We watched her…day after day…
Our love affair started last year…it’s a long story…
When we moved from North Caroina into this 100 year old Indiana farmhouse in May 2013, there was a wild Tiger loose on the homestead.
“Mom! Mom! I just saw a Tiger!” exclaimed one of the children.
And so…her name came to be “Tiger”.
We have watched her, this tiger called Tiger, day after day…and we love her.
Tiger is a beautiful wild Calico cat. In the beginning, we could only watch her as she would not have anything to do with people. She stood off in the distance anytime we stepped outside. However, my husband was determined to win her affection and make her love us.
Day after day, my husband left her some food on the front porch. In the beginning she would only eat when he left, but eventually she ate while he watched from a distance. Each day he would move in a little closer while she ate. Soon he was able to sit in a lawn chair on the porch by her food bowl while she ate. One day, she actually let him touch her head before darting away. Day after day he worked at taming her. Finally she let him pet her and the wall of distrust was broken. She knew she could trust him.
But what about the rest of the family? Would she trust anyone else? She is a people watcher. Oh yeah, as much as we watch her, she is also watching us, calculating, learning our behaviors. She knows each one of us and knows we are each different.
The next family member to get close to her was our oldest son. He would sit close by on the ground while she ate in the afternoon. Eventually he sat close enough to touch her and eventually pull her onto his lap and pet her. She relaxed. Within a few more days, he was able to pick her up. It took many weeks for her to trust the rest of the kids, but eventually she did. Now she is our outdoor lap kitty. She is always on someone’s lap enjoying being petted.
While we were still getting to know her last summer, and she was still at least 80% wild, one day she appeared with a kitten from under our porch. She introduced us and wanted us to get to know her kitten too. She studied us. She wanted her kitten to study us too. She let us hold the kitten and pet her, and you could see she was a bit aprehensive at first. But eventually she seemed to relax and not worry about the kitten when it was with us. At first we called her the Kitten From Down Under, but eventually the kids named her Caesar. Obviously Tiger was a good mom, and was taking good care of this beautiful kitten. We had about six weeks of wonderful times of cuddling and play with the kitten. One very silly event was the Kitten and the Toad. But then one day, Caesar did not re-appear. Sadly the children found the kitten out in the field. Some animal had killed it in the night. They were heart broken and cried and cried. Tiger cried too. She meowed a lot, calling for the kitten, but she knew it would not come. She was mourning the loss of her baby kitten.
She seemed to want to cuddle even more after her kitten died. The kids became very attached to her and she was attached to the children. The life, and the loss, of the kitten drew everyone closer together. Tiger eventually lost all hesitations with our family during the fall, and loves to cuddle and snuggle now. She snuggled a lot this winter and you wouldn’t even know it was the same cat. There is not a day that goes by that the family doesn’t snuggle her, even in the bad weather, the fall and spring rains, and cold snowy winter days. Everyday they spend time with her, and everyday she waits at the door for us to come outside. It is a special bond.
Tiger grew bigger all winter. I heard lots of exclamations from the kids: “Mom, Tiger is getting fat”…”Mom, I think Tiger is eating too much”…”Mom, what’s wrong with Tiger”…
I had seen a strange cat hang around the back edge of the yard for a couple of days in January. One evening we heard what sounded like a cat fight, and the kids said they saw Tiger fighting with another cat in a tree. I had a feeling that Tiger’s visitor meant she was in heat and sending out a female scent that had brought a strange male cat to the farm.
As she grew bigger, she got a little slower. She stayed closer to the house more, though she still wandered a little. She seemed to want more petting, though she was more reluctant to let the youngest child near her. She seemed to know which kids would be careful, and which ones would be less careful with her growing body.
She was definitely pregnant. And as the weeks and months passed, she seamed to the be the roundest pregnant cat I have ever seen. Finally we told the kids that “it won’t be long till she has kittens” and to “be very careful when picking her up and with her belly”.
Oh they were so excited! For the past month we have checked her daily to see if she had the kittens yet. “Nope, not yet!” They exclaimed every morning when she greeted them as they darted out the door to do chores and play before breakfast.
