When we lived in South Carolina, I heard strange noises coming through a heat vent. I told my husband, Rick, it sounded like kittens, and he said it was birds. I kept hearing it for several days, and I was positive it sounded like kittens. (I grew up in a house which hosted several litters.)
After a couple of weeks or so, a stray black cat we called “Peanut” strolled through our yard with four kittens clumped around her as close as they could get. They must’ve been on their first family outing.
“I told you I heard kittens,” I had to say.
“You were right, Dale. They must’ve been living under our house and she finally decided to take them outside.”
“What are we going to do? We can’t let those kittens grow up wild–there’s no telling what would happen.”
Over the course of the next few days, we saw the cat family more often: Wrestling with our outdoor plants and each other, staring at us with wide eyes and rounded mouths, as if we were monsters. Feeling more comfortable with their environment, they eventually played on the brick landing next to our kitchen, and we started feeding them, hoping to gain their trust.
Watching them just outside our sliding glass door one day, I opened it a little and snatched one of the three black and white kittens. It didn’t seem to mind, and I held it close. By the end of the day I’d brought in all four kittens, and the only one I had trouble with was a cute tiger gray. He must’ve been the most frightened, for he spit in a way I’d never seen a kitten do before.
We decided to place them all in a large box to keep them out of mischief, but the tiger squirmed in my hand, scaring the others so much that they sprang out. We managed to round up all but the largest black and white. We searched the whole house for her, but she seemed to be nowhere.
In the meantime, we fed the others and played with them, realizing more and more how different they were from the ones we were used to. Being with people isn’t a natural instinct for them. When they’re born in a house and picked up and handled from an early age, they’re tame, but these kittens were wild. Even their play was different from all the others I’d dealt with. They went behind books we had on shelves and knocked them over, fought with each other, and got into almost everything. Never before had I seen such behavior from kittens.
Two days after I brought the kittens inside, Rick just happened to glimpse the missing one as she climbed over a baseboard and hid under the bathroom sink! No wonder we couldn’t find her. We got her out to join the others.
We continued to work with the kittens and they became more tame–even the tiger gray. When they were a couple of months old we took the largest and smallest to our local shelter, but we kept the gray-striped, Tiger, and the spunky black and white, Mickey (she resembled Mickey Mouse). They were pretty good pals, and they enjoyed life together.
While they were still kitten size, I was outside with them one day when Mickey decided to climb our neighbor’s little tree next to their house. Tiger stood at the bottom, begging her to come down, but she kept going, all the way to the roof. I watched in amazement as she walked around on top of their house for awhile. Finding nothing of interest, she climbed back down, much to Tiger’s relief (and mine). Climbing trees to get onto houses became a habit with her, and we found her on the roof a couple of times after we moved to the country. We think something might have chased her, so she cleverly found a safe place. Rick held up a chair for her to use as an elevator to get down, but she decided to bounce from it to the porch. It was a hard landing, but she was fine.
We’ve had many cats through the years, but we’ll always remember Mickey, with her spirited ways and friendly disposition.