Below is a sort of blog that I wrote after trapping a pregnant feral cat in my house. She was (still is pretty much) completely feral, but by capturing her prior to kittening, I was able to socialize her kittens and I got two of the five adopted out to one household, and two of the others adopted out to another household. I kept Maggie and her fifth kitten.
Maggie and her Kittens
Everybody is healthy and content (and neutered) in their new arrangements, although Maggie appears sometimes to long to go outside. Maggie and the kitten I kept (Scout) have had all their shots and microchips inserted, so one of these day's I'll let them out and see what happens. They come running when I call "Come, kitties, come!" right before feeding, so hopefully both of them will come back. But if Maggie does go away, at least I got her kittens placed in good adoptive homes and she won't contribute to the local feral cat population.
Below is the blog that I developed after the kittens were born, hoping to attract potential adopters and to keep the scheduled adopters abreast of things as the kittens matured to the point that I was willing to separate them from Maggie.
A video of the kittens when one day old is here: http://philosophy.tamu.edu/~gary/11-03-30-kittens.MOV.
And here are some more recent videos (there are also links to each of these embedded in the long version below):
And you can see pictures of Maggie (the mother) while very pregnant here: https://www.dropbox.com/gallery/3293225/1/Maggie?h=91787b.
Maggie has adapted amazingly well to living in the house with me. She desists when told "No," comes running in response to "Come kitty come!" (video), she uses the litter box and a scratching post (video), and when I wiggle two fingers she presents her head for petting (well, at least if the context is predictable, including having me sitting on the couch). A longer, more detailed version of Maggie's story is below, along with details on the kittens' development.
I am taking pains to socialize the kittens. Every day I spend an hour or so, taking each kitten from the kittening box, holding it while talking to it and rubbing my face against it, weighing it on my kitchen scale, rubbing and scratching it all over, rubbing its belly (so you won't get torn up for touching the adults' bellies), and squeezing all four of its paws so as to extend the claws (the way you would when clipping their claws).
I'm confident that by the time they are adopted out, the kittens will have learned, by observing Maggie: to use the litter box, the meanings of "Come kitty come!" and "No," and to use the scratching post.
If you're interested in adopting, we should arrange for you to come visit them soon, and then return several times when the kittens are growing up (especially when they become active and playful), so that you can see them grow up and get them used to you for when you take them away.
My contact information is:
Here is the longer, more detailed version of Maggie's story, and details on the kittens' progress
There is an abandoned house very near mine, and for years there have been various stray and feral cats sheltering there. Out of that colony, Maggie appeared as a maturing cat around the summer or fall of 2009.
In October of 2010, I began trying to "cut her from the herd" of cats who visit my back yard. I began by leaving food out on the deck and hoping to see her eat, then after I'd seen her eat the food a couple of times, I would only put food out when I saw her outside. For a long time, however, she would run way out of the yard as soon as I opened the back door.
A breakthrough came during the lunar eclipse of November 6, 2010. I sat on the deck late into the night watching the eclipse, and suddenly noticed her sitting in the yard a few meters from the deck. I got up, went into the house, and, for the first time, she didn't run out of the yard when I put food down on the deck about 12-15 feet from my chair. It took maybe a half hour, but she eventually came and ate that close to me.
So then I began calling "Come kitty come!" at the same time each evening and sitting on the deck until she came and ate. After a couple of weeks she was coming fairly promptly and eating within 5-10 feet of me.
Next I moved the food into the kitchen of the house and sat on the living room couch while she ate. At this point she would still jog out of the house immediately after eating, but after a couple of weeks, she began exploring the house a bit on occasion before leaving, including the garage, which would later become her refuge. Eventually she began to stop and groom a bit before leaving.
At this point I began moving the food plate closer to my location on the living room couch, and then sitting crosslegged on the floor with the plate within arm's reach. Then I moved the plate right next to my feet while seated on the couch, and then I started leaving my finger on the plate.
At this point she touched me for the first time, when she knocked a kibble up against my finger and had to inadvertently lick my finger in order to retrieve it.
