I suppose I should start with Tuesday, the night that I saw the kittens. Backstory: there’s a house four doors down from us that is a typical run-down, probably-a-hoarder kind of house, with boarded windows and junk everywhere on an overgrown lawn. The man who lives there is an a$$hole, and every time I’ve seen him, he’s been spouting horrible stuff like “you have to slap your b!tch to keep her in line.” Last August, a litter of Siamese-tabby cats was born there, and we didn’t know if they were feral or outdoor pets. I mean, how often do you see a litter of feral Siamese cats, right? Plus there were rusted metal cages all around the yard, and water/food bowls that…well, they had leaf litter in them instead of food, but maybe the guy was just gone? He wasn’t answering his door anyway… Jason and I didn’t think there was anything we could do. We’ve seen several of the Siamese cats in our yard since then – 10 months old and technically adults now – and it’s become clear that these aren’t pets. Especially once another batch of kittens showed up.
We’ve talked to a lot of the neighbors since then. No, the man doesn’t take care of or feed the cats, and regards them as “not his problem” even though the feral colony seems to like his junk-yard as their home base. We all agree something needs to be done. One of the cats is injured and has an infected leg. There is feces all over the yard and the kittens are covered in bugs. It’s a horrible situation. We tried reaching out to Animal Care Services, and they can’t do anything, so they sent us to the SA Feral Cat Coalition. They think it’s great that we want to TNR the cats, but unfortunately, the colony lives four doors down. We have to try to move it closer. And that starts with feeding times.
Which leads us to Thursday. We put out food for the first time that morning. If y’all are on Tiktok, you’ll know the Oh No song. That song immediately popped into my head:
That is one heavily pregnant kitty. We think, anyway? Sigh. But it was a good sign that she came to eat here – she’ll know where there’s food, and hopefully figure out the eating schedule, and maybe we can trap/spay her before there’s another litter of kittens born!
That day, I just felt off all day. Partly, I’m still adjusting to a new medication, and most afternoons, I get so sleepy that I take a nap. On Thursday, while lying down, I suddenly had the image in my head from when Ash passed away two weeks ago, and it was like being hit in the stomach. I know it was because we’d heard from the vet that his ashes and memorials were ready to be picked up, but I’ve tried my best to fill my head with other images since then, so it really was a sucker-punch. Then in the evening, Pregnant Mama didn’t show up for food, and while that’s not unusual – we’ve only started putting it out – it felt like an ominous omen. Then Jason caught one of the kittens.
The goal was to catch all four kittens and rehabilitate them to make them adoptable while TNRing the adult cats. The kittens looked to be 6-8 weeks old. They were eating solid food, had their adult eye color, were steady on their feet, etc. They were likely weaned and safe to be separated from their mother. After Jason caught the first, the others wouldn’t come near him Thursday night. So we spent some time setting the baby up in a safe environment. He – I’ll just call him “he” for ease, though we couldn’t pick him up to check – didn’t hiss at us or anything, and let us pet him, but he was obviously terrified and lonely and didn’t understand what was happening to him. Jason had gone out to buy some additional supplies while I tried to calm the kitten and adjust him to his new situation (covering the enclosure, making sure the temp was comfortable, getting him food/water, etc, all without touching him at this point). We were up quite late, well past when I normally sleep, and when I did finally sleep, I spent six hours in broken dreams of horrific things happening to the kitten in the hours he was alone.
Then I woke up to the news that the male half of the Real Life Ghost Stories Podcast, Dan, had passed away suddenly due to an underlying health issue (most likely his congenital heart issue, though the part in parentheses is my speculation).
Talk about sucker-punch.
I mean, I wasn’t a friend of Dan’s. We chatted on Instagram sometimes, and had been on a RLGS Zoom together a year ago with a half-dozen other podcast fans, and sometimes commented on posts, etc. We weren’t friends. But I’ve spent hours and hours and hours listening, watching, and reading his and Emma’s content over the last 15 months or so. He was 36. He was posting on Instagram stories the day before. The news was shocking and horrific, and your brain does all the things brains do to try to make sense of the nonsensical, and then the outpouring of love and grief from fans all over the world…
Again, Dan wasn’t my friend. My grief is real, but it’s distant. It’s not nearly the grief that Emma and his family and his friends are going through. And in no way do I want to make this about me, and my feelings, and my grief. But I’m also not going to pretend that the entire day wasn’t disoriented and uneasy and filled with moments where I broke down and cried, because it was. I’ve dealt with death before, but not sudden death, not since I was a kid in sixth grade with a classmate who was accidentally killed while playing with what he thought was an unloaded gun. My brain struggled – is still struggling – to cope with the sudden absence of a person.
Then on top of that, things continued to get crazier. Mama Cat didn’t show up again on Friday morning. She showed up at noon, her belly now smaller and sagging. (Or another Siamese cat with similar markings showed up? It’s unlikely, though, since she went straight over to the place she’d gotten food the day before, even though there was no food out during that time.) So either she wasn’t pregnant, or there’s another batch of kitten-worms out there and we weren’t nearly fast enough to TNR before it was too late.
And on top of that, when Jason went out to try to trap more kittens that night, he discovered that Injured Cat was also these kittens’ mother, and while they’re not nursing for food, they’re still comfort-nursing at the end of a solid-food meal. The baby in our care was not doing well. He’d eaten plenty, and he’d explored a bit of his enclosure, but he hadn’t pooped at all in a 24 hour period and he was still clearly distraught. After some debate, we decided to return him to his litter until we could get the proper trapping equipment to get the whole batch. (They were all delighted to see each other, crying for each other and then grooming each other, including Mom.) We plan to try to trap the four kittens, plus their mom, toward the end of this week. In the meantime, we’ll work on getting them to trust us in the evenings. Injured Cat lets Jason get within a foot of her without running, which is good.
All in all, Friday was NOT a good day, and this week has been chaotic and messy and painful. Yesterday wasn’t much better. Pregnant Mama showed up for breakfast, and now looks like she may or may not ever have been pregnant, and we just can’t tell. We don’t know if it’s safe to trap her or not. And Jason has now seen that she IS one of the two Siamese cats that hangs out in the front of the junk-yard, so she’s bonded with Injured Cat (which at least means one less adult we need to trap). We keep going back and forth about whether to try to trap the kittens first, or the adults, and when to do it…we’re so new to this, and have no guidance other than a how-to video on when to feed and how to use the traps. Sigh. It feels very much like their lives are all in our hands and that’s not a comfortable feeling.
I woke up very late this morning, after several short, troubled nights of sleep, with the above song/video in my head. I first saw this video and heard the song back in 2006/2007-ish, and it has helped me to process grief many times over the years. So I’ll leave this here, in this post, which is a bit of an “in memorandum” post even though the person I’m mourning is only a distant acquaintance who nevertheless had a major impact on my life.
Sorry if this post is disorganized and chaotic. My brain is still not okay.