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  • Writer's pictureGary Gruber

And Then Along Comes Mary (Part Two)

Mojo was happy to return home to her mom and her brothers and sisters. There was a lot these kittens had to learn about. We helped the best we could.

Phyllis worked about 30 minutes away from home. One day I was watching the kittens from work on the security camera feed -- I observed as all of the kittens went into the bathroom, dutifully closing the door behind them. In a panic, I phoned my wife and insisted she trek home to open the door for them. She found all five kittens fast asleep in the bathroom on a rug.

For the first six weeks of their lives, they wouldn’t leave that bedroom. It’s as if there was an invisible wall erected at the door jamb. They would walk up to it, but not cross it. At this point we wanted them to start exploring the rest of the house, just so we could give the bedroom a good cleaning. A small dish of tuna strategically placed in the hallway was all that was needed.

Once they started to sniff out the rest of the house, there was no stopping them. They were a bit young to understand the nature of objects, and when we replaced the mattress in the room it was intended for, they all attempted to climb the wall as if it was the mattress. They soon learned about gravity, though.

Mary was an exceptionally good mother. In the wild, most kittens are weaned at 6-8 weeks. Mary nursed her brood for a full eight months!

If you have one cat in the house, you may be able to teach it to stay off of tables and furniture, but six cats is a different ball game – one you can’t win, ever. So we covered the couches with sheets, which were dutifully changed every day.

They found the couches to be well suited to their after breakfast naps, mid-morning snooze time, and pre-lunch rest. Even as they grew up, they did everything as a family. Occasionally, they would use one another as a pillow, but exploration was always a group effort..

They stuck together, no matter where one was, the others were not far behind. This gave Mary a breather now and then. But sooner or later, they found there way back to momma .

Before this litter was born, Phyllis and I decided we would keep them all. We missed Mary’s first bunch so much we couldn’t part with these, no matter what the work load turned out to be.

The local PetSmart gave us a group rate discount, so we trucked all of them over on a slow Saturday afternoon to be neutered. It took three trips to get them there, and three trips to get them back. They all had collars on them, but we immediately saw that this wouldn’t do. That many cats going crazy at the same time would have driven us to drink, so one by one, I removed their collars.

The boys didn’t even notice that any body part was missing (from the surgery). They continued to romp through the house without a care in the world, just happy to be free from the e-collars.

It was about this time that two strangers appeared at the door, having heard all the partying happening at our house day and night.

Spartacus and Charlie Chaplin were tame from the get go, but bore no collars or signs they had been altered. Spartacus was an outdoor kitten for sure, but Charlie said he was willing to learn how to get along inside. They were aged appropriately for our kittens, and once acclimated to one another, they were more or less accepted as part of the gang.

Charlie never got the hang of using the litter box, but was very diligent about standing near the door when he needed to go outside. He turned out to be the friendliest, most loving cat we had ever seen. He was also the only cat that wouldn’t high tail it out of the living room when friends arrived, yearning for as much affection as could be meted out to him.

He did have an unusual way of sleeping though.

Although Charlie wasn’t the only gravity defying kitten in the family.

The bedroom wasn’t off limits. Each cat would take their turn congregating on the bed, generally in an effort of keeping me company. Outside became a different sort of play zone, with all sorts of things to do.

Macho, following in his father’s footsteps, becoming the alpha kitty of the house. Here he is dreaming about the fish he caught earlier in the day (it really was that big).

Although if things got too hectic for him, he had a secret hiding place he could sneak off to.

When they were old enough, we opened the kitchen door and let them roam, albeit supervised by Lyle. Anyone left inside had to view the party from a window.

Having this many cats around, they knew they had to pull their weight. Here they are getting ready for the morning chores.

Outside, however, Mucho took responsibility for protecting his ladies.

Phyllis was quite diligent in helping them navigate the complexities of life inside the big house. Here, she teaches them about pasta.

Being an avid skydiver, I thought it was time to teach them a trade, so I instructed them in the fine art of parachute packing.

After kittens have been weaned, the mother pushes them out of the nest for good. Once Mary stopped nursing after eight months, she tried to do the same. Her attitude turned decidedly hostile towards them. She couldn’t figure out why they wouldn’t just go away. At meal time, she would wait until everyone else had eaten before approaching the plate.

Taking her to the vet was quite a chore, and after her last visit, she returned to being slightly feral for about 5 months. Then, she relaxed. She even tolerated the presence of her kittens and would join in for the nightly chase-the-laser-light game.

Eventually she became so friendly that she began sleeping with me at night and shooing away any interlopers who tried to stake out part of the bed for themselves. Today, my office is her domain. She sits behind my chair, nuzzles my feet, and purrs deeply when I give her attention. She’s first in line for left over poached egg, and I’m the only one in the family permitted to rub her belly.

She is noticeably absent from this family photo, for obvious reasons.

But she does tolerate the presence of the rest of the clan on the couch, sometimes.

It is customary in our house that the kittens pair off at nap time, to provide support for anyone that may have had a rough night chasing bugs or shadows outside.

Sometimes, they had a lot to do, helping out in ways only kittens can.

At one point we had around 14 cats, inside and outside. We would wake up in the morning and see this:

As our indoor kittens started to develop distinct personalities (around 10-12 months), they began to resent the presence of the outdoor cats, so the arduous task of relocation began – which took about 3 months. Once things quieted down, and Mary and her kittens could roam outside as they please, the cats began to grow into a menagerie of colorful characters.

Frisky, who garnered his name from his hyperactive status as a newborn, matured into the closest a cat can get to being a Zen Master. He is a quiet cat, weighing and pondering his next move carefully. He spends most of the day inverted, meditating on something totally inscrutable to us pathetic humans.

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