Saturday, June 19, 2010

Beauty's Mothering Instincts with a Fox

It annoys me when toys are marketed as pet-specific and especially in the case of a group of toys called Skinneeez. They are plush toys without any stuffing, making them flat and lightweight. They are advertised as toys for dogs, but when I first clapped eyes on a flat plush fox hanging from a peg in the local market, I knew that my cats would love it. In fact, it is their favourite toy and has been carried about by cats of every age and size, from the patriarch Ashleigh to the Tiny Babies. It is twice the size of a Tiny Baby and yet I have seen them dragging it about in their teeth.

The Fox has two squeakers, one in his head and one in his tail but this aspect of the toy must be more attractive to Dogs as my cats never have squeezed the toy in the manner required to make it squeak. They do enjoy it immensely when I produce a solo performance from the Fox by squeezing it and waving it in the air.

This brief tale, however, is not about the Fox as a toy but about my sweet Beauty, who has been struggling to regain her strength after having two litters of Kittens within the space of five months.

About a month ago, when the Tiny Babies were only a month old, she became too weak to nurse them, so I took over the task, using KMR and Cat Milk. It was exhausting but very satisfying as the little babies began to view me as a mother, and to look up to me literally when I entered, their tiny little heart-shaped faces both trusting and demanding, clamouring loudly for food until I met their needs.

Within the last week, however, Beauty has regained enough strength apparently to WANT to nurse her babies again. They have moved on, however, at this point, to water and dry food, although I continue to supplement their meals with a bit of Cat Milk and KMR. Most of the time, I give that to Beauty now.

In any case, Beauty would call to them with that wonderfully poignant mother's voice and wait for them to come to her. Sometimes they all would respond. Sometimes, only one or two would respond. Annoyingly, the Puttikins were as likely to respond as the tiny kittens! More than once, I had to scold a Puttkin, now far larger than his mother, for nursing contentedly at poor Beauty's breast. I understand that it is comforting BUT...

Yesterday, though, I was witness to a rather heart-wrenching event. Beauty began to call out to her babies, but they all ignored her, as they were quite involved with their own version of the World Cup. She then found the Fox and, taking it in her mouth gently as though it were a kitten, she bore it off to the little cat carrier that I transformed into a nursery when the kittens were newborns. She then lay with it inside the carrier, grooming it and talking to it, making those throaty little maternal sounds that she makes when her real kittens are nursing. It was very touching, rather bizarre and kind of sad. I never saw anything like it before, although I have been midwife and caretaker (shan't use the word 'owner') to many queens in the past. Poor darling Beauty. She loves being a mother but I cannot allow it to occur again. It would kill her and possibly kill me as well!

P.S. I highly recommend the Fox Skinneeez as a gift for any Cat, but must warn that they are not inexpensive. Nonetheless, they are extremely durable and ours has lasted through more abuse than any other cat toy in the house. Toys with stuffing tend to break open at some point, losing bits of their innards. Where cats are concerned, they often devour the bits that come out of the 'animal' and then bring it up later. This is not pleasant for any one. The Skinneeez toys obviously are a solution to this problem as they have no stuffing.


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