Now it was February, I think, and I noticed that she probably was pregnant. So I tried putting down food next to the couch as usual, but walked away and stood in the kitchen within reach of the door onto the deck. One day I closed the door very quietly while she was eating and she did not see me do it. When she saw that she was trapped, she was aggitated, but retreated to the garage and hid quietly. At this point she wasn't hugely pregnant, so I let her out after a few minutes.
But as she got really pregnant, I thought that I should trap her for good. This time, however (early March?), she saw me closing the door and she went berserk, throwing herself headlong into the glass, running all over the place and wailing, so I relented and let her out right away.
After a few days of getting her comfortable eating next to my foot again, I decided that she was really close to kittening and that I needed to man-up and trap her come-what-may, for the sake of the kittens getting socialized and adopted.
So on Sunday, March 13, I again closed the door, and she again saw me do it, and she again went berserk. She again retreated to the garage, which was good because it allowed me to lock her out there when I wasn't home and awake to watch her. For the first two days, she wailed a lot, but I began doling out food very, very slowly – a few kibbles at a time – with the plate right at my foot on the couch.
On the third day, she suddenly transformed. It was as if most of the genetically programmed neotinies typical of domestic cats all went on-line at once. She had been raising her tail when I called to her for a couple of months, but now she started purring, mewing in the contented way cats do when they're being cuddled, she began rubbing up against my legs while I was seated on the couch, and she let me pet her. She even enjoyed me rubbing her hugely pregnant belly with both hands while she rolled contentedly on the floor.
Somewhere in here, Maggie quit "flushing" into the garage whenever I would stand up and walk around the house, so I had to train her to go into the garage for food so that I could close the door and leave her out there while I was away or asleep. I called "Come kitty come!" and walked into the garage to put a plate of food down out there. The call excited her to follow me, but she was still apprehensive about going into the garage while I was there, so I had to stand stock-still off alongside the clothes washer until she braved walking out to find the food. After a number of repetitions, though, she would run right alongside me into the garage, rubbing my legs as she goes.
Sixteen days after I incarcerated her, on March 29, Maggie gave birth, just hours after I left on an 8 day business trip to Minneapolis and Madison. Three graduate students from the Philosophy Department had volunteered to look in on her and the kittens. Unfortunately, while I was gone she basically wouldn't be in the same room with any of the graduate students. But while I was gone they reported the following:
I came home on Wednesday afternoon, April 6, and on April 7, I started weighing and handling the kittens as described above. Resulting weights and guesses of sexes (the genitalia of young kittens can be ambiguous) are as follows:
|Description of kitten||4/7 weight||4/8||4/9||4/10||4/11||4/12||4/13||4/15||4/16||4/17||4/18||4/19||4/20||4/21||4/25||4/28||5/4||5/14|
1/2 grey 1/2 red face
black face with tiny brownish-red spots
tabby with points
all grey face
Thursday, April 7 (9 days old): The first time I brought a kitten into the kitchen to weigh it, the kitten squealed, Maggie ran to the kitten box and hissed at me, but then she retreated to another corner of the garage, so I put that kitten back and took another, which did not squeal. For each kitten, I weighed it, tried to sex it, and experimented with holding it in various ways. But now Maggie was back in the living room, lounging under the couch the way she likes to, and as I brought other kittens in, I knelt down and showed her that I was holding the kitten. Then, when a couple of others squealed, she just came to the threshold between the kitchen and living room, I showed her the kitten, and she went back to lying under the couch.
Friday, April 8 (10 days): The second night, all was fine. Maggie never hissed, and she didn’t even get up from under the couch when the kittens squealed. Again I showed her the kittens as I brought them in and whenever one of them squealed. That night (at 10 days old) some of them were opening one or both of their eyes, and a couple seemed to almost be trying to walk.
Saturday, April 9 (11 days): Kittens much more active today. Black face, tabby, and orange all have eyes open. Half-n-half and grey face both still closed. I think they're going to be walking out of the kittening box in a couple of more days. Apparently Maggie likes catnip, but only the fresh stuff. A while back I tried baiting the scratching post with dried catnip to no avail, but tonight I bought catnip plants, mashed some leaves on the scratching post, and it was like a combination of cocaine and mescaline as she rubbed it, scratched it, and hung on it!
