It was a Monday when kittens started falling from the sky. I didn’t know then that the kittens had fallen from the sky, just that they were in the way. Half a second before letting out Luke, my 70-pound, bird-killing, husky mutt, I spotted a very small, very young kitten two steps away from the back door. I stared, dumbfounded, for a beat, trying to make sense of the little slash of fluff on my deck. I apologized to Luke, told him to wait, and slipped out the door to inspect the kitten, which was, as suspected, a kitten.
But why? Why was there a kitten on my deck? Where had it come from? Where was it supposed to be and what the fuck was I going to do with it?
I looked around. Maybe, I thought, its mother had made her nest on my deck somewhere. I checked under my grill, down the stairs, under my deck furniture and over the side of the deck and there, just to the left of the first kitten, sitting helpless in a pile of leaves, was another kitten.
Many years ago I found a similarly abandoned kitten my yard. She was just two weeks old, a thing so tiny she fit in the palm of my hand. I fostered her, bottle fed her and then kept her, and today she’s an 11-year-old terror who, one Thanksgiving, puked in between the sheets of my bed. She occasionally tolerates affection from me and demands snuggles in the winter so she can feast on my bodily warmth. She is mean to nearly everyone and will carry on full conversations with anyone who dares to address her with a series of growls, hisses and general noises of discontent.
So, I had some experience with small-sized baby cats. But still. I wanted a professional opinion. So I called the SPCA.
“Wait,” they said. “Wait one hour, maybe two, see if the mom comes back.”
So I waited an hour. No mama. Sensing these two idiots might need sustenance, I set out for supplies at the one hour mark, leaving the kitties outside and hoping, if I yielded the house to the cats, maybe mom would come back for her babies.
I gave up. Two hours had passed, a rain storm had lightly soaked the babies and I had plans. I mixed a bottle of kitten formula, brought the babies into feed and then tucked them into a box with warm, soft cozy things and went to meet my friends.
“I have kittens,” I said at the brewery. I skipped hellos and any semblance of pleasantries and dove right into a dramatic retelling of the previous few hours. We went in circles trying to determine how those kitties came to be on my deck. The most logical explanation was a mama cat-induced move. Maybe she was moving her nest and something spooked her. Maybe she just didn’t want to be a mama cat anymore. Maybe she just decided to make it my problem. Maybe it was some other inconceivable series of events. It didn’t really matter. I had kittens.
Two friends came back to the house with me to meet the kitties and help with their nighttime feeding. You don’t get to see kitties this little, in the three week range, unless something has gone wrong, and my friends, cat lovers both, were excited to meet them. They are so cute at that age, so decidedly helpless. I wasn’t intentionally setting a trap, but the next day, one of my friends offered to take the kitties. The kitten she’d helped bottle feed had gazed into her eyes for nearly a minute the night before and that was all it took. She’d take them, she told me, she could foster them.
I asked six or seven times if she was sure, gave her all the outs, told her if she changed her mind, that was fine too. Fostering kitties is hard. At that tiny stage, they have to eat every 4-6 hours, and it’s a production every time. Forget about sleeping through the night or staying out too late, you are kitten-bound, the end.
Still, she was adamant. After work that day, she came to collect the kitties. I’d been in the kitten business for just 24 hours and was blissfully free of the responsibility of kitten parenthood. I went to sleep that night feeling slightly guilty for the delicious 8-hour snooze that lied ahead, but relief quickly settled in and took over.
The next day, Wednesday, I got my gutters cleaned and my house power washed. The power washers were hard at work when I heard the water stop and something that sounded very much like, “oh no, I’ll go tell her.” Then, a knock on the door.
“What happened?” I asked.
“A kitten fell off the roof,” he said.
“What?” I said, incredulous. That didn’t make sense. There weren’t kittens on my roof.
“We were cleaning the gutters and a kitten flew off the roof,” he said. It was on the deck, he told me.
