Sometime in January, Sugar Baby had an affair with a manx tomcat from a neighboring farm. Then she ballooned up. Then she became restless. Then one morning, Rob walked into the studio and there were four wriggling kittens under a shelf in my studio. Imagine that! Four came out — two tabby and two pinto, a manx and long-tail of each coloring. The tabby long-tail was a fader. So let’s talk about that first.
I had a choice to simply let nature take its course and let the fittest survive and the less fit die but instead I chose to feed that sick little kitten with a dropper for a 24 hour period before she finally died, it caused some major sleep deprivation and worsened the influenza I picked up while at home in Saskatchewan but I don’t regret putting that kitten on an hourly hand-feeding schedule. Here’s why:
- I don’t know if there was something wrong with her physically that caused her to be a runt who fed well at first and then dwindled until she died or if her fade-out was because the other tabby kitten who thrived more quickly than the rest continuously pushed her off her nipple while she was feeding thus inducing her fade. Was she born a runt or was she made a runt by her litter mate? Who the heck knows? But she was certainly our little Wilbur.
- I think my job as a keeper of animals is to always do my best by them. If they get sick, I tend to them. If I need help tending to them, I take them to a vet. Simply put, I make myself a factor in the survival of my critters.
- I never want to regret NOT taking action for my animals when they are unwell.
The three kittens that remain are healthy, squawking, roly-poly beasts of love. They’re eyes should open this weekend and then they’ll become trouble. Precious, darling trouble. They’re starting to get mobile and it’s remarkable how strong they are. I watch them scuffle with each other already and sometimes I help them find their way to nurse and the others will kick at my hand and push with surprising force against my fingers.
It’s been fun to watch a mammal transition into motherhood. Sugar Baby operates fully on instinct. She had no midwife. She didn’t read ten books on what to expect while pregnant and get a ton of (unwanted?) advice from all the women in her life (and total strangers at the grocery store). It’s amazing to me that she gave birth to these guys on her own, chewed through their umbilical cords, consumed her own placenta for what would have been a huge energy boost for her post-delivery (most animals consume their afterbirth), behaves in a protective manner and guards over them fiercely, slips away once they have fallen asleep to go for a quick hunt or bathroom break, cleans up after them (the kitten nest is totally clean, no urine, no poops, she cleans their bottoms as they “go” with her sandpaper tongue)…it’s remarkable to watch her instincts in full bloom. As these babes become mobile it will be interesting to see how she changes the way she cares for them and monitors them.
Watching her do this motherhood thing has me wondering if women have these same kinds parental instincts? How many of our parenting habits stem from reading informational books before we give birth, how many stem directly from our instincts? When did we stop wandering off into the forest to give birth by ourselves, like a cow dropping her calf in a string of aspen on a mountain slope? I’m not a mother. I don’t know how these things work. I just hear moms go on and on about how you haven’t loved until you’ve loved the child you give birth to. How much of that love and care is purely instinctual, hormonal, written into female DNA so that there’s hardly any way to undo how we care for our offspring. Plenty of you are mothers (and fathers). Tell me about it? Did you feel any degree of instinctual override when your babies came into the world?
We’ll keep one of these kittens (the pinto manx). The tabby manx is going to friends of ours in Boise. The long-tail pinto was claimed by a neighbor. And that’s that! I tell Robert every day that I want to keep them all, but I know I can’t. Fortunately, we have a tsunami of critters arriving here over the next few weeks. Tomorrow we’ll pick up our ducklings from the post office. Then our chicks will arrive. Then our turkey-babies will arrive. And then, we’ll pick up our bees.
A lifelong dream of mine!
Pinch me. Is all of this real? Every single day Robbie walks into my studio in the afternoon, runs his fingers through his hair and simply states, “I’m just outside living the dream, living the dream.” We had our immediate neighbors over for an official we’re finally moved in dinner on Sunday and one of them asked me if I am happy here and I replied, “I am happier than I’ve been in a very long while.” And while I haven’t been unhappy, I feel like the cat who got the cream on a daily basis. And that is that.
[new peach trees for the fruit orchard]