Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Kitten's First Real Drink

The Kitten who once was the 'White Kitten' now displays points, albeit far lighter than the two siblings who resemble him in a general way. The other two definitely will be Flamepoints. Although this Kitten has points that are lighter, they still may be golden rather than blue.

In any case, always more mature than his siblings, he lunged towards the little dish I had filled with Cat Milk about half an hour ago. Beauty had demonstrated such a need for food that I decided to give her a tin of Cat Milk to restore her strength. The four Kittens do drain her a little.

When I served the Milk to her, the largest Kitten showed a definite interest in it. I placed the dish in a strategic location and put him next to it. He immediately began to lap the milk!

The little marmalade kitten, on the other hand, simply bit the edge of the dish repeatedly and never really took an interest. I expect all four will be drinking liquids from the dish in a day or two.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day Box for the Kittens and their Mum

From my friend Mars-Frog, a wonderful Harvest Moon Christmas Box containing, among other things, a REAL Petting Glove! I didn't know such things existed outside Harvest Moon. A little dish, some special Kitten food and other sundries including a lovely box of fudge for the human guardian of the Pussycats.

Thank you, Mars!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Babies' 1st Christmas and becoming a Kitten Again

With Beauty behaving so respectably and taking her duties as a new Mother so seriously, I forgot how close to being a child still she is... until this morning.

When I took the Cats their Christmas gifts, I knew that the kittens were too young really to play with most of them and that their major interest would remain the little doll's tree. What I failed to anticipate was Beauty's extraordinary response to one of the stuffed mice.

The large and quite long fur mouse has been a favourite with every Cat I have had. Beauty and Ashleigh inherited one of Lionheart's old mice but I gave them a new one for Christmas.

Beauty went for it instantly and removed it from its packaging unaided, then proceeded to transform from devoted Mother to insane feral Cat. I never saw her behave in such a fashion previously. She certainly never exhibits any possessive behaviour with respect to real food, but when Ashleigh came closer to the mouse to investigate it, she actually HISSED at him! She then took the mouse in her mouth and ran off with it, growling like a lioness holding her prey. It was bizarre and rather entertaining, although I wasn't certain if it would lead to even more violent behaviour.

She forgot she was a Mother. Although her kittens began to cry for her, somehow instinctively aware that her attentions were elsewhere, she ignored them completely in favour of keeping the long fur mouse to herself. I finally put my hand in the jaws of the lion as it were to remove the toy, not knowing if she would hiss at me or even bite me. Oddly enough, although her teeth were clenched round it firmly, I was able to wrestle it free from her and she did not respond with any hostility.

The Kittens, meanwhile, actually did become interested in their first little ball. Born on 2 December, they are still almost newborns and yet they have become real Kittens, grooming themselves, tussling with their siblings, responding verbally to their mother's cries and responding to me as well a little. It is very exciting.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Over the Hills and Through the Woods

On Christmas Eve morning, the Kittens have their breakfast while their Mother, Beauty, inspects the 'sleigh' that will take them to 'Grandmother's House'. For those who do not recognise the allusions, it is an old Yuletide song:
'Over the hills and through the Woods
To Grandmother's House we go;
The horse knows the way
To carry the Sleigh
Through the white and drifted snow...'

It is pure fantasy, of course. I am not about to send the Kittens or my darling Beauty and Ash outside, snow or no snow... Father Christmas, however, will leave their Gifts in the red waggon when he visits and they will be able to explore it and them to their heart's content on Christmas Morning.

Returning to the fantasy journey:
Meanwhile, both Beauty and Ashleigh inspected the 'sleigh' in preparation for the trip to Grandmother's House. What fun it would be for the Kittens to have their first glimpse of snow and feel the occasional snowflake kiss their upturned faces! They are filled with the spirit of discovery now, questing ever further each day from the security of their Mother's warmth to gaze, sniff and listen to every aspect of their new world.

Later, when I attach real sleigh bells to the handle of the waggon, I daresay that will interest Beauty and Ash as well as the babies. In the initial moments of inspection, Beauty promptly bit the handle of the waggon while Ashleigh gingerly and carefully prowled over to the other side to sniff at it. The kittens were too busy nursing to notice it, but once they have filled their tummies, they probably will explore the area beneath the waggon as their little legs are too short to allow them to climb into it unaided.

Later I will place all four inside the waggon and try to take a photograph before they have a chance to scatter. The red waggon is a doll-sized reproduction of the classical Radio Flyer waggon known to generations of children. It was sent as a gift a number of years ago by a very dear family friend and has been used each year for the milkshake and shortbread that are left for Father Christmas, aka Santa with a note and a couple of carrots for the Reindeer. He always remarks upon the excellence of the milkshake (a peculiar family tradition, not generally observed in ANY country), which is made from eggnog and vanilla ice cream and often leaves an ornament for the Tree. The ornaments invariably are of himself in one guise or another. I do not know if he will leave another this year as the tree now groans with the collection he has bestowed over the years... The reindeer never finish THEIR offering, but leave a half-bitten carrot in the waggon and often a few grains of snow and pine needles. They are messy creatures but at least it serves as proof that they were here.

There are some wonderful books about Cats at Christmas incidentally. I shall have to take photographs of a few for this site.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree!

A tree that once belonged to some dolls has been lent to the Kittens to introduce them to some old Christmas traditions. A sleigh, likewise borrowed from the dolls, was given to them briefly, although their exploration of it was tentative. It is not the Dolls' best Tree, so if Beauty destroyed it in a fit of rage, the dolls would not grieve too much.

Beauty quickly became agitated by the two alien objects and I was forced to return them to the dolls... For Beauty's sake more than the Tree, as she bit it rather fiercely and I did not wish her to ingest any of it. I don't dare place real evergreens near them.

All done in some haste as I need to trim a REAL TREE before Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Little Marmalade Kitten with his Mum

The little Marmalade Kitten is the most retiring of the Kittens and tends to curl up beneath his Mother's neck whenever possible.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Reindeer and Kittens

On the Eve of the Solstice, I place an old wicker Reindeer near the Kittens to see if any one would display any interest.

