According to Webster's Dictionary, one definition of "feral" is: "existing in a wild or untamed state". That might be putting it mildly when it comes to my feral kittens. I had an appointment to take the kitten girls to the clinic this afternoon so they could be spayed in the morning. I'm referring to two small three or four pound kittens I've had in my home for a number of months. Their brother was neutered a few weeks ago. The kittens know me, hear my voice, and feel my touch every day. I thought they had begun to trust me and that I'd made some progress with them. At least they had stopped running from me - until today.
I swear, cats can sense when something is going on and they never want to be a part of it unless it has something to do with an electric can opener and some stinky wet food for which they'll stand in line, or in one case I know of, sit at their assigned places on the kitchen floor and patiently wait. I might not have believed that had I not seen it for myself. My kindred cat friend, Chris, has cats that line up on their own spots each day for a taste of canned food. It's one of the cutest things I've ever seen, but I digress . . .
It had been a good day. Chris and I had gone out for lunch and when I left her home, I thought I'd be taking "the girls" to the clinic, then returning to my home to finish some laundry and make a few phone calls. I should know by now that plans which initially seem simple are usually anything but that. How hard should it have been to pick up two small kittens and place them into a carrier for transport? Well, let me tell you.
I went into the kitten room and cat radar was already at work. The two girls, Annie and Gracie, along with their brother, Timmy, ran like little mice, up the side of the kitty condo. Their destination was the top of an old cupboard in which I store craft books. They know I can't reach them up there. I placed the cat carrier close to the kittens' location, made sure the door to the carrier was open, and climbed upon a step stool with towel in hand. I've not been bitten by them and didn't intend to be. Before I could make the first pass, the girls jumped down to the floor and up onto the counter on the other side of the room. I stepped down from the stool and went to the counter and thought I'd easily wrap the towel around one of them and get the show on the road. As I reached for Gracie, she bolted to the top of the light that runs almost the length of one wall. She walked across it, daring me to try to reach her. Since the over-sized litter box is directly under the light, I thought better of grabbing for her.
Gracie hissed at me and jumped to the floor - yes, from the top of the light - and ran back up to the top of the old cupboard. Annie followed suit and we did the whole thing again, and again, and again. I became exasperated while the kittens panted, hissed, and released the most noxious odor from their glands. People who have cats and dogs are familiar with this "aroma" and though it's not as bad as skunk odor, it's not at all pleasant. All the while, the girls made sure to stay barely out of reach. Timmy seemed to enjoy the three-ring circus and didn't move a muscle during the whole show. I finally cornered Annie and wrapped the towel around her. When I tried to place her in the carrier I discovered Bailey curled up inside it. He knows that's the carrier we use for his trips to the adoption center every week and he always walks into it on his own. That's very endearing for the weekends, but not so cute when one is holding a towel-wrapped feral cat that's already practicing her spread eagle technique in anticipation of being inserted into the dreaded carrier. Annie took one look at Bailey and scrambled over my shoulder and back up the kitty condo she went.
The kitten room is not very large but the furry ones have lots of places to hide, and hide they did. We repeated the chase scene at least six times, then I stopped counting. At one point, Annie ducked under a little set of steps the cats all like to use as a hiding spot. I thought I'd be clever and hold down one side of the steps while gingerly lifting the other side and holding the carrier close to them. I reasoned Annie would think she had no place to go except inside the carrier. It's extremely humbling to be outsmarted by a five-month-old kitten. After about 30 minutes of this charade, I decided to get tough. I found a bigger, thicker towel and used plastic containers to block part of the kittens' perch on top of the old cupboard. When I was sure I had them both cornered, I threw the big towel over them. Got 'em!
I scooped up the towel, holding onto it for dear life, only to find I'd grabbed Bailey. Apparently he had decided to join in the game. I turned around to see Annie and Gracie grinning at me from atop the light - again. I'm a very patient person most of the time and I'm very kind to animals all the time, but these girls were about to change my attitude about trying to rescue feral kittens. In desperation, I started using the towel to shoo the girls from their positions and though I know it was frightening to them, I had to get them into the carrier. I don't really know how I succeeded, but I do know it was not an easy task. I ejected Bailey from the carrier three times and finally relocated him. That's when I was finally able to corner the girls. Sweet little Bailey had been trying to "help" me I think. When the girls would shinny up the kitty condo, he'd skittle up after them and sit on top of the old cupboard and peer down at me too. He seemed to enjoy the chase.
The story did not end there - oh no, that would have been too easy.
After the 35-minute drive to the spay clinic, I took the girls inside and told the man and wife who run the clinic about my adventure with the kittens. They laughed when I told them some kittens are feral, some are more feral, but these were the most feral I'd seen in a long time. The man peered into the carrier and exclaimed they wouldn't be a problem. He took them to a room where he attempted to get them into their holding cage for the night. I wasn't allowed to go into that room, but what I heard from my place at the front desk was enough for me to know exactly what happened. The woman asked me to sign the consent form while her spouse dealt with the girls. I suggested he might need some help and she laughed. Then we heard what sounded like something lunging against the closed door, a series of bangs, booms, crashes, and the frantic man called to his wife. She asked, "Do you need a little help?", to which he replied, "HELL YES!!!!". She scooched her way inside the room and more crashes and booms were heard, along with a few choice phrases, including, "I'll go get the net".
All I could do was stand at the desk with my head in my hands. The resident cats and one dog looked at me as if to ask what sort of demonic plague I'd delivered upon them, but they remained eerily calm despite the terrible noises we were hearing. As I was waiting for things to settle down, two men came in with a cat to be spayed and asked what in the world was going on in that room. I told them two little kittens had escaped from their carrier and left it at that. The looks on their faces were priceless. When the woman came out of the room she appeared frazzled and I profusely apologized for the kittens' behavior. She was very sweet and said, "Oh honey, it's not a problem. We caught one and we'll eventually catch the other one. It must be a full moon". On my way home, I offered some prayers for her and her spouse.
I've never given up on cats or kittens in my life and I'm not going to give up now. I realize though, these kittens are going to test my patience and endurance. I hope I'm up for it.