Sunday, April 10 (12 days): Tonight as I weighed them, the kittens were crawling/walking around the kittening box, and one of them (half-n-half) had his head out the entrance. I then tried moving the box of kittens into the living room. Maggie didn't object, and in fact she immediately went in and nursed the kittens. And as the evening wore on, she nursed the kittens four times right in front of me, just two feet away, as I sat on the couch. I think this bodes well for coming days.
Monday, April 11 (13 days): The kittens are walking, albeit like drunken sailors, and to my knowledge none has yet climbed over the 4 inch exit from the kittening box. Black, orange, grey, and tabby all have both eyes open tonight. Only half-n-half is still in the dark. Tonight I did laundry at home for the first time since incarcerating Maggie. The previous two times, the sound of the washer and dryer in her garage retreat made her anxious, so I had to go to a laundromat. But tonight I sat on the couch feeding her very slowly during the washing cycle, and she tolerated the drying cycle although she didn't go feed the kittens until it ended.
Tuesday, April 12 (14 days): Tonight, like the previous two nights, I brought the kittens into the living room in their box, but Maggie did not nurse them in front of me. Weight gains indicate that she's not slacking off, though. All have both eyes open except half-n-half, who still has half of his/her left eye closed. All the kittens are now "walking around" the kittening box, and all of them seem to be grooming themselves and others, albeit in a random fashion as if any body part of anybody (including me) that was presented got groomed. As I finish this entry, Maggie has heard an animal outside (windows open in the spring temps) and is going around the house trying to scope out where it is.
Wednesday, April 13 (15 days): The BLAB (a faculty/graduate student reading group) met at our house tonight. Maggie and kittens stayed in the garage throughout, but afterwards I brought the kittens into the living room and one of the grad students who cared for them while I was away came over and handled the kittens in front of Maggie, without appearing to upset her. That suggests that it's time to have potential adopters come over to visit the kittens.
Thursday, April 14 (16 days): After the test visitor left Wednesday night, Maggie seemed more aggitated and began to drag one kitten out of the box that was still in the living room. I told her "No," and took the box out to the garage. Thursday morning when I went to check on the kittens, I found three of them staggering around the garage floor. I put them back in the box, and since someone had peed on the bedding, I picked the kittens up and changed the bedding, which made them all squeal. Thursday evening when I came home, Maggie had moved all the kittens to a different kittening box. So I suspect that the kittens didn't climb out of the box themselves, but ended up "loose" after Maggie dragged them out. And so I didn't bring them in from the garage Thursday evening.
Friday, April 15 (17 days): Tonight a potential adopter came over for the first time. I brought the kittens into the living room right before the adopter arrived and we spent 35 minutes or so with the kittens. With a complete stranger in the house, Maggie never showed her face, but after the adoptor left Maggie was calm, and after weighing the kittens, I put the box back in the garage. I did tape on more cardboard to make the entrance/exit higher, though, so that kittens wouldn't come out again for a couple of days. A short video from today.
Saturday and Sunday, April 16 & 17 (18-19 days): No kittens outside the box this weekend. Maggie tolerated housecleaning on Saturday, during which I moved some stuff out of the garage so that when the kittens are mobile and climbing they'll have less mischief to get into. And I checked out a video camera from the library to film the kittens. Unfortunately it doesn't have a quality adjustment so that I can make it use less bandwidth, but when I can learn how to edit them, I'll post links to some edited videos at the top of this page.
Monday and Tuesday, April 18 & 19 (20-21 days): No kittens out of the box, although several of them were sure trying to climb out on Sunday, Monday, and Tuedsday; but they'd get their front limbs out and then get stuck and distressed, and manage to pull themselves back in. Tomorrow night I think that I'll bring the kittens in and lift them out of the box to explore the living room for the first time. Somehow I suspect there's no going back from there. Maggie is now using the scratching post reliably.
