I was out watering the pecan tree after nightfall. I had the headlamp on. I was carrying a watering can. I was also on the phone, because multitasking. Suddenly i noticed a pair of reflective eyes in the grass. They were bouncing. They were definitely coming towards me at a high rate of speed. The eyes were small and low to the ground. I assumed possum, armadillo, or raccoon…. I made a snorting noise, imitating the white tailed deer’s signal for danger. That should have alerted the smaller animal to the presence of multiple larger animals in the area and caused it to pause or run in the opposite direction to escape the supposed deer that might kick or trample it. The eyes did not stop. In fact, after i made the noise the eyes seemingly took off in a full sprint in my direction. Immediately i felt alarm at this reaction. There were only two reasons a small animal would react in this way to a noise indicating the presence of a larger animal; rabies or it was domesticated. What the heck would a domesticated animal be doing all the way out here in the middle of nowhere? Something had to be wrong with it. I had to outrun this thing before it caught up to me lest it be rabid. I turned and ran. I sprinted towards the house. I made it almost all the way to the side of the porch, turned and saw the eyes coming out of the orchard area after me…bouncing tiny eyes in the pitch darkness; little reflective greenish silver orbs in the far reaching light of the head lamp. I ran around the house to the porch steps, then thought about the dogs. What if it was just out there attacking the heck out of the dogs? They had their rabies shots but still, i didnt want something biting them or possibly putting a tooth through an eyeball or nostril or something. There wasnt time to get the dogs in before it arrived. Instead i locked myself in the dog run and waited. I figured, if it turned out to be rabid i could try to help the dogs bludgeon it or at least see what was going on and probably call for help on the phone which was in my apron pocket.
The dogs went ape sh*t nuts in a barking frenzy along the fence-line towards the back of the house. I went over to shine my head lamp in the direction of the commotion to see whether it was a possum or what. They were snarling, jumping on the fence, and shoving one another out of the way. Then i heard, “Meow.” It was a kitten. I knew from the high pitched voice. It wasnt afraid of the dogs and was practically nose to nose with them on the other side of the fence. I hurried out of the dog run to go rescue it before it got more than it bargained for. I ran away from the dog run, calling it in the hopes of drawing it away. It immediately came to me in the darkness and i got my first look at a little calico kitten.
I named her cricket for her incessant chirping. She never stopped making a pitiful kitten mewing noise. She was old enough to have tiny teeth but just barely. She was sooooo skinny. Her skin clung to her bones beneath her fur. I went inside the house and grabbed her a piece of imitation crab. It was all i had at the time. She took the piece of imitation crab and ate as if she had never seen food before. She was the most cuddly friendly kitten i had ever encountered in my life. She followed me wherever i went as i did the chores that night. I retrieved the pet taxi from the shed and made a bed for her on the porch by putting hay inside the pet taxi. The next day i knew she had slept in there because she smelled heavily of hay. She also left a round indentation in the mound of it.
She was so starving that when i first gave her cat food she ate it so fast she barely breathed and didnt chew at all. Her belly filled up with gases until she looked 9 months pregnant. I mixed rice with water and gave her that. Then i didnt feed her for half a day. The gas passed and i started again with imitation crab and wet kitten food. I couldn’t allow her to live in the house because my previous cat Minew had peed in the stove burners and she would surely smell it and continue the tradition. I finally got them functional again (3 out of 4)…the decision was; no more indoor cats. Also, it was a one room tiny house; no place for a rambunctious kitten. She would be bored. If she were to stay, she would have to live outside.
it all happened so fast. One moment she was a pair if bouncing eyes in the darkness. The next minute i had a kitten. I hoped she would stay, as id never seen a calico cat with a coon tail before and she was sooooo friendly. However, i couldnt be sure what she would do, as i was gone all day working in healthcare. What if she gave up on me returning?