Considering they only opened their eyes for the first time a couple of days ago, they showed more interest than I would have expected.

Eve of the Winter Solstice

It may be vicarious motherhood, but I feel entitled, as I am the titular head of my feline family and I am their 'breadwinner'. I am their maidservant as well, cleaning the litter boxes, feeding them and making certain that they have fresh, clean water daily, sweeping the floor and removing lint from their blankets. None of these tasks is much fun, but they all are satisfying in a way as they contribute to the contentment and wellbeing of my Cats.

The real joy is participating emotionally in Beauty's motherhood. This morning, when I fetched the Cats' breakfast for them, Little Attila in the kitten bed actually noticed me. I am fairly certain that he saw me and knew me, although I cannot force any confirmation of this from the little creature. He is very alert and conscious of his surroundings, far more than the others at this point.

He does not cry when I hold him, but explores the sights, sounds and smells of his new environment, then takes a little nap without ever showing any sign of insecurity. None of the others can do this yet. They cry almost instantly for their Mother if I pick them up.

Now that her children have the power of sight and are no longer quite as helpless as when newborns, Beauty has assumed a new pose when she joins them. I think of it as the 'Goddess Pose' as it is very regal, yet still allowing her children access to her Milk.

Friday, December 18, 2009

First Views of a New World

The Kittens stretch and yawn and use their stubby little legs to explore their world, but still spend most of their time sleeping. They appear to awaken in shifts. One will explore while the others slumber. Never are they all active at the same time.

This morning, while the largest Male slept with his siblings, another little
Bright-Eyed Kitten gazed up at me with newly opened eyes.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Little Rebel


The little white male now has established his independence to the point where his Mother actually has to hold him captive in order to groom him. She is the perfecct Mother, making herself available for nursing, then grooming each and every one of them, making certain that their little systems eliminate everything old as they are nourished with fresh milk.

I must find a name for this white kitten, as he has matured faster than his siblings. Last night, he made Beauty very unhappy when he wandered off by himself rather than joining his siblings at the 'nursing station'. She placed him beneath one paw initially to groom his nether regions. He fought, extricated himself and began to climb over her body. She actually grabbed him rather roughly and dragged him back!

He was the only kitten who did not make a sound when I picked him up for my morning inspection. I do this each morning now that their eyes have opened to make certain that their eyes are clear and that everything else is in good condition. I could save myself the trouble, as Beauty is relentless in her care, but I want to familiarise the kittens with me at this point as well.

In any case, the kittens usually begin to cry instantly when I pick them up, all but the largest white Male, who sniffed my hand, explored my cardigan and then curled up contentedly for a little nap! How on earth I shall find the backbone to give him up ultimately I do not know. That is the danger when one has kittens. They find their way into your heart and it is difficult to allow them to go to a new home. One cannot keep them all, however. I have done that in the past and it is not good to enlarge the feline family to that extent, even though they were extremely happy together and I cared for them all. I have told myself that I can keep ONE kitten from this litter. That is the limit.

I rather think that the White Male deserves the name of Attila, a name that I gave to his father but which does not suit him in the least. Ashleigh Attila is quite cowardly. I have found that the largest males often are, for some reason. I once had a cat thrust upon me. I was 'cat-crazy' in those days, as I never was allowed to own a cat during my childhood. With my own place and feeling very far from home, some friends suggested that I adopt a Cat. It hadn't occurred to me that I could, actually. I had travelled so much and so often that I never thought of myself as having a home of my own, let alone a home for any potential pet.

I never do anything by halves, unfortunately. I adopted two young brothers and then volunteered to work at a local Animal Shelter. Each week, I would fall in love with a Cat or Kitten, especially those who did not appear to be favoured by any visitors and bring him/her home.

I then added total insanity to the mix by searching advertisements in the local newspaper. I found a listing for a young Persian Male, described enticingly as a 'Shaded Silver' Persian. I rang the owner and she spoke enthusiastically of the great beauty of her kitten. I wrote down the address and took public transport. The journey took over an hour. When I found the building, it proved to be a dilapidated pre-war block of flats.

I rang the bell and was confronted by an old woman who undoubtedly would have been burned at the stake as a witch in the 17th century in ANY country. She was rather vague towards me, as though suffering from senility... but she finally remembered my appointment and ushered me into her flat.

I looked in vain for a Shaded Silver Persian. There was one very large roly-poly black and white domestic shorthair sitting in the window.

'Where is the Shaded Silver Persian?' I asked.

'That's the one!' she responded, gesturing towards the roly poly pudding.

'That's not a Persian, surely!' I cried, rather unwisely. 'And he definitely isn't Shaded Silver.'

It was at this point that the encounter degenerated into the stuff of nightmares. The old woman hobbled over to a dim corner and returned with a long shotgun in her hands!

'You said you wanted him. You're taking him!' she cried, with grim determination.

What could I do but take the kitten??? He rode the coach with me, nestled beneath my coat, blessedly silent throughout the hour-long journey. I had intended to take him to the shelter where I volunteered. I certainly did not need ANOTHER domestic shorthair and I was put off by the woman's misrepresentation.

When I finally descended from the coach, however, I had bonded with the poor creature. After all, he had trusted me sufficiently to remain silent and quiescent next to my heart throughout the long journey.

I named him Pasha. Unfortunately, Pasha, despite his huge size, was the greatest coward who ever walked this earth on four paws. Perhaps he had been as intimidated and coerced by his former owner as I had been! Whatever the reason, he would climb the walls literally if any one came to visit me.

To add injury to insult, he quickly impregnated both of my purebred Himalayan females. The old woman had misrepresented his age along with everything else. He was a fully developed CAT, not a kitten of three months. In those days, my expertise with respect to animals was nil. I knew enough to be able to judge that Pasha was neither a Persian nor a Shaded Silver, but it did not occur to me to doubt his owner's declaration of his age.

Sometimes, Ash reminds me a little of Pasha, even though Ashleigh Attila is a verified purebred and never has encountered the sort of insanity that poor Pasha probably experienced with his first owner.

