Two little kittens on the patio
Eight weeks ago, Barry and I watched three half-grown cats roaming under houses and on the streets and backyards of this upscale neighborhood in lush upper Manoa valley above the University of Hawaii. Barry’s brother Peter lives with us and his 100-year-old mother Lily in this redwood house built six decades ago.
Peter thought I shouldn’t feed the cats. But their bony frames loosely covered by skin cried out to me for food. So I left tasty scraps for one of the three, a beauty with white paws, light brown, tortoise shell markings, and a sweet disposition unless I came too close. Little did I know I was feeding a female with a family.
Before the cats arrived, I’d hung a bird feeder in a Drasino Tree, changing the ecology of the down-sloping backyard overflowing with strawberry guava, tangerine and banana trees, ferns, and the anthurium plants my mom called little boy flowers. Dozens of rice birds, cardinals, a few wild parrots and some black-headed birds I didn’t recognize swamped the feeder, fighting for rice or black sunflower seeds, entertaining Lily, who sits on her long couch watching through a bank of picture windows. A thick branch grows parallel to the ground beneath the bird feeder, forms a perfect hiding place for a cat to lay in wait until an unsuspecting dove pecking for spilled seeds on the grass becomes complacent. Since the birds caw raucously whenever a cat’s around, this hasn’t happened. Yet.
Unknown to us, Mama Cat hid behind Peter’s spidery, torn cardboard boxes occupying the left side of the covered patio, alongside a spare wheelchair for Lily. Barry’s and my plastic boxes with clip-on lids, and a metal trunk stacked flush against the wall, occupy the right side. Unlike our boxes, Peter’s leave a bit of space between boxes and wall. I had no idea there was a kitten-sized sliver of an opening to the outside.
It amazes me what small spaces a little cat can fit into. I never saw the petite beauty when she looked even the least bit pregnant. Barely past the kitten stage herself, this Lolita kept her babies hidden behind Peter’s boxes until they were two weeks old and they started scrambling around, exploring, falling off boxes, peeking out from under the wheelchair.
The first time I knew about the little creatures was when I carried a bucket of towels and T-shirts to hang on the rope clothesline spanning the length of the patio. The sound of rustling plastic made me look down. Wedged between the spare wheelchair and the chair covered in plastic, three tiny kittens, one yellow, two white, suckled Mama Cat, who looked at me with baleful eyes as they kneaded their tiny toes on her underbelly.
I started feeding Mama more; cans of tuna, leftover bone-broth chicken after I picked out the bones. At first I tried to keep the cat family hidden from dog lover Peter. I was worried he’d want to take the little ones to the Humane Society, where 99 percent of feral cats are euthanized. Humane killing, they call it. What I’ve read about some of these killings makes me shudder. If kittens pass the Humane Society’s health and socialization standards, however, the animals are kept in cages until they’re adopted. But socialization, at least by me, was out of the question for these kittens. Mama Kitty was not about to let me anywhere near her children.
I tried to find homes for this cat family before Barry’s two sisters flew to Oahu in mid-July in case they looked at me askance for feeding the stray cat family in the backyard. Barry told me not to worry, so I didn’t, and visualized everything working out for the best. I thought about how precarious life can be for a little homeless cat with kittens.
Luckily Mama Kitty found us. Luckily Barry and I were privileged to watch the kittens grow and play, climb trees, chase leaves and lizards and Mama Cat’s tail. We watched them from the picture windows as they leaped and raced and pounced on each other through the lush, overgrown yard. How great to live in a house rather than a high rise, with birds flocking to the bird feeder and kittens looking longingly upward, wishing they could fly.
I snapped pictures of the kittens and advertised them on Craigslist. I was emailing a guy named Allen who claimed he wanted the kittens as a companion to his rescue kitten, even though I told him the kittens were wild. Then a cat lady from a Facebook forum clued me in that some people take free kittens on Craigslist and use them for dog or fish bait. I shuddered and removed my ad.
TO BE CONTINUED ON WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 9th