The last week or so of her pregnancy, I could tell she was miserable. Her belly was very round and wide. She weighed double her normal weight. She was sluggish, and seemed to just want to nap most of the time.
Then one day, she did not greet me at the door. She didn’t join the kids in play in the yard. Where could she be? I knew this was it. Her pattern had changed and only one thing could do it, a new priority. Without telling the kids, I kept an eye out for her. She re-appeared the next day. I watched her from a distance to see where she traveled. She was so careful that day not to give away her destination. The next day my husband and I were inside the house and talking near the window, and then we saw her go into a tree. Could this be where her new family was located?
My husband quietly darted out of the house to see if she was inside of the tree or what. Sure enough, there was a hole in the side of the tree, and inside that hole was a cave, a very small tree cave. She was crammed inside this hole with kittens. He could not see exactly how many, but he saw a few arms and legs of little bodies and confirmed she had given birth to several kittens inside this tree.
We waited nearly a week before telling the kids. It came about just like the original conversations. “Mom, have you noticed how skinny Tiger is?”…”Mom, Tiger is acting different”…”Mom, why does Tiger not want me to hold her?”…Then finally, one of the children exclaimed “Mom, Tiger must have had her kittens, she seems different and smaller.” So we told them that yes she had her kittens, but we must not try to find them or touch them yet because she has hidden them.
A week later, one of the kids was looking out the bathroom window and realized Tiger was sitting near the old unused window well of the basement. I went outside to see what was going on and sure enough, she had moved two of the kittens.
I went to the tree to find three more kittens still inside her tree cave. She was apparently in the process of moving them.
I tried to watch the rest of the day from the window, but I never saw her move any kittens. Later that evening, after my husband had returned from work, he stayed with the younger two children while I took the older four children to their 4H Rabbit Club meeting. The younger two had fallen asleep for a late nap, so we had to split up and one of us stay home with them. When they woke up from their nap, they went outside and checked on Tiger and she had moved all five kittens to the window well. It had taken her all day to accomplish this task. My husband thought she did it because the kittens might get to big and heavy for her to carry out of the hole if she waited much longer.
We were now very concerned that the kittens were on ground level, and there was no shelter above them in the window well if it rained. Rain storms were on the horizon and so was night fall. So we picked up Tiger, and put the kittens into a tote and carried her and the kittens into a small shed. We gave her food and water and closed them in for the night just as the storms hit. About an hour later, my husband checked on her and she was inside the tote with the kittens nursing them.
It rained heavy, with lots of lightening and thunder all night. My husband went out to let her out first thing in the morning intending to leave the door open the rest of the day. But instead he found that she had already let herself out somehow in the night and she greeted him at the door as usual. We don’t know how she got out, or if she can get back in on her own. So my husband propped open the door just slightly for her to come and go easily on her own. We are all still wondering how she managed to get out in the night.
We are excited and a little anxious about the kittens. We were so heart broken last year when we lost our beautiful kitten. We didn’t think we could get through one more loss in our life. The kids had gotten very attached and they cried for days after her death. We don’t want to loose these kittens too. We just have to trust that between God and Tiger, the kittens will be cared for and will be alright.
It is wrong to worry. We need to trust God to take care of them.
“Look at the birds in the sky!
They don’t plant or harvest.
They don’t even store grain in barns.
Yet your Father in heaven takes care of them…” Matthew 6:26
We are so excited and can’t wait for the kittens to get a little bigger so we can start holding and playing with them. We are waiting on Tiger to let us know it is time. She has her own way of letting us into her life and her heart. She will share the kittens when she is ready.
Everyone is holding their breath and watching from a distance…waiting…watching…day after day…it is a long story…a love affair…we love Tiger…and we know she loves us too.
This post will be linked with Raising Homemakers, Sharing Time, and Adventures in Mindful Living.
Melinda, you should publish this story and others in a book or magazine. You have a real talent for this and others should be able to enjoy your stories.