It was the smallest male I owned, my beloved Friendship, a real Shaded Silver Himalayan, who had the heart of a lion. Immensely fertile and the 'alpha male' of my household, despite his almost fragile appearance, Friendship enjoyed the allegiance of males and females alike. His half-brother Pi, twice his size, never disputed Friendship's authority.

The point of all this, I suppose, is that I err whenever I give a large male a name that connotes power. Pasha, I suppose, was a Pasha to some extent, in assuming that all my females constituted his own personal harem, but he never had ANY courage befitting a male with a ruler's title. Ash should not have been given the name of Attila. Attila, after all, was one of the great military leaders of the ancient world, filled with courage and the need to dominate, for better or worse.

The only doubt I have now with respect to the white kitten is that, should I give him the name of Attila, he immediately would lose his adventurous disposition and take after his father after all.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Independent Soul

The White male is the Independent Soul in the litter. More and more, I see him moving in his own direction. While the others race to find nourishment, he stretches languidly or wanders off. He is not neglecting his nourishment by any means, but somehow he must satisfy himself earlier than the others. As one of the most aggressive in the litter, that makes sense. He then takes a nap off to the side, stretching, yawning...

His brothers and sisters often climb over him but this does not disturb him in the least. Beauty is a little non-plussed by the change in his behaviour. She will try to groom him to return his attention to her, but often he simply naps on, refusing to emerge from his relaxing pose.

I am beginning to wonder if the White Kittens will be Flamepoints rather than Bluepoints. Ashleigh is a classical Bluepoint but although it is difficult to tell what sort of colouring will emerge in the next two months, these white kittens could become Flamepoints, given the lightness in their colouring and their mother's colouring. I always fancied a Flamepoint Himalayan but one falls in love with personalities rather than appearance for the most part, and my Cats ultimately chose me rather than the other way round!

A Suspicious Mother

When the eyes of all four kittens opened at last, they immediately began to explore the horizons of their newly discovered universe. Their personalities have begun to surface as well. The white male is the most adventurous of the litter. He often wanders far from his Mother and his siblings. 'Far' in relative terms, in any case, as the limits of his world are within two handspans of the 'centre' at most. The little Marmalade kitten is the other adventurous soul, wandering away from his Mother sometimes even when the others are nursing.

These two intrepid explorers nonetheless tend to cry as they wander, whether out of a desire to test their lungs or to make their mother aware of their location, I cannot tell. It is a small cry rather than a desperate one, a voice that almost sounds like a running commentary of the kitten's discoveries.

I know I am reading far more significance into their actions than probably exists. They may simply be stretching their stubby fat little legs or they may be attempting to find the all-important source of milk now by sight rather than smell...

I can hold a kitten now only if he/she is silent and does not cry. If the kitten makes ANY sound, Beauty becomes extremely agitated and I must return him or her to the natural guardian. She differs in this respect from every other Queen I have had. My beloved Isis always trusted me with her kittens and welcomed my attentions. My Princess never was much of a mother and deposited her kittens into MY lap immediately upon birth. My first Himalayan Queen, Tasie (Anastasia) was a loving mother but like Isis, her daughter, welcomed my help. Beauty alone has a very jealous nature where her babies are concerned. Perhaps this is due to the tragedy in September when she lost her entire litter. I wonder if she associates my attempts to save their lives with their ultimate disappearance. Cats DO have a long memory. Trauma suffered by a kitten can influence his/her behaviour forever. I have detected a steely determination in Beauty from the moment she went into heat again after the death of her last kitten in September. This is not something I have imagined, contrary to my creative interpretations of the little Kittens' current thoughts and motives.

Ash still is not at ease with the presence of his own children in his world. He has taken over the old kitten box and peers over the edge of the box at the Kittens with their mother. He and Beauty were inseparable before she delivered this litter. I could not take one from the room without making the other anxious. In fact, if I took Ash from the room, Beauty would cry loudly and angrily for his return. Ash simply would wait anxiously at the door until his beloved sister returned. This new phase in Beauty's life where her attention is directly exclusively towards the four kittens, must have smashed a hole in poor Ash's spirit. He must come to terms with it, obviously. After all, he is half responsible for the existence of the little ones! He always has been a quiet cat and a thoughtful one, and I can see that he gradually is coming to terms with the changes in his universe. I have no doubt that he will be a very loving father when he overcomes his cowardice and Beauty allows him to move closer to the Kittens. I expect that she has warned him off to some extent as well...

Now that the eyes of the Kittens have opened, Beauty has a new voice for them. She makes a small sound to let them know where she is when any Kitten begins to wander away. She does not prevent the Kitten from doing so, but she will continue to make this sound until all four kittens are nursing again. It is rather charming, very different from her voice when she is anxious about them.

Beauty's jealous nature with respect to her Kittens as well as her total focus upon them has distanced her from me, temporarily I hope. She will not sit in my lap now, although she will leap onto my lap for a second in order to be caressed very briefly. She is more likely to do this when I am holding Ashleigh, and in fact, this always was her habit even before she had the Kittens. She is a rather jealous cat in every respect, formerly jealous of my attention and now jealous of her Kittens. I love both Beauty and Ashleigh dearly, but neither of them exhibit the sort of total love that my other Cats displayed for me. Of course, a fundamental difference between my other Cats and these two is that the others knew me from birth and with Queens who shared every aspect of their lives with me, they almost considered me their Mother as well.

Every Cat, like every human being, is unique and one does not replace another in the heart. The deaths of those whom I loved, whether human or feline, has forced me to recognise this. The pain of loss cannot be dispelled by a new love. A portion of the heart becomes a mausoleum where the memories of all the beloved dead reside. If one person or pet could be substituted for another, any memories of former loves would become worthless. As it is, we continue to value each person or pet we have known and loved while widening the scope of our hearts to include new loves.

This brings me to an equation for Love that includes Need. In the old Northern Rune system, the Rune Nauthiz signified Need or Need-Fire, the power of a fire kindled by necessity, and indeed the physical form of the Rune is that of a firestick and the twig that is rubbed against it to produce a flame. The love of a mother for her child is permeated by Nauthiz on both sides. The child's entire existence for the first couple of years is based on Need for the Mother's love and her ability to give sustenance. The love between any Pet and Owner is founded on the same sort of Need. A Pet usually cannot survive without the Owner's care and this deepens the bond for the owner as well as the animal. It would be the same if our society permitted ownership of Slaves. The bond between a Slave and a good Master or Mistress would have a very strong foundation based upon mutual Need.