Wednesday, April 20 (22 days): I've been saying this for days, but the kittens are way more mobile now, and although none has been out of the box except my favorite (whom I took out tonight as an experiment), I think it's going to be chaos a day or three from now.
A culinary aside: Back when Maggie was first beginning to come in from outside to eat in the kitchen, I tried offering her canned cat food and canned tuna. She turned her nose up at / left the house rather than eat either, but after I mixed each in with dry food, she began to eat both. Since she "went domesticated" three days after I captured her, however, she wants to eat whatever I'm eating. To date, she's had tiny amounts (to avoid stomach upset) of eggs, grits, bread, fake (veggie) sausage, baked potato, potato chips, cheese, pizza, etc., etc., including, tonight, curry tofu and rice (albeit not a very spicy version thereof).
Thursday and Friday, April 21 and 22 (23 & 24 days): Friday evening I took off the cardboard that made the entrance/exit higher and watched as tabby crawled out of the box for the first time. She was followed about five minutes later by grey and another ten minutes later by black. The farthest any got away from the box was when tabby spotted Maggie in the kitchen and fairly ran over to nurse while the others stayed at the box (which was good because tabby is the runt). Video from Friday.
Saturday, April 23 (25 days): The first potential adopter visited again this evening, along with a second potential adopter. Once again, when the higher barrier was removed from the entrance/exit to the kittening box, tabby was first out, followed by grey and black, but then, in the course of the evening, everybody made it out, and back in. At one point, after the adopters left, grey and black went over and nursed on Maggie as she lounged under the couch while tabby, orange, and half-n-half were falling asleep in the box.
Another culinary aside: In anticipation of the kittens beginning to play, I've bought toy mice, balls with rattles inside, and a "cat dancer." Maggie showed no interest at all in the cat dancer, which playful cats (read: cats raised by and kept into adulthood by humans) find irresistable. In the last couple of days, during a calm moment, I threw a toy mouse out in front of Maggie. Her reaction was not play: she pounced on it with none of the exaggerated body posture characteristic of play – she was all about killing it and eating it.
Sunday, April 24 (26 days): The kittens are now outside the box at all times, usually sleeping on the bottom shelf out in the garage that Maggie long ago chose as her place. I arranged the remaining boxes in the garage so that they form four intersecting "alleyways" in which kitten ambushes can occur. Video taped Maggie walking around the garage and nursing and kittens venturing into the kitchen.
Monday, April 25 (27 days): Tonight was another transition. Since the kittens are fully mobile now, I couldn’t bring their kittening box into the living room and observe. So instead, after I’d heard Maggie go out and nurse them, I took a chair out into the garage and watched the kittens play in the area they’re most familiar with. I’d planned to sit for 45 minutes or so then watch some TV and get ready for bed. But after a couple of hours, the kittens were following me (or at least my feet) around the house as much as they were following Maggie!
First, as I watched in the garage, they are now exploring big-time, play-fighting a bit (more than the clumsy pawing they had been doing before), a couple of them stalked my finger from across the garage, and a couple of times I saw one crouching as if preparing to pounce on another, although neither time was there a follow-through to the pounce itself. They’re also grooming more, including contorting themselves to reach more areas (including what a friend once called “playing the cello”). While I sat in the garage, every one of them came over to me more than once on its own and walked onto/smelled my bare feet and then licked them (which, if you’re familiar with my feet – not to mention my garage floor – you might question the wisdom of).
And they’re sort of exploring the water dish. Mostly they either stepped in it by accident or stumbled and planted their faces in it. But while nobody has actually drunk from it, they do go and put their faces over it and sniff, and, because they’re still unstable, they do then inadvertently plunge their noses into it. So I’m thinking that they’ll soon drink water and eat some solid food (which I would start leaving out for them in the garage, if Maggie wouldn’t eat it all). After playing for 30-45 minutes, they all sat down together as if ready to bed-down, but then black came across the floor to me, and all four of the others followed, piling up briefly around my foot as I petted them.
