The Cat Whisper Kid
A kitten-napper tells his story.
How I Became a Kitten-Napper
When I was eight years old we moved to a new house with a barn, a hobby farm. My parents got a bunch of cats to keep the mouse population down. They did not have the cats fixed (spayed or neutered).
The cats had kittens. The cats were tame. Their kittens were not. We then had a generation of feral barn cats. It’s not hard to see how this situation would quickly lead to the exponential growth of our cat population.
Soon after we got the cats one of them was hit by a car and killed. I felt very bad. I buried the cat. I had a little ritual and everything. A few weeks later another one was hit. I went through the same process, felt bad — ritual — burial. I even did this with the third a few weeks later.
After that, I just felt the pain, honored their lives, and chucked ‘em in the trash. That’s when I learned that death is a thing that happens and there’s nothing you can do about it. But, I might be able to do something to reduce the amount of suffering in the world.
It was obvious there would only be increased cat suffering if we just kept having too many cats. My parents refused to have them fixed. I knew that it would hurt the mothers when I stole their children from them. But, it was the path of least suffering. So, I took it upon myself to find the kittens, care for them, and wean them until they could be given away. I have weaned hundreds of kittens.
If I didn’t get the kittens before the mother weaned them they would be feral-minded forever. I can, with a huge amount of effort, get a feral-minded cat to trust me. However, the next human will have to, more or less, start all over again. So, getting them before mom has weaned them is crucial.
Take them too young and they are unlikely to survive. It’s a pretty small time frame, a week or so after their eyes open, but before they start eating food on their own.
Feral cats do not want you to take their kittens. Cats have a strong sense of smell and the mom can tell if a human has been too close to the litter. If she figured out that I knew where it was, she would move them to a much harder-to-find location that would be difficult to reach.
I had to know when they were old enough without mom figuring out that I knew where they were. So, I couldn’t just start digging around in the hay bails or whatever. I would sit still and hide under a bunch of junk so I could watch the moms. But it took forever and it wasn’t always clear where the litter was.
I needed to know where and how old they were.
I figured out that mother cats have a particular way they meow to their kittens. Some cats make a similar sound, you may have heard it. It’s like a purr and meow mixed together Purrrrrrrgurawerriwoow? It sounds like a question to me anyway.
I learned to mimic this sound effectively enough that kittens would respond. I would hide and wait until mom left to hunt. I’d then make the mommy cat sound until the kittens responded. I could tell by the sound of their mews where they were and when they were the right age.
We did have one tame barn cat that managed to stay alive. Cali was actually the best at hiding her litter. One time I had to cut holes in the tack room wall. When I found her kittens I could almost never get the entire litter so some of them would be left behind. She was the only mom I had this problem with.
I would take the ones I could get up to the house per usual. Once I had some of her litter she would bring the rest of them up to the house one by one and leave them on the doorstep where she would wait, once she had them all together, for somebody to come and bring her and the kittens inside.
Cali was the only tame mom so she was the only one that could come inside to wean her kittens.
Here is an old damaged photo of me as a child with Punk. She was one of the first barn cats we got. She was “my” cat so my parents did have her fixed. Unlike the other cats, she stayed up at the house. Animals were not allowed inside. Punk lived outside on the kitchen window sill, winter, summer, sun, or snow. We snuggled in the backyard whenever we could.