In terms of the Love between equals, however, it is said that Need is a a negative element in the equation. True Love should not depend on Need but be free of all considerations of personal interest. If this were the case, however, one would be in the position of a Saint whose love for each and every creature must be equal. One could not elevate any individual over any other in the heart, for if we remove the element of personal interest from the equation, what remains is essentially impersonal. We could base love then upon value in terms of character or the actions of an individual but that creates a foundation for Admiration and Respect rather than Love.

Love must be based either on Need or upon some psychic connection between individuals, whether it is initiated by sexual or another sort of attraction. Attraction is not Love but it creates the spark that initiates it. Need and Attraction often are combined and the equation of any relationship between 'equals' never can be defined properly in simplistic terms. Where the relationship between any human being and a Pet is concerned, although the equation is not as simple as basic Need, it certainly is an inherent part of its foundation.

It is part of the human condition to need to be needed by some one or something. It validates us as breathing, living entities. It provides us with a place in the universe in connecting us with others, whether they are human beings, animals, Nature iteself or another philosophical, political or social Cause. The individual who is afraid of Love tends to cut himself or herself off from others completely. I have known those who, having lost some one, whether a member of the family or a Pet, vows never to become involved with any one again. The reason for this is fear of Pain.

Yet the pain of intense loneliness can be as sharp or relentless as the pain of loss when some one beloved dies. Without Love, no creature can thrive. Without wishing to become a Slave either of any human or any animal, I actually love the sense of being needed by my Pets. My heart expands in the knowledge that my actions improve their lives. When my own life is particularly difficult, I am inspired to continue struggling in the face of potential despair by the knowledge that I am needed. Is this a weakness of character? I do not believe it is. I believe it keeps me connected with the universe and by opening my heart to love, I receive a blessing that is as essential to my spiritual welfare as sunlight is to the body.

In any case, despite Beauty's insistence on being the sum total of everything her babies need, they all need me and she relies upon me to keep her fed and to keep her home clean and warm. It gives me joy to provide for my Cats and sustains my spirit when life is rather grim. My spiritual need for my Cats is as intense as their physical need for me. I know that the emotional bond is equal, that my Cats would grieve if they lost me. I have seen it in other Cats who lost their Masters or Mistresses. They never forgot them, even if they learned to love a new Master or Mistress.

The spiritual and emotional benefits derived from interactions with our Pets has been studied and documented. In fact, there are those who take Cats and Dogs to retirement homes and hospitals for visits and the results have been extremely positive. Simply petting a Cat or Dog can lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and lighten the burdens of the soul.

The ancient Egyptians worshipped cats as sacred creatures and that attitude actually is neither primitive nor illogical. For the ancient Egyptians, animals and human beings shared a common foundation and their depictions of their Gods therefore were half-human, half-animal. Their vision of the afterlife encompassed all the creatures of Nature, including plants, rivers and seas. In fact, later religions incorporate some of this, both in Christian and Islamic views of Heaven. In Islam, Heaven is described in terms of Gardens and Fountains. Christianity describes Heaven as a place where the Lion, a predator in this life, exists in harmony with the Lamb, the most helpless of prey here on Earth. Any one who loves Animals and has Pets would like to believe that the Afterlife would reunite them. Furthermore, contrary to some dogma in Christianity, Islam and other religious philosophies, I believe that ancient depictions of Gods as part-human, part-animal served to remind humanity of the fact that they erred if they believed they somehow were superior to other creatures in the eyes of the Divine. When we forget our place in the Universe, we are in danger of destroying that Universe. Any environmentalist can provide evidence of the damage humanity has done to OUR environment. We can pretend we are superior to other creatures but, in the ultimate analysis, our survival is linked to that of the same Earth that shelters ALL life. It is only by recognising that all Creatures are part of the same entity that we will thrive.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Eyes Open, Eyes Closed!

There is a little game that I played with a little girl at bedtime. Very few children ever want to go to bed and one tries all sorts of strategies to lull them into sleep. Bedtime stories are one of these. I would read the child a bedtime story but find that her eyes remained fixed upon the book or upon me as I read. I would cry: 'Eyes closed!' and she would respond, 'Eyes OPEN!' It became a little game for the toddler, and she would laugh delightedly each time she cried out, 'Eyes OPEN!'

I thought of that as the newborn kittens began to open their eyes for the first time. In the space of two days, all four of them opened their eyes to take their first view, however blurred, of their new world.

Yes, capturing a photograph of this wonderful new landmark in their lives proved far more difficult than I expected. I am the one who would have to cry, 'Eyes OPEN!'
Either they close their eyes or their faces are hidden from me each time I try to take a photograph...

Part of the problem is that I must shoot downwards into their bed, which is not very promising where a view of their bright little eyes is concerned. Beauty does not help matters either. If I try to remove a kitten for a moment to place him/her in a location where I have a better angle for a photograph, Beauty becomes very distressed. The kittens cry, the Mother cries and I allow myself to be defeated very easily. After all, it's only a photograph...

I did manage to take one 'candid' photograph of a kitten finally with his eyes open. My first successful photograph, taken by holding the kitten's head firmly in the palm of my own hand to keep his head aloft, looked too grim for words, as it appeared almost as though I were throttling the poor little creature. In reality, I held him very gently, but the photograph of him in his own 'bed' will be far less disturbing, both to Beauty and to any potential viewers.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Kittens on a Cold Saturday

We are being subjected to extremely cold weather here, but the Kittens remain warm, thanks to Beauty and their natural instinct to huddle together in a pile.

This morning, I found only three Kittens in the pile when I first awakened and performed my early morning inspection. Not hearing the sound of any desperately lost soul, I was anxious for a moment... but I found the fourth Kitten sandwiched between the duvet and the heavy blanket, sound asleep!

