this sweet, little kitten lying battered and gashed and unable to walk.
And it did not take too kindly to me placing her in a basket. She fairly scratched and scraped and put up a hell of a fight for a kitten who’s just been mauled by a big, black tom. I tried to communicate with soft tones and gentle rubs that I was not the enemy but it didn’t understand. After all it was this little kitten’s first encounter with a big beast, with glasses. I looked more like the enemy than big tom. I felt so sad for this little creature who only a few hours ago was frolicking with its mother. BUT. Where is the mother when her darling kitten needs her. Nine times out of ten when I open the back door, be it midnight, or midday, mother cat is there looking for grub. But not now, now in her kitten’s hour of need. Where is she? I leave a little water and some cat food in the basket for the kitten and go to bed
The morning after
The kitten hadn’t drunk, hadn’t eaten, hadn’t moved. But there’s still fight in ‘her’ when I go to rub ‘her’. Outside the backdoor, regular as clock-work, the mother is waiting for food. Hallelluia. I place some chicken beside the basket and step way back, anxiously awaiting a loving, ‘mother-child’ reunion as in: ‘Child of grace what happened to you?’ It never happened. Mother cat tip-toed in, devoured the food, completely ignored her ‘child’ and skidaddled. I am puzzled. Perplexed. But above all I am sad. Where’s the motherly love? Where is wonderful Mother Nature in all of this minor tragedy? ‘Any sign of weakness and the kitten can be abandoned’, the vet explains as she also, ever so kindly, says that it is best that ‘my’ little, feral kitten should be put to sleep. I drive home in silence, quietly mourning the short life of ‘my’ innocent, little kitten and am genuinely confused about Nature – it’s profound resilience and love and it’s profound, and ruthless, cruelty.