It began, (as it so often does), with us becoming increasingly aware of the most woeful miaeowing cries around our neighbourhood ‘wild areas’. Then, a cat began to come to our garden on a regular basis, though it wouldn’t show itself voluntarily; we had glimpses of an emaciated black and white female cat with amber eyes. So, we began leaving a saucer of milk for it which was eagerly lapped up if we backed off and left it to its own company. Any attempt at approach on our part resulted in spitting and it running into cover.
After a week or two, a very young starving, cross-eyed, feeble kitten appeared with her - wild and unapproachable, spitting as herself. He also voraciously lapped up milk offered. He wasn’t far from death, shaky and trembling, his little skeleton all lumps and bumps stuck out; this even a week or two after we began feeding him. We named him ‘Tom-tum’ because of his ability to drink saucer after saucer of the white stuff. Gradually, he and his mother gained confidence through familiarity and began taking table scraps and a little dog-meat, and letting us a little closer.
After a while they moved into our shed to live, and we were able to feed them a little meat and milk at the back door beside it. There was no limit to what either of them could consume, especially milk. We simply called the older cat ‘Mummy’.
We assumed Tom-Tum’s siblings had died of starvation, and we are certain another week before he came to us would have seen him follow the same fate. Indeed, ‘Mummy’ was in a pitifully thin state, no doubt due in large part to the demands of ongoing pregnancies and attempting to feed frequent litters. Such terrible, terrible, avoidable, suffering. Ignorance is no excuse in these informed times for poor pet-husbandry. The remedies are easily available to prevent this kind of thing through various schemes. We’re meant to be the superior race on this planet. A society is judged by the way it treats its animals.
So, we decided there and then we had seen a bellyful of suffering. We agreed that as soon as ‘Mummy’ stopped suckling ‘Tom-Tum’ and he was six months old, we would have him neutered and her spayed. We would not have ‘Tom-tum’ adding to the misery by fathering semi-wild, unwanted kittens. In addition, ‘Mummy’ could begin recuperating from the misery that her life had been. Her body was ravaged. There was nothing to her.
Then, fate intervened, as fate is inclined to do. We heard movement in the shed when neither ‘Tom-tum- or ‘Mummy’ were in it. On investigation we discovered three more young kittens about two weeks old.
So, we liased with our local cat rescue centre who gave us advice to advertise the kittens locally through placing posters, so homes might be found by the time they were were weaned from their mother at about eight – twelve weeks. Meanwhile, they would place them on a long list for re-homing, and send us two certificates to assist with spaying and neutering Tom-tum and his mum at a local vet.
This is not a nice tale. It has a good outcome in that we now have two loved and lovely cats who have recovered and are happy, playful, and living good-quality lives here as part of River Cottage. However, 'Mummy' remains very apprehensive and will not enter our house, she is constantly worried the door will be shut on her and cut off her avenue of escape. We think she must have been abused in the past as we found a big callus under her ribs from an old fracture - we presume she took a kick off someone- Tom is fine now and has grown well. 'Mummy is a plump cat that loves food and is very, very loving and affectionate. The three other kittens were found good homes with owners who wanted cats, and who will have them neutered (all three were males) at 6 months old. But it could all so easily have all been prevented, the misery avoided, for a little thought and a few miserable euros.