This represents a new stage in maturity for them actually. Previously, no Kitten would have gone to sleep unless Beauty or its siblings were close enough to touch. Nor would any Kitten allow me to take him/her from siblings or mother to hold. This morning, I was able to set a Kitten on my knee for a moment and rather than howling, he sat there contentedly for a brief interval while Beauty was catching a quick breakfast.

The eyes of all four Kittens remain sealed shut, but there are signs that this will change shortly. It almost looks as though their eyes are shut in sleep now, rather than being sealed.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Holiday Anticipation

This has been a very difficult Autumn for me, and one that has been fraught with anxiety. With very little money and almost no mobility, I almost despair of being able to organise a proper Yuletide celebration.

Beauty's delivery of four healthy kittens on 2 December was the best Advent gift in the world. Now, each day, I look forward to the next little sign of progress in the lives of the kittens. It generates almost as much anticipation as the thought of opening the next little window on the Advent Calendars we had as children.

Nine days old now, the largest kitten's eyes may open in the next day or two. Another sign is a new tendency to roam a little when they are not nursing. Their movements would not be described as 'roaming' by any frame of reference other than that of a week-old kitten, I daresay, but for a tiny blind creature who has been in the world for only a week to strike out and explore his environment a few inches from his mother's warm belly IS courageous.

Beauty tends to them scrupulously. They are spotless, warm and their little bellies are rounded and plump. She still have an incredible appetite herself but never loses sight of their needs for a moment.

Any one who spared a glance for the photographs on this site probably would think them all alike, and not be able to see any significant change between the appearance of the newborns on 2 December and their appearance a week later.

To me, though, it is fascinating to note how their little heads have changed in shape, becoming less elongated while their fur becomes ever thicker and their legs fatter. Their future markings begin to show a little now.

The biggest chance, however, is the one that has occurred where Beauty herself is concerned. She had no hesitations in assuming the role of Mother but now, a week later, she is beginning to relax a little rather than convincing herself that the kittens need to be nursed constantly. She will throw herself down next to them and go to sleep now, which is something she would not have done a week ago. Dear Beauty, I really do think she is one of the best mothers I have known, and I am relieved to see her rest once in a while!

Meanwhile, Ashleigh finally has taken his courage in all paws to leap tentatively into the Kitten Bed Beauty abandoned two days ago as too small to contain her and her babies any longer. He now arranges himself rather disconsolately in the deep box, peering over the edge at the Kittens and his consort, once his constant companion and playmate, now completely absorbed in her new role. I do hear him playing with his toys, though, in the middle of the night, so he has not become clinically depressed... but he remains utterly bewildered and insecure in the face of the new invasion of tiny Ashleighs and the one little baby who looks like Beauty.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The BIG Nocturnal Move

Snow again early this morning followed by sleet. My sleep was filled with bizarre dreams of white rats and squirrels who resembled kittens in a strange house. After blessing the instinct that led me to purchase stocks of dry cat food yesterday on a shopping expedition, I visited the kittens and discovered why my dreams had been filled with strange crying rats and squirrels.

Yesterday, while shopping, I had persuaded myself to invest in a proper cat 'bed' sold at the local chemist. What a waste of money THAT proved to be! When I came home to introduce it to Beauty, I discovered that it really was too small to fit both a nursing Cat and her litter.

I placed it on the floor for Ash to explore instead. Having done so, I reorganised her box because she kept destroying the bedding somehow. I found an old clean sheet and arranged it on top of the rug in the kitten box. At the same time, I spread an old thick blanket that Ash and Beauty both liked next to the kitten box.

Whether it was the growth of the kittens or Beauty's own ongoing dissatisfaction with the kitten bed, combined with the introduction of the sheet, I discovered this morning that a BIG move had taken place in the wee hours of the morning.

Beauty had moved all of the kittens out of the box onto the thick blanket I had spread next to the box. Both box and blanket are situated in an old defunct bathtub. I felt it would contain Queen and Kittens better than the floor. No doubt my dreams were prompted by the crying of the kittens as they were moved.

My hope that a new secure place had been chosen by Beauty was in vain, however. A few moments ago, I heard a desperate kitten's cries. I rushed to the site to find that Beauty once again had rearranged her bedding, this time with the unfortunate result that somehow a kitten now was caught BENEATH the blanket.

I managed to extricate one of them instantly, returning it to its mother's frantic attention. In fact, I was unaware of the fact that another kitten was similarly imprisoned until the piercing, heartrending cries continued... Beauty was shielding her kittens with her body. Often, when she changes position, one kitten ends up on the other side. At first I thought that was what had occurred but feeling for another warm little body beneath Beauty met with no success and the crying continued unabated.

I searched beneath the blanket then, but in vain. It was only when I tore everything to pieces that I finally discovered the poor little creature. He had been thrown or had wiggled somehow between two folds of the blanket. I actually expect that Beauty would have found him and rescued him in time. She is very enterprising and very devoted. Even so, I am glad that I was able to restore him to his mother and siblings. I am not certain what the future holds... I daresay my sleep at night will be punctuated with anxiety and frequent visits to the Kittens for the next week or so until their eyes open.

The kittens now have grown to the point where they can move about freely and one actually PURRS. Their genitals have become more pronounced. A quick glance has determined that two are male and two are female. The little Flame is a male. I had begun to suspect as much when his size quickly outpaced that of his siblings. Both males are larger than their sisters. The second female remains smaller than the other three but her appetite is good and I notice that she cleverly nurses while the others sleep, as they can be such bullies, pushing and shoving when they ought to share. I have posted a photograph of the littlest kitten nursing while her siblings sleep peacefully.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bedtime on 7 December

How perfectly and peacefully they fit together to sleep when their Mum has satisfied every desire... From this idyllic vision alone, you never would imagine the thrashing and endless power struggles that occur when they are awake!

The little Marmalade kitten is going to be a Holy Terror. Last to be born, the Flame began as the smallest and weakest but now is the most active, always trying to steal a nipple from his/her siblings. Although this probably is not the case, the Flame appears to be the one who is most concerned to stay closest to Beauty, pushing all the others out of the way to take the best position.