Cricket had ideas that she had found her forever family. During the day she hung out on my porch, went on small adventures around the two acres, dug holes and used the potty occasionally, antagonized the dogs by sitting in front of their locked gate, stalked the birds, and ate bugs. Once before dawn and once in the afternoon i would return and feed her. After the feedings she would sit in my lap and clean herself, then purr and cuddle while she digested her meal. During day 2 of knowing Cricket i carried her around the yard like a newborn baby and she slept in my arms. As time went on she became a little bit more independent, daring to stray away from me for a few minutes before running to find me but if i was outside she was pretty much wherever i was. She walked between my feet, followed me to water the plants and collect chicken eggs, and hopped in the car when i was unloading it. Upon returning home she would meet me at the end of the driveway and i’d have to put her on my lap to drive on or she’d just stand in front of my car blocking the driveway. She was my little sidekick. When it began to rain i put a curved piece of plywood over her pet taxi to shield her. When it became apparent she was here to stay i bought a down feather pillow on the internet with the intention of cutting a hole, removing some stuffing and sewing it up. During the winter i would put it in her pet taxi and this would keep her warm. If we had another icepocalypse she could come in the house but she’d have to remain inside the pet taxi…or i could buy another dog crate. I should put that on the to-do list for when i am in kerrville next. Maybe a small dog breed crate.
I became absolutely terrified that Cricket had rabies. I mean, what on earth could make a feral kitten this affectionate? If she was the offspring of a barn cat, this was very unusual behavior for one. Rabies is characterized by extreme aggression or extreme friendliness…a severe change in behavior. If the cat was standoffish before it is now very friendly and vice versa. I couldnt figure out how a domesticated kitten would make it all the way out here unless it had been dumped. I went back and forth between worrying she was rabid and thinking she had been dumped. I was searching for that one definitive symptom that couldnt be “either/or” when i finally found it. “Through all stages of rabies the cat will have dilated eyes”. She had lizard slit eyes in the sunlight. We were good. Cricket did not have rabies. Still, i wanted to get her a rabies shot. I made an appointment for her on the back of the dogs’ second anal gland expression visit. They would do a wellness checkup and a rabies shot if she was old enough. It was the expensive vet so of course they still had a slot available and they had the expensive kind of customer service where they catered to our every need. They tried to convince me to spay her but i said no. She’s not going to live in the house. I cant financially afford it, nor can i put a cone on a wild cat who is going to be left to recover outside. Also, the coyotes eat all the cats. Im trying to have mousers. I want her to have kittens if that is in the cards. If this does happen i will bring the male kittens in for neuter and adoption but im keeping all the females as mousers (male cats spray…i dont want every wall of every building on the homestead smelling of ammonia). Unlike my other animals, she was not planned and we cant financially afford to take responsibility for her. However, i can feed her. If she wants to live outside i can provide her with daily food and water. I cant provide preventative medicine and treat every respiratory infection that arises. She will be living outside untethered. She comes back to me by choice. She’s not confined. I can get her a rabies shot and food but thats all i can afford to do for our new mouser. I pray twice a day that she is protected and nothing gets her. I race home after work to feed her before nightfall. I cuddle her and carry her about the yard. I hope that this will be a good existence for her. Ive never had an outdoor cat. This will be an experiment. For anyone who is wondering, i am completely smitten with the tiny creature. Still though, she cannot come in the house.
She is a very smart cat. She learns things the first time and she knows when a deer is in the yard way before i do. She’s getting good at stalking bugs and birds. She chased a road runner up a tree once. While she was distracted with this the sparrows she had been stalking flew away. She is also a very considerate cat. If you wince while she is making biscuits she then moves further up to make biscuits on the fabric of your clothes instead of your bare leg, or just makes air biscuits while hanging her paws over the side of your leg. When she climbs your pant leg she does it very gingerly so as not to snag the fabric. If i jump after being poked by her claws she retracts them while she’s sitting on me. She’s such a nice considerate kitten. She licks my fingers but never bites and she twists around to tell me she wants down but doesnt dig her claws in. Cricket is a very smart and considerate kitten. She has puncture wounds on the left side of her belly so something got ahold of her. She is a very quick study so i dont doubt that she made an escape as soon as whatever it was dropped her. I will have the vet take a look at the scabbed over wounds and see what they think about them.
Though i had decided Cricket could not come in the house and had to be an outdoor cat i had never had an animal i did not bring in at night and the thought of her being out there, by herself, in the elements where all the night critters could see her…i worried about her every moment she was out of my sight.
For nearly a week i barely slept at all because i would wake with a start and run to the window to check that she was still there and intact every thirty minutes to an hour. By Sunday i glanced in the mirror and realized i was a crazy person. I hadn’t the slightest idea emotionally how to go about having an outdoor cat. I would have to go to work, the grocery, the post office…i couldnt keep rushing home to protect her, or waking up to make sure she was alive. I would either have to get a bigger house, rehome her, or figure out what it was to let go and let God. Trying to have an outdoor cat; take 7. Pray for me.