Archive for Thursday, December 18, 2008

Column: Life isn’t easy on the Kitten Ranch

December 18, 2008

With single-digit temperatures and wind chills worse than that, it’s time for an update on the Kitten Ranch. The herd is cold.

As you may recall, I quite by accident got into the Kitten Ranching business about two years ago when I moved to the Temple Place just a spit and a holler from Vinland. The 80-acre farm was devoid of animals at the time. Well, domestic animals anyway.

That didn’t last long.

Less than a month after moving in, I was adopted by a female cat that we named Ettie. About a week or so later, she was joined by another female called Annie. I’ve always loved cats. I’ve always been a male-cat person, though.

Funny what happens in the country with two female cats. You wind up with a Kitten Ranch. Such is my life.

The ranch life isn’t easy. It’s certainly survival of the fittest. Ettie had six kittens about a month after arrival and Annie had five. So, I’d gone from no cats to 13 in a matter of months. I was the proud papa of a scad of kittens.

As I learned then and continue to learn, that doesn’t last. Life can be tough on the farm. It’s a fact of life.

From that original 13, only two remain. Annie is still around and has had three more litters of kittens. Turnover may be high, but there’s never a shortage of kittens. Right now I have four “teenagers” from her third litter and two “babies” from the August batch.

The lone holdover from the original 11 kittens is my African-American cat, Kunta Kentay. He’s a Tom Cat and initially was pretty scrawny. When the “real” Toms came a courtin’ Annie, he was quickly put in his place.

In fact, I toyed with sending him to “Tom Cat Camp” to grow up and learn the ways. Alas, I could find no listing anywhere for such a camp. But for whatever reason, Kunta, who happens to be cross-eyed — yes, I call him Cross-eyed Kunta — grew into his Tom Cat role. He got big. He’s a muscle-bound Tom now and I know he can hold his own. Plus, he’s my buddy, so he won’t be running off — at least I don’t think.

The “teenagers” are Tooncinator (technically Tooncinator II), who is my favorite cat, Almost, named that because he’s almost a Tooncinator, Opie and Reba. Tooncinators are in my opinion “the” cat — a gray and black tabby with what I consider “normal” patterns. They are named after the Saturday Night Live skit “Tooncies the Driving Cat.”Almost doesn’t have that pattern, although he does have the same colors. I’d never seen the pattern before.

Opie and Reba are my redheads — orange cats. Reba is a sweetheart and has the same pattern as Tooncinator. I’m sure she’ll be the next in the breeding herd. I’ve been saying I need to get more orange back in my herd. Opie has the same pattern as Almost. Yes, odd.

The two “babies” are Bootsinator and Sam. Bootsinator is a Tooncinator, except he has white paws — boots, if you will. His brother Shoes, who was the same, disappeared about two months ago out of the blue. Sam is named after the late loud-mouthed Sam Kennison, known for shouting his monologue. Yes, kitten Sam is a screamer.

So, you get the idea. There are highs and lows in the Kitten Ranching business. I’m certainly not seeing any Return on Investment with my ranch. Between food, veterinary bills, etc., it’s not a cheap business. There’s not a real big market for the product, either.

But that’s OK.

It’s my herd and I love each and every one of them. It’s especially fun when they’re kittens and finally get off the safety of the porch to explore the yard. There is, of course, plenty of kitten wrestling for amusement. There are many firsts, such as baby’s first tree climb, baby’s first trip into the secret hiding place and one that’s not on everyone’s first list — baby’s first tick.

That’s life on the Kitten Ranch. Right now, both groups of kittens are having their first winter. Like I said, it’s cold. But they are adapting quite well, learning from Annie and Kunta how best to stay warm. They are on the alternating water dish schedule, with a fresh dish set out in the morning and the frozen one brought inside, with the same thing done in the evening. Their three bowls of food are filled on the same schedule, although you’d think by the screaming and yelling the herd does at me every morning and evening they are being starved to death.

After all, those bowls aren’t full anymore and one may even be empty. Poor cats. Life ain’t easy on the Kitten Ranch.

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