Progress Report for Monday

Late on Monday morning, I have nothing dramatic to report, thank God! I do not want any dramatic events to occur with respect to any of the Cats. I was able to change the bedding, after Beauty herself pulled it apart, almost burying the little kittens beneath the old duvet. The current bedding was not intended to be anything but a pad beneath a smoother cover. I will have to find a sheet or smooth towel for the bed. Beauty's claws hook into this multi-coloured throw rag and she tends to take it out with her when she leaps out of the box, throwing the kittens, who finally have been sent off to blissful slumber, into disarray and disorder.

Ash still prowls the boundaries of the box. No doubt he will investigate at some point IF and WHEN Beauty allows it.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunday, 6 December

I feel I am becoming like one of those new mothers who takes hundreds of photographs of her newborn infant, all very much the same to an outsider. It is a sort of healing process for me, however, to document the health and growth of these four little kittens on a daily basis now. I daresay they will not change much until their eyes open, but it nonetheless gives me pleasure to photograph the tiny increments of growth each day.

At least I finally was able to move the bedding a little to turn it on the cleaner side for Beauty. She was slightly suspicious of it afterwards, even though it was the same duvet but accepted it ultimately as the home of her babies.

The tragedy in September has made me aware of every little nuance in the kittens' lives at this early stage. Although they squabble over the milk source, they nonetheless do bond with their littermates. When Beauty leaves the box temporarily to eat or drink, the kittens move into the traditional pile of bodies, snuggling together for warmth and comfort. How very different for the poor little premature kittens in September! Although the September kittens cried a little, it was a very different kind of cry, desperate and laboured. These little ones cry lustily when deprived of their desire, but their voices have no desperation in them. Strong little voices, capable of communicating DIFFERENT emotions... where the poor little ones in September were simply crying hopelessly and with some difficulty. I have heard a dozen different emotions from these kittens. They complain, they whine, they sulk and they articulate as they do battle with their siblings for a nipple. When their mother leaves the box, they usually are asleep, but if one awakens, he/she may cry out once or twice, but seldom with any urgency. Nonetheless, Beauty instantly returns if the kitten cries more than twice!

The photograph that I wished I could have captured was one of the kittens questing for the usual all-important centre of her existence, but finding her mother's mouth instead. It then appeared as though Mother Cat and Kitten kissed. It would have made a sweet photograph, even if that probably wasn't the true meaning. Anything warm and moist would have drawn the kitten... Beauty's mouth mistaken for a moment for another source of milk, no doubt...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Beauty's Four Tiny Beauties


Three days old, here are Beauty's four Kittens in a photograph taken during one of the very brief intervals when their Mother actually was willing to leave the bed to have a quick meal.

I didn't dare change the bedding yet, for fear she would reject the entire bed afterwards and try to drag all the little ones somewhere else in a panic. It is snowing outside, rather cold and the Kittens' bed is in the warmest possible location. I wouldn't put anything past Beauty in terms of her obsessive care of her children. She is incredibly possessive and protective of these little ones. I have not been able to make certain of their genders yet. There is no rush, however. I am very happy that she has bonded so strongly with them.

Saturday's Progress Report

Perhaps no one even reads these posts but I really am keeping it as my own journal at this point. I often regret that I do not have photographs of other Cats I loved in the past... so now I am trying to keep a good written and photographic record of the biggest Event in the lives of Ash and Beauty. Although I have experienced feline deliveries before, it nonetheless always is exciting and very satisfying when the entire business goes well. At the moment, every one appears healthy. The little Flame kitten, who was last to be born and smallest initially, now is overtaking the others by leaps and bounds and it is one of the White Kittens who has become the tiniest and most delicate. The other three are so greedy that the littlest one is pushed aside. He or she is not starving by any means, but I will try to compensate a little if I must, even if I must push another kitten aside on his/her behalf once or twice.

In a year or so, I hope it will be amusing to look at these photographs of the little creatures when they were less than a week old. Obviously, I cannot keep the kittens (except one perhaps?) but I hope to place them with feline fanciers who will keep in touch with me. I try to contact the woman who owns the parents of Beauty and Ashleigh from time to time to let her know that her 'babies' are thriving.

One of the photograph displayed here is of Beauty grooming the tiniest kitten. All of them protest bitterly when she keeps them from their incessant quest for milk but she makes certain that they stay clean and it definitely helps their immature digestive systems if the Mum helps out in this fashion.

Friday, December 4, 2009

2 Days Old...

Only two days old but filled with competitive energy. They are little blind mountain climbers... forever scaling the heights of their Mummy's tummy...

Happiness at Last

Some women were born for Motherhood... and one can say the same of some Cats. I could tell that Beauty, despite her terrible ordeal in September,longed to have kittens of her own. Separated too soon from her own mother, I suspect (which was NOT my doing), she often reverts to a kitten's longing for closeness and warmth.

Now she has her own four little bundles of warmth, mewing out their need for her, cuddling up to her, demanding sustenance and comfort, which she is thrilled to provide. She goes out of her way to assume a position that will suit all of the little ones. When she leaves the kitten box, she always is alert for the smallest cry... and will race back to her babies instantly, even when she is hungry herself.

In the face of personal disapppointment today in my own life, it gave me great comfort to return home to the sight of Beauty with her four little darlings. They are endlessly amusing, even at the tender age of two days. They squabble and fight for position, despite the fact that she has plentiful milk. They roll about, losing their balance, flailing blindly for recovery, heedless of logic, turning the wrong way often, then complaining loudly when they cannot find what they seek. Their little blind wrestling matches are hilarious. While smiling at their antics, however, I am reminded of the poor little kittens in September who never were given the energy nor the basic physical maturity to survive.

There are those who believe in reincarnation, that the souls of those who die in infancy were not ready for birth, but return when they are. I would like to believe that or at least believe that some particle of the spirit of those tiny blighted beings could share in the comfort and joy of their siblings now.

