Unexpected House Guest

Last weekend we were all at home when suddenly there was a tumult. M had seen a little kitten in our garden, looking up at our cat, Ruth, in the window. By the time I arrived this alleged kitten was gone, but the girls were on High Alert.

Not much later, they spotted her again. Soon the girls, a neighbor, Cute W, and I were trying to chase this kitten down, but it zipped through the shortcut to the houses behind ours and hid itself under someone’s back porch. I didn’t know these neighbors, but I knocked on their door to explain why we’d suddenly descended on their yard and were squatting around their back steps. They didn’t seem particularly interested.

The girls fretted. The kitten was very, very small, with matted fur. How could it possibly be okay on its own? It couldn’t. I was not psyched. But I agreed that we couldn’t not try to help the poor thing.

Cute W contacted his coworker, who fosters cats and kittens for Kitten Angels, from whom we adopted Ruth and Dave. They could lend us a trap for the kitten, but we’d need to foster the kitten ourselves for at least a few days. They’ll sometimes adopt out 50 or 60 cats over a weekend, but with Labor Day and the first day of school, there hadn’t been many adoptions lately and foster homes are full of a Kitty Backlog. Have I mentioned that I wasn’t psyched? But, okay, I made arrangements to borrow the trap the next day and leave it out for a few days, with the understanding that if we did trap a kitty, we could hold onto it for a few days until one of the regular foster homes opened up. Meanwhile the girls set a little plate of food out where they’d spotted the kitten by our house.

We set the trap out in the afternoon and we’d trapped a kitten by early evening. It was composed almost entirely of bones, fluff, and burrs.

Then we had to decide where to put this kitten. It needed an enclosed room where the other cats couldn’t go. For some reason, Ruth and Dave don’t hang out in J’s room much. We don’t know why, and it’s a source of sorrow for her. But it made her room the perfect convalescent home for the kitten.

We tried to block off all the least accessible nooks and crannies, but the kitty pretty quickly found a way to lodge itself under J’s bed. We gave up and left it there overnight. The next morning, Cute W pulled the drawer out from under J’s bed to get a look at the kitty just before he headed out of town. All that day, the kitten wouldn’t move, and I literally couldn’t reach it. I was worried about it not eating or drinking, so in desperation I made a little reaching device to pat it and offer some food on a spoon. It hissed ferociously with each overture, but then it would eat eagerly.

That night I was away at a PTO meeting while both girls spent much of the evening trying to encourage the kitten to come out, feeding it via long distance spoon and even swapping out the spoon for a comb for a little grooming. When I arrived home, the three of us teamed up to get the kitten out once and for all: M used the reacher as a hook to slide it forward, J grabbed it when it got a little closer, and I sealed off the entrance to the hiding place. J had set up several alternative cozy spaces for the kitty that could help it feel secure and still allow us to grab it when necessary. They lavished the kitten with love and, after a brief exam, declared her a girl.

That night, the kitten snuggled in with J for bed and stayed there for a good long while before exploring a bit under cover of darkness. In the morning we discovered that the kitten apparently needed some litter box training–she’d wet J’s bed (among other issues).

Also, I had put the trap back out. It seemed entirely possible that there was a whole litter of kittens somewhere close by, and I thought that we should try, both for the other kittens’ sake and because the one in our custody would feel better with a sibling. But when I checked the trap in the morning, here’s what I saw:

I sent a picture to Cute W with a message that I REALLY, REALLY missed him. This possum was deeply intimidating, and it was totally baring its ferocious teeth at me. But I managed to pry the trap door up, block it open by attaching a combination lock tothe side of the cage, and then, when he seemed disinclined to escape immediately, I banged a shovel a bit to scare the critter out. Yucka.

As I hustled back inside and threw more of J’s linens into the washer, I said out loud: “The possum is gone. But this morning has been. . . a lot already for 7 am.”

M said, “Mom, you’ve been a superhero this morning. Like every morning.” How awesome is that? I’ve got to say, we must have been doing something right, because both of my teenage daughters say nice things like this to me pretty regularly.

Speaking of praise, it also took some time that day to get the kitten acquainted with the litter box. We had online coaching from the Kitten Lady. Did you know that new baby kittens don’t know how to go to the bathroom without help from their mom? Obviously this kitten has been going to the bathroom, but she seemed still vaguely uncomfortable with the process, besides not knowing where to go. So there was some coaching involved. Right before bed she appeared to be about ready to burst, and with some encouragement from J and me, she took care of business before getting tucked in for the night.

We also had a house call from the volunteer from Kitten Angels, who gave the kitty a quick health check. She swabbed out her ears and gave her medicine for worms and ear mites. Then she told us that we should go ahead and name her for their files (the girls decided on Lily), and she promised to drop off food and then visit again in ten days.

. . . Wait, what? Ten days seems like very many days to have to keep a kitten without falling in love with her. Especially when she looks like this.

On Wednesday Lily finally stopped hissing every time someone approached. Plus she enjoys staying adorably nestled in your arms, and she purrs like crazy. We have talked again and again about how her stay here is only temporary, and the girls seem okay with it. But this is tough, man. I keep joking that when she’s cuddled up in my sweatshirt I feel like I’m about to start lactating.

I am trying to stay strong, but I just might be the weak link here. Also, Cute W’s a wild card. Right now he’s away, but he’s a big softy. Plus he and J were pretty much traumatized when Isis died, and if J ends up bonding with Lily after sleeping with her night after night, especially when the other cats mysteriously don’t hang out in her room much, I think we might all crumble. On the other hand, the girls have also talked about how they could potentially foster more kittens and enjoy that freakishly adorable phase and be helpers without such a commitment. And I’ve asked Cute W to check with his fostering friend about her availability to take Lily on as soon as possible. So at this point I have no idea how it’s all going to shake out.

Stay tuned.


  1. Claire

    So cool that your kids say nice thing to you on a regular basis! The other day my son gave me one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever heard from him. He had struggled with the math lesson in school that day, and he said “Mom, I’m sure you’ll be able to explain it to me in a way that makes it easier to understand. You always do.” It’s those comments that keep moms going! Good luck with the cat situation. I have never been an animal lover, and cats were always pretty low on my list, but my husband and son love them, and all of a sudden I find myself actually wanting to get one if my son’s allergies are ever controlled enough to allow it.

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