A long post—but with pictures.
As some of you loyal readers know, I—through a strange quirk of fate —have considerably more cats than I had this time last year.
Tall and anorexic Twiggy, who showed up on the game camera
in the garage early last spring, produced three offspring in early July but kept them sequestered in the tractor shed. Little Olivia
, who appeared on my deck a month or so after Twiggy's appearance, and who was in such bad shape that I thought she wouldn't live, much less reproduce, had four kittens
on August 8 in the garage. Unfortunately, Olivia lacked teeth to properly attend to the newborns, so by the time we found them the placenta was wrapped so tightly around Jim-Bob's hind leg that he lost the foot. (Lest you feel sorry for him, he doesn't know he's missing a foot at all. Usually I photograph him from his "complete" side; this post will contain pictures of his incomplete side.
) Olivia kept moving them, so we only got fleeting glimpses. Given Olivia's poor condition, I didn't think the kittens would live, but they did.
Twiggy and Olivia had totally different parenting styles. Twiggy was a strict mother who insisted her black and white children follow her rules: don't associate with strangers, stay behind me, always do what I say, don't be seen or heard, always wear a sweater
—things like that. They followed her lead and she didn't put up with free-thinking on their part. The Twiglets were shy and tentative—and, like their mother, untamed. Getting the Twiglets neutered and vaccinated was an adventure
Olivia, on the other hand, didn't care what her multi-colored brood did. If they were hungry, she was available to provide snacks, but the kittens were pretty much on their own. They played
where they wanted, explored the patio and surrounding grounds, slept where and when they pleased, figured out what worked and what didn't, and answered to no one. They were bright, bold, creative, inquisitive, and charming. The Olivians did what they darn well pleased
and pitched screaming fits if they didn't get their way. I don't think they even noticed when their mother was at the vets getting spayed. Two Olivian sisters went to a creative household in Roanoke. I kept Jim-Bob and Chloe.
For months, the Olivians were the home cats; the Twiglets were the barn cats. The twain didn't meet—until today, the first day of the year. Here's how the sky looked when I was going out to feed:
Here's the view of another tree, a little south from the one above:
See anything in the leafless mulberry tree? Two black and white cats, maybe? And another—mostly black—on the ground in front of the tree? The Twiglets are anxious for me to cater their breakfast. Their mother only appears for the evening feeding, so the three kittens have their mornings to themselves.
They ran out to meet me, as they've been doing for the last couple of days, and we went together though the pines to the barn where I fed them, the horses, and the dogs. While I waited for Cupcake to finish so I could turn her back out, I played "catch the dressage whip" with the Twiglets—it's their favorite game. Sherman let me pet him and Spots crawled on my lap. Spook was busy attacking the end of the whip. Then we all noticed something. Another kitty had invaded Twiglet territory!
Jim-Bob had ventured though the pines—definitely out of his home territory! The Twiglets, mindful of their turf, leapt into action.
Spots backed Jim-Bob under a pine while Spook (the black blob at the left) kept her eye on him. Jim-Bob was surrounded.
Chloe, with eyes aglow, advanced on Spook and evened the score. Together, Chloe and Jim-Bob re-entered their home territory—but the Twiglets followed.
While Chloe claimed the lounge chair, Spook climbed the maple tree. Did she ambush little Chloe?
No! Chloe was saved by her Uncle Eddie-Puss who ordered the Twiglets back to their own territory.
Knowing her Uncle Eddie-Puss was watching her back, Chloe chased the Twiglets.
But what happened to Jim-Bob? Was he missing in action?
Not exactly. When the going got tough, he climbed a tree.
Later, safe in home cat territory under the maple tree, he joined his Uncle Eddie-Puss as they watched the Twiglets retreat.
No fur flew today. It wasn't much of a clash after all.