|Mum spots my approach and guards her children.|
|Peekaboo! Lilli prior to her troubles|
Our new family members started life in the stables. We first saw them and photographed them in early August, but they must have been at least six weeks old, when we saw them step outside to eat the food we’d left for their mum. We continued to feed and water her and the two little bundles until things came to a turn. On the last day of the month, I noticed a veritable rabbit morgue on the stable yard. Shortly after, the dam seemed to begin to distance herself from her kindle. Was she leaving them with a full larder? In her absence, a fortnight later, we first noticed that one of the kittens had developed an eye infection. This prompted us to make contact with a Cats Protection rep on the island to arrange the use of a trap. Until it arrived, we gradually moved their food saucer closer and closer to the house until they were happy to come indoors, until we showed up, at which point they would leg it back to their stable roost. The eye was getting worse but our attempt to capture the patient in a zip-up carrier failed. Finally, the trap arrived and within minutes, Lilli was caught. We drove her up the road to the shelter and we left her in the good hands of Janet (the rep). I returned to the stable to reset the trap for Salvo. He ran off as I approached but had begun to slope back as I left it behind. I’d barely got half way home before I heard it snap shut. I will hesitate in calling him stupid. He could just have wanted to be reunited with Lilli. Janet took them both into town the following morning. That would be it as far as our involvement with them went for a while. Lilli, following her operations, was kept in Kirkwall and though Salvo came back to Sanday, he stayed at a pen at Janet’s while he got over a mild eye infection of his own.
|Andy's cue for action!|
During their time at either the shelter or in town at the clinic and foster home, we noticed the reason that the dam had walked out on them. She was in the family way again, but the days were getting short and the temperature was dropping off. The mission then was to trap her as quickly as possible. But one morning I found a dead kitten lying at the gate. It was already too late. Within days, she’d had the rest of her young in the shed. When I saw her going out hunting, looking slimmer, I had a look around and found four little bodies. Kelly calls kittens born late in the season “hearseys”, as they rarely survive. It was too late for her babies, but I was still determined to get her spayed. I don’t ever want to have to bury kittens again. The only view of the path up to the road is from the ‘goat rooms’, so it was by pure chance that I had seen her as she made her way back. Optimistically, I set the trap up on one of her popular routes. She’s no fool. She could smell the food I’d left as bait, but she tried everything short of telekinesis to get to the food without walking into the trap. In the end, though she had no choice. I quickly drove her around to Janet’s, but on her way to the vet, she escaped. After a few days, she made it back here and I continue to put food out for her until a trap is available. (I don’t have to leave water because half the garden is flooded!)
|An early publicity shot of Salvo. What a poser.|
Salvo came home first. For a feral cat, he is as soppy as anything and purrs at the drop of a hat. He loves being picked up and has a penchant for leaping vast distances to land on shoulders. In fact, he’s so clingy, it was impossible to leave him locked up alone at night. We took it in turns trying to sleep sitting in a Poang with him in his room. Hence my total surprise when, while letting him witness the great outdoors, he suddenly reverted to wild and ran away. Gail wouldn’t speak to me until I managed to coax him back. It was impossible and required the trap again. However, once indoors he was completely tame once again. Fortunately, Lilli came home soon after. Now it’s her job to keep him under control.
|Lilli coming to terms with her new, hopefully safer, environment.|
An impossible job. We felt so sorry for her, with her one eye, her spaying bald patch, her clipped ear and her weird short tail. (Gail and I disagree on whether it’s short or whether her brother’s is just freakishly long, or perhaps both). But she is quickly adapting to her disability and gives every bit as good as she gets. She hates being picked up though and is more shy. We suspect that she was fostered in a home with dogs, because she wags her tail like one when she’s happy or interested.
They still overnight in one of the goat rooms together. I’ve taken nearly all the plant pots off the window sill to stop them knocking them onto the floor. They make better use of my telescope than me, by using it as a bridge between a chair and the top of the stereo cabinet. Recently though, we’ve started to let them have the run of the rest of the house during the day. Of course, Smokey isn’t too happy about it. She’s been quite well restrained, resorting to hisses and spits rather than boxing them around the ears, despite the provocation. She seems to have a perpetual growl going on, even when she’s asleep. It could be a survival tactic. Gail has started to refer to Salvo and Lilli as velociraptors for the way that they spend a lot of time outflanking and stalking her.
|Argh! Keep still for goodness sake!|
Now we are finding out how distinctly not kitten-proof the house is. There’s rarely a moment when voices are not being raised, when one of us isn’t leaping across the floor in the hope of catching whatever it is they’ve knocked over (this time) or rushing to get the dustpan and brush to sweep up whatever it was we didn’t reach in time. They are fascinated by everything and we have too much stuff. We ‘presently’ have too much stuff I should say, as I can express with certitude that we’re sure to have considerably less soon. They tend to get ‘the rips’ at eleven o’clock at night, when all bets are off. They run behind the television, so that’s living on borrowed time. They walk all over the keyboards of the laptops, especially when my ‘Felix’ screen-saver pops up. And it goes without saying that any fabric item, whether it’s a sofa, a laptop case, a denimed leg or the clothes on the clothes horse, makes a jolly good scratching post. The clothes horse also doubles as a tree, as they climb to the top of it, displacing clean clothes onto the floor as they do so with gay abandon.
|Who knows what the future holds. It's a big world out there.|
There is some debate at home as to when and if they will be allowed out. I am of the thought that they were born wild animals, whereas Gail insists that they are domesticated, if a cat can ever be said to be. I’ve provisionally got Gail’s permission that I can let them go in April. When it comes to birthday presents I am very easily pleased. However, I can see the bond becoming even more established by then. It is fully understandable that one could be protective of Lilli, given her rough start in life, but surely the choice is her own. She sought us out once when she was in need. Wouldn’t it be nicer if she was here because she wanted to be rather than under duress? Well, not duress exactly. It’s not as if she’s scratching her way out through the door. I’m sure her reign of terror indoors has plenty more miles and mounds of broken glass ahead of it.
|The incumbent. Smokey surveys her estate, in calmer days.|
In other news, guess who is the secretary of the newly formed Sanday Bowling Club? Well, I get my insurance from Saga these days so I suppose I’d have to learn how to play it sooner or later. The really annoying thing is that I seem to be quite good at it. There’s none more shocked than I.