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Thursday, March 27, 2014

The mysterious cat named Smudge.


Anyone lose a cat? A few weeks ago we noticed a new cat in the barn. It was a full calico (orange, black and white in colouring), so not from our colony. We only have dilute calico (peach, grey and cream). No idea where the cat came from. She could have wandered over from someone’s house or she might have been dropped off by someone who didn’t want her anymore. I don’t like people who do that.
The cat picked its way over the frozen manure carefully, in obvious discomfort. It gave the impression that it was very disturbed by its feet getting dirty, squawking and complaining the whole way, as if it had never been out in a barn before. I called the cat over and got a few pets in, but the cat kept jumping just out of my reach so I couldn’t get a full cuddle. 
Another week and we got close enough to determine the cat was female. Every day we put a bowl of food out for her, and a bowl of water too because she didn’t seem to know how to access the water trough. Last week I was too busy with a new work schedule to get out to the barn. Finally on Friday I went out, and I made a new discovery. The cat is pregnant. 
She padded past me to get to the food bowl and I realized she was waddling to and fro, swaying side to side with a heavy load. Hmmm. This complicates things. I can’t just let a half-tame cat live in the barn and try to raise a litter safely. She is already slightly distressed by the dirt in the barn, the loud noises that the farm animals make, and the other barn cats who are pretty mean at times. I told the Farmer I want to bring her into the house. He rolled his eyes. 
A few years ago our cat colony had grown so that we had 40 kittens born at the same time. As the litters arrived, the ten mamas put all the cats into one pile and returned to the fur puddle in shifts to nurse them. Every day I tried to get my hands on the kittens to make them tame. And when they were old enough, I moved them into the house where I could wean them and put them on solid food. I adopted out 37 kittens. Three I never could catch, and those are the ones we have in the barn. 
One by one I caught the feral mamas in cages and brought them in to be spayed. Three years later and no kittens on the farm. Until now. 
My instinct is to bring this cat into the house, keep her in the spare room in the basement til she has her litter and weans them, then adopt out the kittens and get the mama spayed. 
My poor husband. He doesn’t like animals in the house. 
Several years ago Sheila, a feisty little kitten that I found abandoned in a food bin in the shed, followed me into the house and stayed. The Farmer saw the little flash of white in the basement one day and asked me, “since when do we have a house cat?” 
Then our neighbours moved out and abandoned their big male cat. He eventually decided he preferred our house to the barn as well. The Farmer saw the slightly bigger version of our white house cat one day and asked, “how many cats do we have now?” He isn’t easily duped. Some nights the two tabby cats from the barn like to come in and warm up, get some snacks, chase the other cats around the house. They stay for a night or two in extreme weather; then they dart outside to the barn again. The Farmer has stopped asking how many cats we have. 
And that’s a good thing, because in a few weeks the number is going to increase by about five. 
I’ve decided the new cat’s name is Smudge, for the mark above her mouth that looks like a smear of marmalade. 
Now I’ve got to go set up her maternity room. 

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