I am embarrassed to share this story, but it is so amazing, and true, that I can’t keep it to myself!
I got Tilly as a kitten from a farm that I visited by chance last summer.
There were plenty of cats wandering around and a batch of kittens that were almost feral – and I fell in love with her and asked if I could have her. The ‘owner’ – a young lad of about 5 years old – solemnly allowed me to take her home with me, after he had checked me out thoroughly!
She has been a joy. I was still mourning my long time companion, Sol, a sheepdog, who used to come everywhere with me. I wasn’t able to get another dog, for all sorts of reasons. So, as I was used to taking him out for short walks in the early morning, and I wanted Tilly to know where she lived – I started ‘taking her out with me’.
Well, she just followed me. I live on a moderately busy road, and I wanted her to get used to traffic, as she’d never encountered it before, and as there was very little in the early mornings, it was fine. The odd lorry worried her and she ran straight home – I left the door ajar for her.
Over time, she got more adventurous, and explored her immediate surroundings with me, which allowed me to keep up the habit of stretching my legs for a bit of exercise each day. I often thought I’d ‘lost her’ – and waited anxiously with the door ajar for her to come back – smile. She always did!
When we were out one morning, she met another cat – a ginger one. And then there was another tabby that she followed, and I watched them dance around each other, in courtship. She followed him up the hill, and when I called her back there was this beautiful swift run back to me, and then – like a thief – her ‘boyfriend’ followed her and enticed her further down the hill.
You can guess what happened. Tilly hasn’t been spayed, because I think its fairer to allow a cat to have one litter before taking nature away from her – and I live in a semi rural area, so its not as much of a problem as it would be in a large town.
I wasn’t sure whether she was pregnant, for a while, and couldn’t judge when she was due, she is a slightly built cat anyway, but there was a bulge appearing around her belly.
I was due to visit some friends last week, and was worried that she might produce her kittens, so nearly didn’t go. In the end I took her with me. She had all the signs, and her teats had dropped, but still no kittens, and I wondered whether she had lost them.
It was the first time she’d been in a car since I’d taken her home from the farm, so I wasn’t surprised she made a fuss, nor was I surprised to find that when I got her out of her new carrier, there was a mess for me to clean up. She wasn’t all that happy in a strange place, and kept mewing at me. I kept feeling her belly – there were some lumps, but nothing seemed to be happening, and I was getting rather anxious because it seemed to be getting rather late, and the lumps weren’t moving!
Well, after two days, we came home, and Tilly immediately disappeared. I thought she was in the garden. She was back for her food, and still had a huge appetite. In fact my friends thought she might have worms and wasn’t pregnant at all, and I was going to give her a dose of the medicine.
Next morning, I heard some mewing and was relieved that she had finally had her kittens!
So I went to have a look. Tilly wasn’t around – but I found a black kitten in the spare room crying for its mother. But this kitten wasn’t new born – it was at least 10 days old!
I had given Tilly a box in the ‘study’, with a towel and her basket, but she hadn’t used it for a while. The spare room is so full of stuff – that isn’t junk – smile. I have boxes of my old greetings cards in there and old furniture etc, and its impossible to find anything!
I picked up this kitten and carried it around with me, calling Tilly for at least 20 minutes. I was horrified. Had this kitten nearly starved for the two days we were away? I couldn’t find where it had come from, and when Tilly finally came back, she immediately fed the kitten – the lumps had been her milk not being able to be used!
I put the kitten in the box and expected Tilly to join her there – but she didn’t. She kept going back to the spare room, so in the end, I picked up the kitten and put it back where I had found it and Tilly steered it behind the furniture, back to wherever it had come from.
I got to wondering why I hadn’t noticed that she had been a mother for over a week before we went away. I had sat in the garden and watched her play – as normal, she had disappeared for various periods – as normal. I had gone out and about my business, as normal. The only abnormal thing was that she was eating about twice as much as she used to.
I hadn’t noticed anything different, and I had been looking for the signs! I felt terrible. And of course, cats normally have a litter of kittens, not just one, so had the others died? Had this been the only one to survive? Was Tilly feeding her in the den she had chosen, with the bodies of the dead kittens around her.
I had to check. It took me about half an hour to find where she had made her den – it was behind several piles of boxes and in a cupboard which stored some old clothes.
I literally had to excavate my way through to it – moving the piles of boxes, and was absolutely exhausted, dreading what I might find. Tilly was out and about again, and wasn’t there to help or hinder me. I worried that the maternal link had been broken, and that she wasn’t too bothered – after all – I had taken her away from her kittens!
I didn’t find any inert bodies – I found 4 kittens – healthy and bewildered at being disturbed! But I couldn’t leave them there, as I wouldn’t be able to get to them easily to see if they were OK. So, I moved them into the study, and the box I had prepared, and Tilly arrived just as I was doing it, so I put her into the box too – and thankfully – she settled down to feed them!
So here they are – Tilly’s miraculous kittens – how they survived without being fed for two days I really don’t know, but thankfully, they seem fine!