I telephoned Mum and told her it was D-day. She caught the next train.
Around 10.30 we tiptoed up to the cupboard with a little pen-torch. I had read that it was dangerous to disturb a new kitty-mama. A panicked queen will sometimes kill her new kits. I was nervous, therefore, as I peered round the door to check that she was OK.
"PRRRRRRRRRRRUUUPPPPPPPPPP!" She said!
I counted with the little torch the tiny bundles of fur now latched onto her tummy.... one.... two.... three... THREE! She has three! But Mama-Cat mewed at me and pushed herself up slightly with her front paws. There, under her chin, tucked warmly into her chest fur, was the tiniest, most pathetic little shrimp of a cat ever. Number 4. Well, 3 1/2. Mama had been cuddling her little one especially to keep her warm. I thought it was grey, but it was just that the fur was so fine.... it was Fluffy! Being so small, I originally called her Midge. But as the fur grew out, everyone called her Fluffy and so the name stuck.
Only her brother, Scooter, has survived this long with her. He with FiV, and she the runt of the litter. Well, who'd have thought? It just goes to show, even when the odds are stacked against you, you can get through.
The previous year, 1992, had been a bad one for me. I'd been made redundant three times, losing colleagues as well as jobs, routines and income. I had also split up with someone and was still reeling. The depression was so bad, I could barely move. Then Mama-Cat started to meow up at my window in the snow, 6am every day. I had just enough spirit left in me to get up and help her. That reaching out to help some other life was a tiny first step. Then, after the kittens were born, Mama-cat got me into her own routine around them all. It pulled me up out of the near fugue-state I'd sunk into.
Cat Flu soon broke out through the kits. I took the whole family to the PDSA. They wanted to isolate Mama and treat her in solitary confinement so as not to infect any other cats. But the kittens, they said, well it was kinder to just let them go. Anyway, they said, we don't have the nursing staff to look after them. "That's ok," I said, "I'm not working; I'll do it."
I had a quick lesson in feeding kittens with a syringe, and in wiping their bottom ends to get them to pee and poo (!). To keep them warm I filled a washing-up glove with hot water, and tucked them in, with one finger curled round each of them. As they grew I got a hot-water bottle for them to lie on. I had to feed them and wipe them every two hours, plus give them medicine and wash their eyes to prevent the conjunctivitis getting encrusted. It was hard work round the clock but I did it and the routine and mind-numbing intensity of it got me through my own crisis, too.
Eventually, Mama-Cat was well enough for me to pick up. I'll never forget how pleased she acted when I walked into that back room to get her. I had barely known her, not for very long. But she remembered me. Pathetic to non-animal lovers, I know, but being remembered by her brought a lump to my throat. It made me feel a spark inside that I hadn't felt in ages.
So you see, this is why I love them so much: I saved their lives and they saved mine. And from then on, we have just all pootled along.
When Luvbug and I first got a place together we had to rent a flat on the second floor (or third, to the US!) so we couldn't have the cats. Mum kept them. Once we had a place of our own, I said we could take them. Mum was having none of it. She would miss them too much, she said!
Soon, as mum moves into her new bungalow up the road from us, Scooter and Fluffy will again come to live with me. I hope I can do as much for them in their old age as in their infancy.
We're all getting older. And there's a sadness in that. Limitations make themselves known and endings start to try to come into focus. All we can do is try to be there for each other. All I can do is be thankful for such special experiences.....
Happy Birthday, my little cheesy-toed ones..... and thank you.....