The Kitten Mystery

It’s been three weeks since Martin threw on the light and discovered a yowling tuxedo-marked ball of fur, looking woefully small in our big old barn.

We didn’t need another cat, we didn’t want another cat (reminder: I’m a life-long dog person), but who can resist a wayward kitten? Besides, I quickly invested $132.85 into the kitten’s health and wellbeing. Felix, as I’ve named him, is here to stay.

I do wonder, however, how this kitten wandered into our lives. Years ago we selected Mel and Frog from four litters of odd-ball kittens spilling out of a crazy cat lady’s house up the road. And Spook appeared last December, a gangling, feral cat tempted by our brimming bowls of food among winter’s meager pickings.

So what’s Felix’s story? I can only imagine.

We’ve ruled out the possibility that he simply wandered here. He’s too little to have journeyed any great distance. Plus he was found bone dry on a day of drenching rain.

My mom likes to think that some nice owners took stock of our food supply and noted the slick, healthy condition of our cat colony and decided, “this is a worthy home for our kitten.”

I pointed out that people who dump cats aren’t the types to vet a site before making a deposit.

No, I picture Felix’s beginnings in the furthest reaches of a one-car garage, in a cardboard box full of discarded rags and towels smudged with grease and motor oil. The fumes are strong but to the mother cat it’s home, a safe retreat from predators — both man and beast. And those grimy towels help line the make-shift whelping box.

The kittens’ eyes are still closed when the light bulb snaps to life. Shoes scuffle on the gritty floor, then slow and stop close by. A silent pause.

“Christ, not again. Hey, Nan! The damn cat’s done it again!”

But aside from the occasional shoe shuffle and rummaging through a rusty tool box, life in the garage holds steady. The five kittens open their eyes and tumble out of the Bud box to explore their surroundings, crawling beneath the has-been sports car grounded months ago with a blown transmission. The kittens bat the dust bunnies across the floor, tangle themselves in cobwebs and scale the metal storage rack to the second, then third shelf where, overcome by height, they mew for help.

Then one day as rain pummels the garage roof, the feet return and a new empty cardboard box thumps on the floor. A pair of hands fish the kittens off their perch and from their hiding place beneath the car. A kitten dozing in the whelping box is easy pickings. All that’s left is the mother cat who barely acknowledges her offspring’s departure.

I like to think that the box was not deposited roadside like a piece of trash but that our barn was just one of many convenient stops along a well-traveled road.

And I like to think that the car door clicked open, the shoes sunk into a day’s worth of puddles and the fingers fished a warm fuzzy body from the box. Felix just happened to be plunked on our barn floor that drizzly Friday night.

So what does Felix think of his new surroundings? Well, judging from his body language, he finds Mel and Frog: barely tolerant and downright unfriendly. The dog: untrustworthy. The horses: terrifying. And us: intimidating but not without potential.

There is a level of comfort in Spook who knows what it’s like to be unwanted and homeless. He fosters Felix who trails him from food dish to water bowl and even for brief jaunts outside. So with Spook’s companionship and guidance, and our plentiful supply of canned cat food, I think that Felix will come around. He already has.