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Mama's happy and that's all that matters

Posted Tuesday, May 8, 2012, at 4:34 PM

I'm pretty sure I'm being played. But I may never know for sure. The suspects aren't talking.

But they are meowing. A lot.

Maybe I better start at the beginning.

I've always admired the farm cat.

From our first farm cat, Slick, up to the 10 or so we now have, I've have marveled at their ability to make due in their natural state. Although we provide them with daily food and several warm, closed sheds, they still have to contend with predators such as raccoons, owls and coyotes. They must be tough enough, smart enough and fast enough to survive a daily dose of herding from two bored border collies.

Farm cats, we've found, through trial and error, are an integral working partner on a farm. One summer, tired of the mess, the smell and muddy paw prints on newly washed vehicles, we decided not to replenish our dwindling cat numbers. Eventually we found ourselves with no cats at all.

The mice noticed.

In early September, a mouse moved into our big truck. After dropping some mouse bait behind a console, the mice stopped running over my feet when I took off to the elevator. However, I spent all of harvest, no matter the temperature with my window rolled down and head hanging out the window. Now seven years later, I still can't enter the truck without catching a whiff of dead mouse (I'm the only one who smells it.)

Later that winter, a "herd" of mice moved into our combine and chewed through wires and other inner workings of the machine.

Needless to say, once the bill for the combine and my aroma therapy were totaled, a few paw prints and a smelly barn seemed like a small price to pay.

Since then, we have slowly increased the ranks of cats, ranging from Bandit, the spoiled hand-fed orphan who now won't eat with the other cats, to Junior, who is a friendly self-petter, with a loud motor.

Last summer, a new cat showed up. Her name became Mama because she was obviously pregnant.

When we found her three kittens newly born under a clump of lilies, I knew it would be several weeks before they could survive the predators (and the border collies).

She was new to the farm, so I gave her the benefit of the doubt. She didn't know all the nooks and crannies in our shed where her kittens could have safely been born.

I moved Mama and the three kittens inside our breezeway.

The dogs weren't happy, but Mama raised three fine kitties before they were finally ceremoniously moved to the shed. Since that time, Mama seems to have adapted to our farm, lazily sunning most days on the deck rail (out of reach of the dogs.) Her three kittens, now full grown, usually sleep nearby.

I noticed recently, both Mama and her two female offspring were pregnant. So I was only slightly surprised to find Mama and two, fat, healthy and at least a week-old kittens tucked behind a barrel planter and a green jungle of climbing vines not two feet from our breezeway door. She signaled her presence with a meow.

"Here are this year's kittens, we are ready to move in the nice comfy basket in the breezeway now," is what her eyes seemed to say to me.

But hardened by a breezeway full of dirty boots, warm temperatures and messes from our son's six-week old puppy, I didn't take the bait.

"Sorry, Mama, these kittens look very healthy to me, and they aren't newborn. We are going to find you a nice, safe spot in the shed," I said.

I thought she understood.

So imagine my surprise when the next day, Mama's head peeked out again from behind the planter. As I bent down to pet the sweet, persistent feline, I spotted a smaller, obviously newborn kitten, and then another and another and another. In all, Mama now had six kittens tucked in the ivy.

The four-newcomers were half the size of the original two, with umbilical cords still attached.

The new kittens are about as likely to be siblings to the original two, as Danny DeVito and Arnold Schartzenegger are to be actual twins.

The mystery continues as to where she came up with the helpless newborns. Like I said, no one is talking.

Nonetheless, Mama got her wish. She is now contentedly nursing six kittens and happily living in the well-worn breezeway, in the familiar basket.

As for the puppy, she is confused. That goes double for my husband.

But Mama's happy, and you know what they say, "If Mama's not happy, nobody's happy!"

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God bless Farm Cats. If you have a car, truck or combine you need farm cats. We had to rewire a pickup once and the bill was large enough that we decided that cat food was cheaper and the cats more enjoyable then dealing with the dang mice.

No offence Mickey but your country cousins can sure make a mess of things.

-- Posted by salinemg on Thu, May 10, 2012, at 9:37 PM

The Marshall Animal Shelter sometimes has farm or barn cats available for farmers who can provide good shelter for the animals. Give us a call for details and to add your name to our "Barn Cat" list.

--Gina Hare, Manager 660-831-0420

-- Posted by Gina Hare on Fri, May 11, 2012, at 6:55 PM

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