I walked through the house to the back door, afraid of what I’d find. Right there, head bracketed by the boards I’d put in place to keep Monday’s kittens from rolling off the deck was a tiny calico baby, covered in dirt and debris. She wasn’t moving. I thought she was dead.
But she wasn’t. I reached down and picked her up and she immediately meowed at me.
From the roof, came, “Is this a known cat or unknown cat?”
“This is very much unknown,” I said as I looked around for any additional kitties. I found nothing, took the soaked and pitiful calico inside, wrapped her in a towel, put her on my lap and went back to work.
An hour later, I heard, “What?” Then, “Are you kidding me?!” Followed by, “OK, let me go tell her.”
This time I met him at the door. He didn’t even need to knock.
“There’s two more kittens,” he said.
“Shit,” I said. “Where?”
I went upstairs, opened the door to my balcony and there sat the other power washer trying to dry off two tiny tuxedo kittens with his t-shirt. It was pitiful.
He pointed to where he found them, a small square of roof next to my balcony. They were well-hidden, he told me, but they’d definitely been moved by the force of the water. I looked around, and, satisfied that this time there really weren’t anymore kittens, I took the two tuxedos and added them to my kitten collection.
In the aftermath of acquiring three additional baby cats, I was able to piece together what happened. Put simply, it rained kittens. Mama cat, in her infinite wisdom, gave birth to a small pile of kittens on my roof. The first two kittens, being tiny and only slightly mobile, had wormed their way right over the edge to land themselves on and beside my deck, respectively. The third was thrown from the nest via power washing and the other two, the tuxedos, were just simply power washed.
Given time and more mobility, it seems likely that all five would have eventually tumbled off the roof. Power washing aside, it seemed that I was destined for kitties.
Having already offloaded two kittens, I decided to foster the second batch myself. I felt certain I was supposed to have kittens in my life. They were literally being thrown at me from above. So, fine, I’d foster the kittens.
For the next several weeks, my life revolved around kittens. I woke up for 3 a.m. feedings, introduced them to wet food, taught them to use the litter box. I took them to the vet for check-ups and shots and deworming and washed them in Dawn dish soap to get rid of their fleas.
It was exhausting, but incredible. When they’re four, five, six weeks old, every day brings a new skill. They learn and grow and change so quickly. They started out as these fluffy lumps who could barely move, barely see, and then they grew into these bounding, leaping, climbing creatures.
I saw their first tail swishes, their first stable steps, their first attempts at running. They used me like a jungle gym, climbing up the sleeves of my hoodie as they tested the bounds of their newfound mobility. Each day they got stronger and braver and then, after almost a month of raising kittens, it was time for them to go.
I was ready, but not. Two of my three had homes with close friends. I could see them whenever I wanted, could check up on them, would get updates, but splitting up the team was hard. They were my babies and I was sad to see them go.
I wasn’t sure what to do about the last kitty. He had a few adoption prospects, but I wasn’t sure if I could let him go. I also wasn’t sure I could keep him. I already had a cat. A terrible, mean, rage cat. I really didn’t want another cat, not ever. But, things happen.
I named him Edgar Poe Moose-Stache Gatti. Or Eddie, or short. He’s a bigger kitty now, but still a baby, still learning. He kneads while he eats his breakfast and is so thankful that he will stop eating and give me head-butts in appreciation. He lets me sleep through the night now, sleeps right up against my legs. The moment I move in the morning though, that’s it, he will leap off the bed, hit the dog in the face and then start scratching my headboard. He loves knocking things over and stealing small things to bat around the house. He wants very much to go outside when Luke goes out, is very interested in his very angry sister cat, and wants a bite of whatever I’m having. He is wild and sweet and cute and good and I love him very, very much.
With the help of a neighbor, we caught the mama cat and got her spayed. She had two litters of kittens last year, but her mothering days are over now. She doesn’t seem to mind.