Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Monday, August 22, 2011

C: Kitty Wars

Fifteen or so years ago my husband and I ran a boarding stable for horses.  This was to defray the expense of our horse habit—not sure it defrayed any costs, really, but it did provide us with lots of horse-nut friends.  We had “real jobs,” so our stable was a you-care-for-your-own-horse facility.  This meant that most everyone was out there every day; that, of course, meant that we all became fast friends.

This picture ibarnhallway3s similar to our barn.  It was specifically a horse barn with 28 stalls.  It was old but serviceable and time-tested.  I loved walking through, seeing our contented equines with their heads poked over their stall doors.

Part of our barn family was the cat population.  Through the middle of the barn was a raised (not quite a “loft”) concrete-floor where hay was stored.  From this section we could throw hay down into the hay racks of two rows of stalls.  This huge hay expanse made a great kitty heaven, and we sure did not mind the fact that the mouse population was kept down by their presence.  These cats just “materialized.”  They also just disappeared from time-to-time, and we knew that the coyotes that would lurk about the place at night were a constant dangecat-being-friendly-with-horsesr to them.

The cats were friends to our horses, and I have seen many a scene of affection between the species, similar to this.  

V and her family were out at the barn a lot—V’s oldest had a mare with us.  She and I (mostly V) would occasionally take some of the females in to be spayed.  It seemed a never-ending battle and, truly, it began to seem like the kiss of death.  It became a running joke that those we selected for the operation were either soon run over by some car or just disappeared like so many before them.  Neutering the males seemed like a lost cause, too—there was always another tomcat down the road to impregnate our cats.  So, we soon gave the population control thing up.

Two cats who stand out in my memory were sisters, tortoise-shell cats like this picture, here.  We called them “Daphne” and “Camou,” which was  a tortoise shell cat reference to her camouflage-like pattern. They were difficult to tell apart, and were almost always seen together.  I suppose that it should have been no surprise that they turned up pregnant at the same time.

Daphne was the first to have her kittens.  We knew about the litter in the hay.  On the day they were born, I spied Daphne moving her four kittens, one-by-one down the hallway.  I know that mother cats do this frequently, seeking a safe place, so I did not think much about it until I spotted her less than half an hour later going back the opposite direction with a kitten in her mouth.  I began to pay attention.

What I noticed was that when Daphne was moving away from the originalcat carrying kitten 1 site of the litter, she seemed noticeably bigger than when she was going back toward it….it dawned on me: Still pregnant, Camou was moving her sister’s kittens.  And Daphne was bringing them right back.

All afternoon these sisters moved kittens, and I did not know quite what to do but watch the drama play out.  I did find where Camou was taking them, and I would check periodically.  Sometimes there would be a kitten or two llitter of kittensying there.  Sometimes there would be none.  Daphne would take spells when she nursed what kittens were in her nest.

Finally, later than night Camou had her own litter in her own bed.  You might think that having her own four kittens would satisfy this mothering urge, but no—she seemed to have grown to love the first litter, too.    The moving started up again.

We at the barn were all aware of it and somewhat stressed out about it.  Finally everything settled down.  All eight kittens ended up in a big pile in the hay together.  Both sister-mamas were right in there with them, lying giant litter of kittens there nursing them all, showing them off happily when we would come to check on them.

As these kittens grew, we never really knew who belonged to whom.  I wonder if these mother/aunt cats knew?  I wonder if it mattered at all? I think not. 

I miss my barn days.  C


TexWisGirl said...

sister-wives of the kitty cat world! :)

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

I miss so many things about that old barn. The old wood, the smell of hay and manure and the kitties! I'll have to write about the "twins" Twister and Jinx who we brought home from the barn. They were really great tomcats!
Cowgirl V

Vickie said...

Awww, I love kitty stories! I miss my kitties... Our mama cat would move her kittens all the time. Into the closet, into an open dresser drawer, under the couch. We never knew where they were going to end up. We would find them and put them back in the box we fixed for her, but she kept moving them until they were up walking about on their own. So sweet!

Karen said...

Adorable post, I would have been so stressed out hoping for the best!...

ain't for city gals said...

It takes a village..I wish people would have that instinct!

Gail Dixon (Louisiana Belle) said...

LOL @ TexWisGirl!

What a cute story. Put a smile on my face this hot afternoon. :)

kath001 said...

I can attest to the theory that making the effort and expense to spay a barn cat always seems to lead to their rapid departure...one way or another. :)

Vee said...

What an interesting feline tale. I have heard of human sisters who "shared" children or were like second mothers to their nephews or nieces. Just fascinating. And I can almost imagine the old horse barn. You don't do that anymore?

KathyB. said...

TexWisGirl said it best, "sister-wives of the kitty cat world" ! I love this post and it made me smile and laugh. I can see why you miss those times.

Debi@7Gates said...

Cute story. That would have made me crazy with worry. I'm glad it all worked out.

Linda Lou Rogers Averitt said...

I miss your barn too:(((

Eggs In My Pocket said...

Just love this story. How interesting about the stable. I think that would be so much fun.......a lot of work.....but worth it! blessings,Kathleen

panamamama said...

Beautiful! We have been looking at farms lately and I am having dreams about having a barn!

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