Abbey (AKA Sweety) waited for 2 years to have kittens. She had been labelled as a young male because she had been seen bringing her bum to a flowerpot tail upright and vibrating, as though "he" was marking his territory! He either went and got a sex change, or I made a mistake!
All the identified females in the colony I care for had been neutered, vaccinated, and released back and I did not expect anyone to present me with kittens. 2 Years old is a bit late to start having babies but I guess she is a late bloomer. When she started getting a bit round in the middle I kept a close watch on her and sure enough she was getting bigger.
She chose the coldest day of the year to have her babies. 20 below and windy. She had been a regular user of the kitty condo complex that I have and it was no surprise when she started using one nest box on a regular basis. One morning I went out to feed them and she was silphlike once more.
It was a simple matter to go out quickly bar the door of the box and bring her in along with the kittens. A few days before I had cleaned the bedding in the nest box. I had also prepared a large puppy crate for her and had made an opening on the side of it. I just attached the nest box to the side of the puppy cage and removed the cover from the opening.
Kittens a few days old (taken with a zoom!).
The cats of this colony tend to be quite calm and she took this in her stride. I covered everything with a dark blanket and just left her to settle down.
Other than a bit of snarling and growling when I peeked in she seemed to be as well as could be expected.
She came out to feed at night and soon was actually watching me from outside her nest box. Since she was in my office, I was there quite alot of the time and she got used to me working.
She happily spent almost all of her time with the kittens and seemed as happy as any mother cat can be.
Kittens at 2 weeks
She only had 2 kittens, one had died at birth, so they grew quickly. At four weeks I gave them a little stairway attached to the edge of the nestbox to allow them to get out and in. Abbey very diligently pulled it away every night.
Eventually when the kits were 6 weeks old and eating very well by themselves, and she was getting quite restless, I sent her to be spayed. I had removed the kittens at that time. Abbey recoved quickly but got terribly depressed. She did not want to eat anymore and did not even snarl when I came near. In desperation I gave her back her kittens. There was an instant recovery, she ate and cheered up immediately. After this she actually allowed me to remove the kittens for a romp outside the cage. They were quite active and I think she was starting to find them a bit of a handful. She had a small platform in the puppy crate where she could escape the babies but was grateful for a break. In a colony several females will look after kittens and mothers can go out and hunt or take a breather from the kids.
Abbey watches over the kittens as they play. 4 Weeks old
Eventually we had a break in the weather and it warmed up above freezing. I released my little Abbey , neutered, vaccinated, dewormed, defleed, in the same way as I had captured her, in her nest box. That way she had a familiar place. I was worried that her buddies would not remember her, that she would be smelling different, or that she would run away. I should not have worried. Her clan came to her and looked her over carefully and one of them actually stayed with her almost solidly for 2 weeks. Probably her brother. She has reintegrated the clan and is working on putting on a bit of weight. She has become a bit spoiled about food since she ate very well while with the kittens, but luckily for me she likes kibble.
Abbey and her buddy from the safety of the kitty condo.
The kittens were taken to the vet for their first set of shots, de wormed, and put up for adoption. Little SAMI was adopted yesterday. Melli has her little photo on the Annex Cat Rescue Web site hoping for a new home. It was not too hard to split them up because the kittens are very different and often slept separately. I have other cats and they have taken to the kitens and will cuddle with them.
Melli also found an adoring family. She took off to look after and rule a nice family with a shy, friendly other cat. Last I knew she was thriving.
A year later Abbey is fat and happy.
My colony meanwhile has been gradually getting older and not increasing in size. Over the last 5 years it has actually decreased in size. From about 14 cats to about 6. One cat just dissapeared, and another volunteered to be tamed. A third found a more hospitable porch/back yard, I occasionally see her but she prefers her new yard. She is looking fat and prosperous so I expect that her care giver has a more interesting menu than I provide.
I have not seen any sick animal for a long time and since most of them are vaccinated they seem to be doing well. I deworm occasionally and feed consistantly.
Occasionally I see some injuries but so far everyone has been able to heal after a while. Having the kitty condo helps because the hurt cat just goes and sleeps for a few days, limping out to eat and drink, then going back to the safety of the nest boxes.
Resting after a Wrestle
UPDATE: Fast forward a few years. Abbey is quite matronly and bosses the remaining 2 cats of the colony. She had an eye infection but got over it after being trapped and taken to the vet. Here is a page documenting this little feral cat's eye infection and how she got better.
This web site reflects my personal ideas and doesn't represent anyone else's point of view.