Warriors in an amazing series about Cats and one of the most wonderful aspects of the books was the spiritual component. The idea that Cats had a religion and an Otherworld where the dead watched over the living, to guard and guide their Clanmates must be very attractive to any cat lover. If there is no consciousness in death, at least they are at peace, but I would like to believe that they can experience, even if vicariously, a little of the joy that life holds. All they knew was the agony...

I am fairly certain now that the fourth kitten in the new litter shares Beauty's markings and will be a lovely Flame... the other three are purest white now but I imagine that they will develop into Bluepoints like their father. It is extraordinary how much they have grown in a single day. It gives me such joy to see that their little tummies are plump always, that when they cry, it is the rather spoiled, half-hearted mew of an infant deprived of instant gratification perhaps, but nothing more serious or lasting than that.

I am so proud of Beauty. She is one of the best mothers I ever have known. The kittens are first in her eyes. Although her appetite remains huge, which delights me, she still looks to the kittens before she satisfies her own urges. May they all prosper now!

Ash still is a bit left out of the family circle, sadly. He prowls about, sitting disconsolately where he can see his little progeny but he is not involved at all in their little routines. Poor boy! He has become even more affectionate towards me than usual. I try to remember NOT to neglect him even for a moment, but I'd like to see him become close to the kittens. No doubt when their eyes open and they begin to play, he will be in seventh heaven. Still a kitten himself at heart, he loves to play.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Nature's Wisdom

In September, my cat Beauty and I experienced a heartbreaking episode when she had a litter of kittens prematurely. She was in labour for days. Prior to that, she had exhibited no normal signs of pregnancy apart from indigestion. Her tummy never became large. Her appetite had not increased enormously. When the kittens were born, half were stillborn and one was terribly small. Beauty was a little more than a year old. It was her first litter. She was terrified throughout the ordeal and left the babies on the floor, separated and cold. When she went into labour for the next, the baby left behind cried piteously.

She never settled with her kittens. She was too involved with the labour process, dragging on and on.

I had to take control of the kittens who lived. I found an old shirt with a pocket and placed the little kitten inside. Although fully formed and able to cry, he voided everything I fed him. Poor Beauty did show an interest in the disposition of her kittens, once her labour was done, but they would not nurse properly. There were two live kittens, a boy and a girl, both pure white. I tried to make a formula and obtained a feeding syringe but nothing I did appeared to give them satisfaction.

During the next few days, the kittens died, one by one. Their deaths were not painless. It was horrible. They fought for breath and although famished, could not process the formula, however I modified the ingredients. I believe that their systems were not fully developed internally. That is the only explanation that makes sense. She went into labour for some reason prematurely. The kittens were wildly divergent in size. One of those who was stillborn was tiny. I wanted them to live so badly, but Nature had determined otherwise.

Should I have taken them to a veterinarian? Would it have made a difference? I have an extremely small income, barely enough for survival. Furthermore, they were born over the course of a weekend, when veterinary hospitals are understaffed, often even shut. The decision almost was made for me in a way. I have nursed many newborn kittens successfully in the past. The fact that these died was due, not to my own lack of expertise, but something else. Nonetheless... nonetheless, one always mourns and one wonders if something could have been done to change their sad destiny.

I cried when I buried them. I have assisted at many feline births but never one so fraught with sorrow and pain. Poor Beauty looked for her kittens as well in vain afterwards, when her labour finally ended. I felt cursed somehow, even though I knew she had been too young, too unprepared, that something had gone terribly awry.

Almost immediately, rather to my shock, Beauty went into heat, almost desperately. She rolled about, demanding the attentions of Ashleigh, her consort. In fact, prior to the ill-fated litter, I never had seen him attend to her, or exhibit any knowledge or interest in adult pursuits. It was yet another reason why her delivery of kittens came as a complete surprise.

I did not know what to do when Beauty went into heat so soon after her delivery. Should I separate the two? They were deeply bonded. If I separated them for a few minutes, they both would grieve.

I thought about Beauty and her heartbreak and decided to let her do whatever she wished... Her 'heat' lasted about three days and continued to be desperate. I never saw any female behave quite so passionately. It appeared to me almost as though she were determined to do it right, to have the sort of litter of which she had been cheated.

I watched as she began to show signs of pregnancy. Her appetite was boundless. She was like a woman who was determined to make her pregnancy as healthy as possible. Her tummy began to grow, slowly but obviously. Her appetite continued.

On the 1st of December, she began to act unsettled, a little uncomfortable. She was insecure, demanding my attention and yet unable or unwilling to sit in my lap for more than a moment or two.

On the morning of 2 December, her kittens 'dropped'. I suspect there is a veterinary term for it, but that is what it is called when it happens to a human mother, I believe. The shape of her stomach changed as the kittens moved towards the site of delivery.

I had seen a cat bed in the local chemist's shop on the 1st of December and wondered if I should purchase it. In the end, I did not do so. I had visions of Ashleigh commandeering it or of Beauty rejecting it because it was unfamiliar, filled with alien odours.

I made a bed for her, cutting the top from a deep, strong box and filling the interior with a small, padded 'infant' duvet that once covered the canary's cage at night. Orfeo's death had occurred some years ago, but I never had the heart to toss the duvet... The cats loved it. I felt Beauty would find it familiar enough to disguise the newness of the 'box bed'.

In the late afternoon of 2 December, she went into labour, not in the bed but on the floor below it. One kitten, howling loudly, was expelled from her womb. Less than half an hour later, she delivered the second.

I took matters into hand and scooped both kittens with their mother off the floor, depositing them into the warm bed. Much to my delight, Beauty accepted it.

A couple of hours later, she had delivered two more kittens, both live, both fairly energetic. She had not left the box bed even during the delivery. It was fascinating to watch.

Here is a young cat, a year and a half old. She had experienced a horrible, agonising labour in September that gave her nothing positive. She never had experienced the joys of motherhood, only the preliminary pains.

On 2 December, two months later, she was a consummate professional. She gritted her teeth, let out a low growl and pushed when the situation demanded it. She cleaned the kitten instantly and disposed of the afterbirth, cutting the cord with her teeth. Meanwhile, she continued to nurse the kittens who had been born earlier, sparing a little attention for them, cleaning them if needed when they got in the way of the rather messy birthing process.

