Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Troubles of Kitten Raising - Meenanful Life

I love kittens. I've had cats for as long as I can remember. My first cat was a striped female named Sarah. She was an outdoor cat, and she often got stuck on the roof of our two story apartment building. I remember bawling my eyes out a few times every month while a neighbor pulled out a long ladder and dragged my screaming cat off the roof.

Perhaps the most memorable cats though, have been the ones I've had to bottle feed.

My first bottle fed cat was Tiger (yeah, real original name, I know). We found her in the alleyway behind my grandmother's hairdresser's place covered head to toe in fleas. She was only a few weeks old too -- much too young to try and use flea poison on the fleas. We had to give her daily baths for those first few weeks we had her and drown the fleas.

She never did like being picked up after that.

Bottle feeding cats always poses a bit of a risk. You never know if a kitten is going to survive the transition from mama's milk to formula. Sometimes they can't even figure out how to use a bottle. It took Tiger nearly three days to figure it out and we were worried she'd die in that time. She managed it eventually though, and lived to be 13 before she finally died.

Well, recently two new little ones came into our lives. Meet Hunter (the orange kitten) and Leah (the gray and white kitten).

Hunter and Leah, along with three other siblings, were found near a Kohls in Bakersfield last August, sitting in a dirty box, crying for mommy. My cousin Brenda took them in and we took the two you see there.

We estimate they were probably two, maybe three weeks old before someone decided to box them up and drop them off in the outside world where no amount of hope could have helped them survive. I suspect some poor child's cat got herself pregnant and Mom and Dad just didn't have the patience to wait until the kittens were old enough so they could give them away to good homes.

This is why you should spay and neuter your cats.

Since Hunter and Leah were so young when they were found, they needed bottle feeding.

D'awww, what an adorable spectacle. If you listen closely, you can probably hear Leah in the background, protesting that Hunter got to eat first.

If you've never seen a kitten bottle feed, you need to watch that video. It's so adorable, your brain might ooze out your orifices from the cuteness.

Just make sure you have some paper towels handy.

Bottle feeding takes patience. Just like with a human baby, the kittens woke up several times in the middle of the night for WEEKS, demanding to be fed. I spent those weeks sleeping on the couch cushions in our spare bedroom, listening cautiously for any sign that a kitten was awake.

I also had to be careful not to make any noise while moving around at night. Because if they suspected I was awake, they knew that they could get me to feed them.

I'll be honest. I wasn't always a patient mama. Sometimes I'd try to ignore them while they demanded food, hoping that they'd just go back to sleep (it never worked.) Sometimes I got frustrated with them digging their tiny claws into my bare skin. Sometimes I'd ask myself WHY DID I TAKE THESE DUMB CATS IN THE FIRST PLACE??

But animals have a way of wiggling into our hearts. Yes, there were trying moments, but overall, it was good. They're sweet little things.

Or at least they were.

You know how humans go through that vicious teenage stage where they're not quite young enough to be considered cute kids anymore, but they're also not old enough to act like adults? Yeah, kittens go through that phase too.

That's what mine are doing right now.

Physically, they're big enough to look like cats.

Well, Hunter is anyway. Leah must have been a runt, because she's still tiny and she isn't growing. Oh well.

But if you compare them to my adult cats, they look fully grown.

Eeee, adopted brothers! <3 Only now I can't make the bed...
But they don't ACT like adult cats.

Ziggy and Annie, our two adult cats, are like most cats. They're mellow, they spend most of their day sleeping, and they occassionally seek out attention from us. Sometimes they get extra excited and they'll run all over the house, but for the most part, they're quiet.

The kittens... are not quiet.

I didn't knock over your plant I don't know what you're talking about
They like to wake me up at 4AM by sitting on my chest or in the window, meowing as loud as possible. They like to pull open the drawers in my dresser and claw the clean clothes out. They like to open the hall closet and make cat nests out of the clean towels.

And my plants still aren't safe.

But these guys have taught me one important thing - Patience. Getting angry and shouting at them won't fix the problem. In fact, it could make things worse if I'm not careful. I need to learn love, patience, and kindness.

So when Hunter gets in the window crying at the top of his lungs for no reason at 4AM, I gently pluck him from the window, squirt his little nose with the water bottle, and he leaves. He's gotten better, and now most nights I can actually sleep past 4AM. If he's good, he gets to sleep on my chest for a while.

When Leah pulls all the towels out of the cupboard, I pick her out of the towels, show her the water bottle, and put the towels away. She doesn't mess with them much anymore. Afterwards I usually snuggle with her.

And more than that, I'm learning to be patient with their age. Once they hit one year in August, they'll start to fall into their cat routines and be more mellow like their "older siblings."

But in the meantime, I can use this opportunity to prepare myself for when I have kids. Don't get angry. Just discipline properly and love.

Being patient is something I've often struggled with. I'm often impatient with my students. Sometimes I'll get a student that I KNOW can do better, but he or she is choosing not to and it's hurting their ability to do well in school.

But being impatient and getting angry about it doesn't fix it. Instead, I need to take the time to talk to the student and explain how I feel about the situation. I need to encourage them. And I need to be patient with them.

I get impatient with editing and writing too. It's paralyzing. Rather than actually WRITING, I'll be imagining all the supposed FAME and GLORY I'll get from writing and then get impatient waiting for it to happen.

How come I'm not famous NOOOOWWW?

Oh wait, it's because I haven't been writing. WRITE DARN IT.

But my kittens are teaching me patience. They're teaching me that I CAN be patient if I have the right motivation. So I'm working on recognizing my motivation in other areas where I'm impatient and using that motivation to force myself to be patient.

They say Patience is a Virtue, and I've always said "it's not one of mine." But maybe I need to start making an effort to make it one.

What about you? Are there any patience issues you guys face? Have you ever had someone or something force you to be more patient? Did you learn a lesson from it? Or, on a lesser note, got any cute pets to share with us? =) Share in the comments below!


  1. Sounds like great practice for parenthood, right there! :D It's amazing how caring for little kids (or critters) brings out the raging impatience we never knew we had!

    1. Ha ha, seriously! And half the time they have no idea why you're so mad. RIGHT AFTER I posted this, my kittens literally chased each other ACROSS MY FACE and stepped on my EYE. But they didn't even care when I screamed about it. XP

      I hope the neighbors don't call the cops because of my screaming.


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