After another 45 minutes of play and exploring, they were piling up again in the sleeping quarters. So I tip-toed into the house and was going to offer Maggie some more food when all of a sudden, all five kittens came running in and began following me, running along after my feet. Maggie laid down to nurse, and some of them bellied up for that, but they would also follow my feet.
Now, another hour later, Maggie is nursing them all and I’m scheming about how to get the kittens into the garage, feed Maggie in peace separated from them, and then go to bed.
Tuesday and Wednesday, April 26 and 27 (28 & 29 days): Maggie continues to amaze me. She seemed averse to jumping onto the couch – I think because she had generalized from me saying "No!" to her jumping onto: kitchen counters, the coffee table, etc. (maybe the content of her understanding was "Don't go on horizontal surfaces above the floor"?). But these two days, I got her to jump up onto and rest on the couch with me for the first time. I did it by first showing her the usual food plate with some food on it, placing it on the couch and saying "Up!" while tapping my index finger on the couch. After she finally jumped up for that food, I tried pointing and saying "Up!" and, when she jumped up again, giving her a small treat. That worked several times, so I think I'll be able to add "Up!" to her repetoire of commands.
I also recorded a video ("Reggae and a Shop-Vac") in the garage as the kittens played around the Shop-Vac and finally fell asleep, while reggae music played on the radio in the kitchen (although you'll have to turn the volume way up to hear it). Afterwards, as I quietly left the garage, the kittens woke up and followed me, spilling out into the house and, among other things, some of them began climbing onto the scratching post, sometimes scratching it. I think that bodes well for their learning to use scratching posts rather than rugs for claw maintenance.
An auditory aside: I’ve learned that Maggie doesn’t like me to sing or play guitar. Way back when I was some ways along trying to accustom her to me, I sat at the screen door one night and started to play/sing a song to her while she was out on the deck and she ran away. Then after I incarcerated her, I remember her getting upset again when I tuned up the guitar and started to play, so I stopped. The other night, after she had already gone out to the garage on her own, I tuned up and played/sang songs for like an hour. I didn’t notice a problem that night, but she was already in the garage, which is where she would run to if she was put-off. Then tonight, after all the kittens except tabby had gone to sleep out in the garage, and tabby was wandering somewhere out in the kitchen, I tuned up and started to play (not even singing yet) and Maggie ran across the kitchen to the garage carrying tabby in her mouth. She did come back and ask to be petted a few minutes after I stopped, but something about the guitar and/or my singing is definitely disturbing to her. So after she came out of the garage and had a satisfiying scratch, I started to sing "Jesus on the Mainline" acapella (although that's a song that I sing pretty loud) and she again ran out to the garage. Oh well. So I have some work to do. (Including playing more, because, as you can infer from this story, I haven’t played much at all in the last four months!)
Thursday, April 28 (30 days): This morning when I let Maggie into the kitchen for her morning feeding, grey followed her out and as she ate, took several kibbles from the plate – the first solid food I've seen any of the kittens eat. Tonight at dinner time, both grey and tabby went to the plate and ate with her, and both seemed to be trying out drinking from the water bowl. After dinner, the first two potential adopters came over again and selected half-n-half and orange as their adoptees. A family is coming over tomorrow to select their adoptee. That will leave one kitten to adopt (I'm game to keep one, along with Maggie). Tonight I tried weighing the kittens again, but they are so mobile at this point that they either climb/jump out of the scale or they're jiggling it too much to read it accurately anyway. My only concern is with tabby, whose weight is so much lower than everybody else's, but it's always been,
Friday and Saturday, April 29 and 30 (31 and 32 days): The kittens are now running and jumping in a more coordinated way, and today several began play-fighting in more mature ways, including arching their backs and walking sideways in "threat" gestures.
Tabby and grey became the first to use the litterbox on Friday. Black became the third later on Friday. Saturday I saw all five kittens in the litterbox, although I didn't confirm that they each used it.
