Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Some sad cat news

Socks has gone missing.

Socks is one of the many stray cats who hang out in our neighborhood. She first appeared a year or two ago as a juvenile, well past the kitten stage but not quite an adult. She was nimble, agile, and independent. She appeared to be the only cat from her litter. She closely resembled Sugar, a pet cat from across the street who is allowed to roam the neighborhood. (Come to think of it, I haven't seen Sugar in a while, either.)

We tried to catch Socks shortly after she first showed up. We actually did catch her; my mom lured her onto our porch with food, and then trapped her on the porch. But she made it clear that she did not want to stay.

She went away for a while, but then came back - oddly changed in the face, as though her feline sense of wonderment has been replaced with a sly and suspicious attitude towards the world. So much changed that for a while I called her "the cat who looks like Socks." But in the absence of any other cat making a claim on the name, we have decided she is Socks.

We thought Socks was a boy until a few weeks ago, when she had a litter of kittens.

Not many kittens. Four, my mom thinks. Then just two.

Socks was a good mother to her kittens. She kept them in a safe, sheltered location - under an overturned wheelbarrow behind our shed. Socks always made sure she was well-fed, always first to come loping along whenever she heard anyone come onto the porch and in turn nursed her kittens every chance she got. Sometimes Socks would just lounge on our neighbor's sidewalk or under a rosebush while her kittens played nearby.

Socks stopped showing up about two days ago. My mother has observed her kittens making tentative approaches to the food she has been setting out.

I cannot imagine Socks would just abandon her kittens. If something, some predator got her, then her now motherless kittens are in danger, also.

The kittens do not look like Socks. Socks was a tabby calico with white feet and lower legs - hence the name. Her kittens are a solid light gray. They are both female. Future breeders.

This morning when I came home from work I set out the Havahart trap facing the wheelbarrow, baited with the food we've been putting out. If the kittens are in the trap when I head for bed, we'll deal with that. If not, I'll release the catch on the trap so the kittens can get to the food without setting it off while I sleep.

Socks was a good cat. I will miss her. SpookyBear, Dot, Butterfly - I miss them. Perhaps some part of them will live on in the kittens we are rescuing from nature, red in tooth and claw.

UPDATE: Got 'em! Both of them! They were both inside the trap when I went outside. I did an experiment a few weeks ago when I saw Bowie, Thor, and BlueBear playing with the trap when I had them for an outing on the porch. They were all very curious about the trap, and eagerly went inside, but the weight of any one kitten was not sufficient to set it off. It took two of them to spring the trap* - unfortunately, while Thor was half in and half out of the gate, which gently closed on him. This made me concerned that the trap could be defeated by a third kitten or come other obstruction. Fortunately, it worked as hoped.

And now, I have five kittens to care for.

*Wait, this can't be right. I caught BlueBear in the trap by himself. Maybe it's just that there's enough room for a second kitten while the other sets it off.

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