Furthermore, she would not leave the box. She was alert for every cry from every kitten, rolling on her side to facilitate nursing for them. Only one of the four was born with no natural ability initially to find sustenance but, by placing him again and again near a nipple and holding his head on either side to force him to stay at the site, I managed to teach him to nurse within the first hour of birth.

Beauty is a natural mother. Not all cats are, actually. I have had cats who showed no interest in their kittens. When I had two queens, one simply deposited her kittens with the other's litter and stalked away, never to display one iota of love for the fruit of her loins, until they had grown into playmates for her. Beauty appears to be in ecstacy now. She is deeply bonded to her kittens.

At 2.00 a.m., she had not left her bed but was starving. I scooped dry food out of the dish and handfed her. She ate happily, still ensconced with her kittens, every inch a proud parent.

Ashleigh meanwhile, was confused and terrified by the invasion of tiny alien beings. I had to baby him a little... I hope that he will learn to love them when he has become accustomed to them. At the moment, he skulks along the edges of the bed, peering inside briefly, then leaping away to a safer, more distant perch.

Now, it is late morning and Beauty has left the box to eat properly, but again returned to her babies as soon as she had finished her petit dejeuner.

I hesitated to write at all about the delivery. Last time, I wrote about the birth of the kittens, only to be forced to write about their demise a few days later. This time, however, I believe that the tale will be a joyful one. Everything appears to be normal.

Why did Beauty have to undergo that terrible ordeal in September? I do not know, but Nature has her own wisdom. Purebreds are more delicate than mixed breed and Beauty is a purebred. Although I still mourn the little kittens buried in the garden, perhaps that was the sacrifice that Nature demanded for this litter.

As a veteran fan of Harvest Moon, I always enjoy the excitement of a new birth on the farm... infants always are born healthy and strong, but Harvest Moon does include the other side of the coin, in giving a natural life expectancy to every Ranch animal. When any Animal reaches his/her life expectancy, death will occur randomly. I always sell my animals when they reach their life expectancy, because I cannot bear the sorrow of witnessing their deaths, even in a game. A part of me wanted to reload when Beauty's kittens died in September... but Death is the other side of the coin of Life. The Carthaginians sacrificed their firstborn to the Gods for the welfare of all and because they believed that the afterlife was better than this life. They sent their firstborn to a place where there was no pain, no ugliness, no hatred... nothing that was not bright and fine.

I would not sacrifice the firstborn voluntarily to the Gods, but sometimes Nature takes her own sacrifices, gathering back some of those whom she sent into this world. If these kittens thrive and grow, I will be filled with joy, but I will not forget the little ones buried in the ground... those who died in order to pave the way for successful motherhood for Beauty. I wonder if she remembers them as well... Humans tend to be very self-centred, believing that only the pain of our species counts. I have witnessed the grief of animals over the loss of a loved one, whether one of their own species or a beloved human. In any case, Beauty is one of the most determined Cats I ever have known... Her quick 'heat' after the tragic delivery in September, and her incredible appetite, as well as her behaviour throughout this delivery, demonstrated a NEED to be a Mother. I hope that her experience now will be entirely positive and joyous.

When I witness the miracle of birth, I realise there is nothing in this world quite as magical, as filled with mystical significance. The incredible instinct that took hold of young Beauty, allowing her to 'multi-task' in a way that few humans could manage, amazed me. While in labour, producing another tiny kitten, she still managed to care for the kittens born earlier. She cleaned the bed, cleaned the new kitten and continued to nurture the others throughout the day and night that comprised her labour and delivery.

Once the labour ended, she relaxed and surrendered to the magical experience of Motherhood. She stretched languidly, and kneaded the air with her paws, a certain sign of ecstacy in a cat. My own heart overflowed with love and happiness. This is the ultimate reason for our existence. It truly is. Those females who never experience Motherhood are denied the most glorious crown in existence. The old religions who exalted Woman as Goddess, whether human, animal or a mythological combination of the two, understood this essential truth. As much as I adore my Ashleigh, he is the lesser being in this spiritual sense. There is no doubt that his seed quickened Beauty's womb and allowed her to become an earthly goddess, but having fulfilled that purpose, he definitely is superflous at this moment in time.

Mind you, not all Males are like sweet Ash. He remains a kitten, despite his size. Mentally and spiritually, he has not matured at all, but he is one of the most affectionate Cats in the world towards me. He may grow into fatherhood. I have known male Cats who combined the nature both of Mother and Father, jealously aware of the welfare and health of any tiny soul in their lives. My dear Pi, now deceased, was one such Male. I do not think he actually fathered any Cats. That robust role was reserved for his half-brother Friendship. Pi, though, would care for any litter tenderly, keeping them warm while their mother ate or performed the other necessary acts of Nature, watching tirelessly even when she resumed her duties.
Most gentle of creatures, most spiritual... timid almost to the point of paranoia where strangers were concerned, but completely devoted to his extended family.

Every creature is different and every Cat is unique. I pray that I will have the opportunity to discover the unique personalities of each of the four tiny lives that Beauty brought into this world yesterday. At least I can rest easy for the moment, knowing that Mother and Kittens are content. The tiny bellies are filled with milk and their mother is enjoying the ultimate joy of nurturing life.

Even less than a full day old, the four Kittens begin to exhibit their own personalities as well as having different appearances. Three are white, but probably will be Bluepoints like their Father. The fourth and last to be born, when I was beginning to believe ALL would resemble Ashleigh, is a darker colour... although one cannot begin to see any markings at this point, I suspect that the 'runt of the litter' may become a Flame like his mother. In a domestic shorthair, the colour would be Marmalade, but purebred owners tend to be a little more poetic or pretentious, depending on your point of view. In any case, it is this little one who is the fussiest. I wondered if he knew how to nurse properly even this morning, as he flailed about desperately and ineffectually, searching for the source of nourishment directly beneath his tiny nose. As is usually the case, although a Mother has more than enough nipples for four kittens, they tend to fight over one or two. As soon as this one found the fountain of life he sought, one of his siblings begin to strive mightily to deprive him of it.