Currently, all the kittens tend to try to climb anything that resembles a tree trunk, like a table leg, or a human leg (which can hurt). So I bought a cat climber with three sorts of coverage on the posts: a bare cedar post, a post wrapped in rope, and one wrapped in carpet. No one has really gone up it yet, but I think that in another week they'll be climbing all over it.
An aside on saying "no" to cats: I believe it's useful to teach your cats three types of "no."
The first one, which I call the categorical "no" (students of philosophy will recognize a nod to Immanuel Kant in my labels for each of the three types of "no") must be taught first. I've done it by, when they do something that is strictly forbidden (e.g. jumping onto a kitchen counter), shouting "No!" and clapping my hands loudly once or twice.
In my experience, doing that just once may suffice to make the second, the hypothetical "no," work. For when you subsequently see them contemplating something forbidden, and you say, without shouting or clapping, but in a firm, low, and sort of menacing tone, "Nooooooo..." they will desist. (I know that for this to happen, the cat needn't learn to recognize the word "no" – "Schopenhauer..." pronounced in the same way in the same circumstances would probably do. And that's part of why I am skeptical about the third sense of "no.")
Having established the above two, I believe that the third sense, the assertoric "no," has a function – although I may be imagining this. I use this type of "no" when a cat seems to be thinking about something, which I could provide for it, but which I'm in fact not going to provide it with right now. So, for instance, if a cat begs for the food I'm eating, or is pining to be let outside, I will say "No, no," but in a soft, high-pitched, and reassuring voice. Sometimes when I do this, the cat stops "asking" for whatever it wants, but I can't prove that it would have kept "asking" if I hadn't used the assertoric "no."
Wednesday, May 4 (36 days): I hadn't weighed the kittens in about five days, but they all seem to have gained ~3 ounces. They are all now climbing the "cat gym" in the kitchen, as well as wrapped pipes in the garage. All of the kittens except orange are now eating some solid food, and I've seen tabby, especially, drinking water. A few others I've seen sort of working at drinking water. (Note to self [because I'll be adopting her]: Black first used the litterbox on 5/2.)
A funny thing is that orange, who still doesn't eat any dry food, nurses on Maggie while she is competing with the kittens for the dry food I put out, now on two full-sized dinner plates, so that she and the kittens can all get at it together. As she works at getting plenty of food amid the welter of kittens (while tabby lies in the middle of one plate to eat), Maggie doesn't tear away from orange on her nipple, and a couple of times I've seen Maggie dragging orange from one food plate to another attached to her.
Tonight the adopters of three of the kittens came over together and they're coming back Friday along with the fourth adopter. Grey and tabby are going to a family with an 11 year old daughter (who just adores tabby!), and half-n-half and orange are going to a pair of students who share an abode. So each of the kittens leaving the house will have a litter mate along, and black will stay here with me and Maggie. This is a great outcome, I think!
Thursday, May 5 (37 days): Grey is the best on the cat climber in the kitchen. She goes up and down freely and frequently. So do tabby, half-n-half, and black. Poor orange, however, hasn't yet learned to come down from the perch and instead cries until I help him down; or, just now, he jumped. (A couple of others jumped down later.) Tonight several tried to climb from the middle perch to the highest perch, but none summited. On Saturday (day 39) I shot a long (11 minute) video of the kittens climbing, orange using the litter box, etc.
The kittens still don't play with toy mice or rolling balls with bells inside, but they do show more interest in them, and yesterday for the first time I saw one "stalk" up to a ball that I had rolled and poise a paw to swat at it, but she only poised the paw and didn't actually swat.
Tonight I got orange to eat solid food for the first time! For several days, he has been the only kitten not eating solid food when I feed Maggie (they all also nurse copiously, but at least they're eating what solid food they can while she eats). Instead, orange either goes off and plays by himself, or (as described above) annoyingly nurses on Maggie while she tries to eat. Tonight, though, when he came near the food plates, I held him from the front, with his butt against my bare foot, and forcibly rubbed a kibble of food through his lips. While I did this, he began to chew (almost involuntarily). So then I put down tiny fragments of kibbles in front of him (while he was still resting his butt on my bare foot) and he chewed up several fragments of kibbles. Then, as the other kittens shifted around at their feeding positions, he moved forward and began to feed from the food plate for the first time. Yay!
