The birth of Catmint Cottage began in 2004 after coming home from a night out with a friend.
Four kittens scampered across the dark road in front of our car as we turned into our street.
That was the beginning but of course we did not know it then.
Our story began to write itself. Those four kittens eventually became ours after the neighbors stopped feeding them. Nobody owned them. There were three females and a male. Celia, Missie, Mia and Cod. Missie died last year and Cod the year before that. Mia and Celia are still with us, both fifteen this year.
At the height of the problem there were thirty cats and kittens colonising the yards of nearby houses and the street. Not an auspicious beginning at all.
The four kittens gravitated to neighbors who were home all day. For some months the situation seemed to stabilise but it could not last. They were not fully visible while being fed by them until in his wisdom, the patriarch decreed that his wife had to stop.
Our lives were busy with full time work and my elderly parents needs on weekends, that being circus enough. I really did not want this on my radar. Now they were half grown and starving and their breeding capacity was soon to be an issue. The females were over represented at three to one.
Conversations with our granny flat neighbor advised that a rental house behind them was the origin when the residents left a mother cat and four kittens behind after moving out.
The mother cat took her family to Jungle Jim's yard, an elderly recluse whose premises were filled with trees and bushes. He felt sorry for them and threw them some food.
'But you couldn't catch them' he later told us
I had a soft spot for Missie who used to follow me about the garden. When she ate a bowl of cooked lentils it became obvious she was not getting food anywhere else so I began to feed all of them with designs to somehow catch and desex them.
That was when another four cats turned up. So now there were eight and I heard a voice in my own head that had a tinge of terror in it.
There is no learning curve in rescue, rather it is a steep incline. They could not be caught, we knew nothing of traps. We didn’t have much money, finances being quite constrained. We were working from behind right at the start.
Ignorance, they say, is always bliss. We began to ‘educate’ the kittens to come in to the house while I cooked aromatic food that would make them drool .
We booked two of them in to surgery for desexing. Arriving home on the designated day we proceeded to rehearse our usual routine, two or more entered the house but proved to be uncatchable. One disappeared into John’s library, a room with wall to wall bookshelves and vanished. The other became invisible.
Our son Andrew took his magnifying glass and began to put it behind the books to reveal anyone breathing on it. I think I laughed with a trace of hysteria. The hidden cat made a run for it before he could prove his theory and charged up the hallway into the lounge room whereupon she ran straight up a book case to land on top. John began to hyperventilate at the idea of his books being damaged and we began to think opening the front door a better idea.
We discussed theories on how to go from there. Actually we didn’t really have any. In the absence of any sound ideas to work on we fell back on the ‘try the carrier’ idea. John stood on a chair and opened the lid, put the carrier on its side and proceeded to cat whisper her in to it to our shocked disbelief. Obviously a man of hidden talents!
I found the other cat hiding in a box at the end of the hallway. When she bolted we let her out. Sometimes you need to quit when you are ahead.
The first cat was Missie, the escapee was Celia.
Arriving at the surgery with Missie, I failed to impart the true meaning of the situation very well. The vet looked extremely tired so I assumed that was why he misunderstood. He opened the carrier, took her out by the scruff and proceeded to examine her whilst we stood gaping. Since she did not immediately react, a thought came into my head that he knew exactly what he was doing.
She bolted off the table and ran crazily through to the waiting room and up the window as if it were merely a tree! I took a towel and tried to grab her, she bit my finger hard, I let go. The vet and nurse ran in with a bird net and managed to recapture her while I bled everywhere.
Safely back in the carrier and the carrier inside a cage we went home, not exactly thrilled at our ineptitude.
My finger began to throb painfully and by next day it had swollen to twice its size. I had difficulty working and colleagues on hearing the story had the bad manners to laugh. A visit to the Dr. resulted in strong antibiotics and a series of tetanus injections. In light of recent information and experiences with bites it turned out I I was very lucky.
Stay tuned for further instalments.