It all began on a warm autumn day. Summer stays around for a long time here in Arizona, and it was over 90 degrees before noon that day.
That morning, to be precise.
I awaken slowly in the morning. I’d had a few cups of coffee, played on Twitter, and I really don’t remember why I decided to walk outside of the back of my house where I have a small patio and a carport.
The patio is fenced in, and I could see a plastic storage bin tipped on its side on the other side of my gate, with its top tightly in place. It was clear plastic with a white top, the type of container you might pack Christmas decorations in. I could see fabric, blankets, something that had fallen to the bottom when the bin was placed on its side.
“What the holy hell?”
I opened the gate, righted the tub, and pulled off the lid. What happened next sent me through so many emotions at one time that I decided I would first just scream and then sort things out afterward.
Inside the storage bin were 11 kittens.
Later I would find out that they were two different litters. Seven two-week old and four four-week-old kittens. The bin was swelteringly hot, and the kittens were limp from the heat and no air. At this point, I had stopped screaming and was now crying while hiccupping nonstop oh-my-Gods.
I knew, that if I had walked out my back door—perhaps five minutes later–this story would have a very different ending and I would never be telling you about it because I refuse to listen to or tell sad animal stories.
With all the commotion I was making, my across the alley neighbor, Gladys Kravitz, came running over to find out what was up for her bulletin reports to the neighborhood. Little did she know I was going to feed her enough info for a newsletter throughout the weekend.
As I mentioned, I was overcome with so many emotions. Fear, not understanding, confusion, maternal tugs, and looming above all others was a big grey cloud; anger that stayed for days over this outrageous animal cruelty.
As I began to gather clues and witnesses for later reference for Kittygate, I noticed a note inside the bin which read:
Thank you so much for agreeing to take these kittens. We know you are the perfect person to take care of them.”
Unsigned, of course.
Interestingly, my first suspect, Gladys Kravitz, who in addition to being the block gossip, is also known as The Cat Lady because she takes in the pregnant, abandoned cats in our condos and finds homes for the kittens. A worthy deed. Indeed.
I absolutely, unequivocally knew. That the bin of kittens was accidentally left on my carport instead of Gladys’s.
And so did she.
The proof was in her disappearing immediately. I could not believe it. All those litters she raised and no offer of help? My anger cloud grew, loomed and seethed. But I had no time to make a small doll and stick pins in it. I had 11 new children and not a clue of what to do with them.
There is also an older red-headed woman (a man I know says red hair is a sign from God) who is quite nosy, complains about the abandoned cats, and frequently walks by my house. Suspect number two.
THE CARE & FEEDING OF ROGUE KITTENS
I didn’t know much about kittens, but I did know they had to be in a safe, cool, place and must be fed. I make a 911 call to my sister-in-law; also a Cat Lady but much younger and nicer, to help me with these poor babies.
She was over in 10 minutes.
We corralled them in their first temporary home–a pillow fort in my bedroom. Cross that off your list as a good place for kittens. The older kittens immediately found delight in climbing over the pillow barriers and scampered all over the bedroom. Apparently, the cooler air gave them a second wind. The smaller ones just piled on top of each other and slept.
My sister-in-law, who knows about all things feline, sent me off to a feed store for kitten formula and a stop by CVS, to get teeny plungers to feed them with. When I came home, my very wise sis-in-law had moved them to the bathtub where the porcelain walls made escape impossible. She asked if I had anything soft to put down on the bottom, so I ran to raid my closet.
I returned with nearly all of my cashmere sweaters and scarves.
I had just moved back to Arizona from California (where a tank top and flip-flops are winter wear). Sigh. I knew I’d never wear cashmere ever again, at least not in Arizona. Might as well donate them to kittens in need.
As it turns out, kittens require nourishment every two hours.
Thoughts of newborns did cross my mind. Especially thinking of waking every two hours and the idea of lack of sleep. Fortunately, my sister-in-law is a bonafide card-carrying Cat Lady. She not only feeds her cats but every stray within blocks of her home. She has a heart of gold and is one of my favorite relatives. Her daughter, Sara, is a Cat Lady-in-training and was soon called into action to join Kittygate. Between the three of us, we turned my bathroom into the perfect kitten feeding station.
YOU’RE ALL ON NOTICE, AND I KNOW WHO YOU ARE
I took the note taped to the kitten’s bin and spewed venom all over a large note and pinned it to the back wall of my condo. Well, it might even qualify as a sign, I suppose. I accuse whoever left the kittens that they had left them at the wrong house, I was not their “friend,” and furthermore they nearly killed the kittens by locking them in an airless bin. Outraged I was. I wrote that I was going door to door (not really) to find the perpetrator.
This was a strange plot twist, but the next day Animal Control left an unsolicited note on my front door wanting details of Kittygate. Did I know that whoever left the kittens had committed the crime of animal cruelty? Hah. You bet I did.
A copy of the Animal Control note was pinned to the ever expanding, okay it is a sign, on my back wall. Jail. I wanted jail time for these murderous fiends. I contacted Animal Control and told them what little information I knew. They even wanted the bin the kittens were left in, as well as the note. My kind of bureaucrats.
By now, the four older kittens had figured out how to scale the Mt. Everest bathtub wall and were wandering around the toilet area. Kitty dorm had now become two separate areas. Which, in a way, was good because the older ones were now eating soft kitten food.
I have a cat but have never had a kitten. I assumed they were born knowing how to use a cat box. Um, no. They were very adept at pooping next to the shoe box top litter boxes I made, but never quite hit the target.
It was time to find a place for the kittens to go—as much as I wanted 11 new pets.
Of course, my sister-in-law had called every cat rescue in town. Cats are impossible to find homes for, and if you bring them to the city shelter…well, it’s not good news.
THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER
BUT. Wonderful sis-in-law found a shelter in Phoenix that would take all 11 kittens if I would pay for foster families to care for them until they were six weeks old—an adoptable age. And the very best part, they were a no kill shelter.
So we bundled them up in cashmere-lined boxes and drove to Phoenix from where I live in suburban Mesa. Only when the intake person made up cards for each kitten did I truly believe there was really going to be a happily ever after for my precious kittens.
I made my final entry on the Kittygate sign and left it up for one more week before I took it down.
Total cost, caching = $256.00 you heartless (x-rated words)
SOLVING THE CASE
A bright spot to come out of this whole debacle is that most of my neighbors are now afraid of me and no one talks to me. As I prefer.
My brother Danny claims that everyone is afraid of me due to an incident with my mother’s gardener. I rather like it this way. Fear me. Even Gladys Kravitz returned her spare key to my house. A guilt offering, no doubt.
I suppose I’ll never find out who left the kittens at my door, upended my life for three days, and cost me the $256 I really didn’t have to spare. But I can tell you this much…
My neighbors now know I’m BADASS.
(This true story is dedicated to Allison Holder Pacailler, the original Cat Lady)
Photo: ©Dori Owen All Rights Reserved