Friday–Sunday, May 6-8 (38-40 days): The kittens’ eye color has begun to change, I think. Their deep-blue eyes seem to be getting lighter. (As I understand it, all kittens’ eyes are blue until upwards of 8 weeks. They’re coming up on 6 weeks since their births.)
Saturday night I got a kitten to play with a ball with a bell in it for the first time: "Grey discovers soccer."
With the kittens all eating solid food now (and therefore using the litter box), I've had to add a second litter box.
Sunday night a kitten climbed up onto the couch by itself for the first time. It happened when I was working with Maggie on the “Up!” command, by lying on the couch. Previously she’d only jumped up when I was sitting, and I was getting her used to jumping up next to me in a different position. Half-n-half came over and, while Maggie was on the couch, jumped high enough to get his/her front claws into the futon and then clambered up. She/he then hung out with me on the couch for a few minutes before trying to jump from my knee onto the coffee table (which was a fairly spectacular failure).
Monday-Saturday, May 9-14 (days 41-46): This week the kittens started running, jumping, and climbing remarkably better. Which is to say that they are becoming a real handful. I have had to move my guitar and my stereo speakers out of the living room as a result. They are frightfully cute as they chase each other around the living room, but they are a real handful now!
On Saturday I took the kittens to the vet for their first round of shots (at 6 weeks old). The vet declared them to be incredibly healthy, noting that if orange had been brought in by someone who didn't know his birth date, she would have estimated his age at 8 weeks (whereas he's only 6.5 weeks).
When we got home, Maggie was (understandably) a bit anxious and wary of me. A while after arriving, I thought that Maggie and all of the kittens were in the garage, and I was going to leave on a bike ride, so I closed the door to the garage. This seemed to upset Maggie a bit (usually I give her food when I put her in the garage). Then I discovered an errant kitten sleeping in the living room. When I went to put him (orange) into the garage, Maggie hissed a bit at me, and then, as I closed the door again, one of the kittens, Tabby, squealed as I apparently pinched her foot in the door. This set Maggie off in a way that I’ve never seen before, but I suspect was witnessed by the graduate students who looked in on her and the kittens when I was away after they were born: she hissed in an intense way, while spreading her front legs out as if poised to pounce on me. As Maggie did this, Tabby (whose foot had been pinched) stood in the door looking at Maggie and arching her back, although I couldn’t tell if Tabby’s threat-gesture was play or real. Noting that Tabby was moving normally, I pushed Tabby into the garage, as Maggie hissed even more menacingly, and I closed the door. After my bike ride, I verified that Tabby was uninjured (I was pretty sure of that before I left, for what it’s worth).
I also learned that my initial sex guesses were correct except for half-n-half, who is female (not male as I initially guessed) – meaning that the only male in this tribe is orange.
Sunday May 15-Saturday May 21 (45-52 days): The kittens continued to grow and get stronger at running, jumping and climbing.
Friday night, the first adopters came over and took grey (whom they've named Capitu) and tabby (Dorothy) home. Before they left, I called Maggie and the kittens together for a meal together one last time. It was sad to see Capitu and Dorothy go, but as far as I could tell, neither Maggie nor any of the remaining three kittens noticed that two sisters were missing. That seems normal insofar as they're used to having less than the whole contingent around at any given time, and they'd need to engage in some kind of abstract thought to think: "Hey, I haven't seen Capitu since dinner time. Where'd she go?"
A couple of cute things: (1) The night before the adopters came to take her and Capitu away, Dorothy (tabby) climbed into my lap as I watched the Tour of California on television, and fell asleep. Wanting to savor this moment, I sat stock still for maybe 40 minutes. But then I got up and moved around the house for another 30 minutes with her still sleeping in my arms. (2) Then, right after the adopters left with Dorothy and Capitu, orange came over as I sat on the couch, laid his head on my foot, and dozed off. He'd never done that before. So maybe orange knew his sisters were gone?
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