“There’s a kitten out there crying,” he said. “I think it’s in the bushes next to Vic’s driveway.”
“It’s time for supper,” I repeated. “I’m sure it’ll be alright. Its mom will be back soon.”
That ended it. It was getting dark and I was trying to do the right thing. Its mother would be back to care for it pretty soon.
The next afternoon it started to cloud up. I came back out on the porch to ask my husband what he wanted for supper. He sat in his chair reading a book and smoking a cigarette.
“I hear that kitten again,” he said. “Now it’s two houses over. I think it’s in that row of bushes over there.”
“It must be crying pretty loud for you to hear it from here. Are you sure it isn’t a bird of some kind?”
“No. It’s a kitten and it’s crying really loud.”
“Looks like it’s going to rain. Its mother should have come back by now. Do you think it is just one?” I walked down the steps and headed toward the sound. Once I got close enough to decide it was indeed a kitten crying, I turned around and headed back toward my house.
“It’ll never come out on its own,” I said. “I’m going to get a bowl of milk to see if I can at least see how big it is.”
The crying was loud and persistent. I walked slowly so as not to spill the milk. As I came closer the crying suddenly stopped. “Good Kitty,” I whispered. “I won’t hurt you, but you don’t know that.”
I sat the bowl inside the bushes and tiptoed to a spot where I could observe but still be out of sight. Soon a tiny little creature pushed its way toward the bowl. I had not expected to see a kitten quite that small. I panicked for a second, realizing suddenly that the bowl might be too deep, and the kitten might plunge head first into the milk. Fortunately, the kitten managed to reach the milk without falling in.
I returned to the house and got a laundry basket and a towel. I snuck up quietly and stood near the bushes and waited. When the time was right, I reached in and grabbed the kitten. It screamed, of course, and moved much faster than I’d expected, so I ended up grasping the tail and dragging it out that way. It was not a smooth or gentle process, but I got it into the basket and threw the towel over it, then held the towel down as I hurried toward the house.
“Is it a boy or a girl?” my husband asked.
“I really didn’t have time to check,” I said as I rushed past. “I think it’s a girl, but that’s just a feeling, nothing else.”
Once inside I closed the front door just as she jumped out of the basket and dived under the couch.
“Shut the door!” I shouted as my husband walked inside.
“Where is she?” he asked as I pointed beneath the couch.
I ended up chasing her into the laundry room where I closed the doors. She was terrified and it was clear that everyone could use a little calming down. In the meantime, I made a trip to the dollar store and got a small bag of kitty litter and some dry kitten food. I dumped the kitty litter in a flat box and put a basket with a towel in it nearby for her to sleep in. She stayed hidden while I was in the room, so I quietly closed the small double doors that separate my kitchen from my laundry room. The doors don’t latch and there is a small space between them. I put food and water down and watched quietly through the crack to see if she came out to eat. She ate but did not drink. I decided she had not yet been weaned, so replaced the water with a little more milk.
There was quite a storm that evening and I went to bed feeling good that I had at least for the moment saved the kitten. The next morning I tiptoed through the kitchen and peaked through the crack between the doors. I expected to see her sleeping quietly on the folded towel. To my surprise she was sound asleep, lying on the bed of still clean kitty litter.
“Of course,” I realized. “She’s spent her entire life sleeping on the dirt. I guess the kitty litter was the only place that felt like home.”
We didn’t know her age but a friend had a litter of new kittens that were about the same size, so we figured she was about 4 weeks. We didn’t decide on a name right away. Our friends offered several ideas, all good names in their own way. I hesitated though, finally confiding in my husband that I would prefer a person’s name, the old-fashioned-I’d-never-name-my-kid-that kind of name, seemed the right way to include a “new pet member” of the family. My husband thought about it for a couple of days, then he suggested a name that just seemed perfect. We both knew it just fit from the moment he said it.
It has taken some training for her and for us, but the house just seems happier now that she has moved in. I decided early that raising a cat requires some of the same psychology that any parenting requires, so I set up spaces where she is free to do what cats like to do. I gave her a table in the kitchen where she can look out the window and watch me from an elevated position. To assist her in learning that her table was not our table, we pulled up the chair cushions to discourage her from getting onto the dining room table.
It took a few times, but she only gets on the wrong table now when we’ve neglected her too long. Once she’s gotten our attention, she’s content to return to her own “safe” table.
Wilma loves to play and she has taught us several games. She loved cat toys for a while but she looks at them now as “baby things” if we pull one out for her. It has become harder to keep her entertained as she’s gotten older. I thought cats just got to where they quit playing when they aged. Wilma is teaching us that it’s not the cat that quits playing….it’s the folks that give it up. Fortunately for Wilma, she has the advantage of having two stay-at-home parents. She knows that our entire purpose in life is to feed and entertain her. If we start to forget our purpose, she reminds us.
Wilma loves to play Hide-n-Seek. She loves to hide under the bed or behind pillows or almost anywhere she can’t see you. You do have to play along in order to keep her playing. She can only stay there so long before she gives up and is back sitting in front of me, staring.
I find that a simple walk around calling out “Where’s Wilma?” will suffice long enough for me to wash a few dishes. When she wanders into the kitchen ten minutes later, I turn quickly and dash toward her. The game is still on…she turns and runs toward the bedroom. I continue calling her name, then wander back to my dishes for a few more minutes.
Last Christmas a friend gave me a gift wrapped in ribbon. It turned out to be a wonderful gift that Wilma and I use everyday. Really I don’t recall what was in the box, but the ribbon is the gift that keeps on giving. We play “Go Fish”. Wilma sticks her head in the shoe and feels around blindly until she grabs the ribbon that I am jiggling around. I don’t get the thrill of it, but maybe it’s like catfish noodling. Whatever it is, she loves it.
It’s hard to put Wilma in a box. She hasn’t yet learned the entertaining part of it. She hops in but then looks at me as if to say, “Now what?”
Wilma sleeps more than she used to, but she still spends a lot of time watching me or watching the birds. Of course the experience is even better when the window is open. Sadly, there haven’t been that many days where open windows serve indoor climate needs. Yet, Wilma insists and we usually give in for a few minutes…. just long enough for her to get a few sniffs. She will occasionally climb into the window as if to stage a “sit in”, but most of the time she leaves the window after a few minutes and my husband or I quickly shut it back down.
I have placed different “resting beds” around the house. When Wilma needs to rest, she has a box with a towel bed on the dryer in the laundry room. She also has a place on my desk so she can sleep nearby when I am working in the office. She has a basket bed she never used, but now seems to enjoy it since I moved it to the living room.
She also finds a larger bed to her liking at certain times. She loves my chenille bedspread and often spends time lounging on it.
“Wilma pretty much won the lottery when you pulled her out of those bushes,” my husband often says. He admits just as often though, that we won the lottery that very same day.
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