My grandparents have a cat who they call Grandma Cat. While she might be old enough to be called “Grandma,” she does something that very few grandmothers do: she has an obscene amount of babies. Like clockwork, each autumn and spring, her belly swells and shrinks as new cats are brought into the world.
This wouldn’t be an issue, except that this cat is wily and old enough to know every trick in the book when it comes to hiding kittens. Instead of having her children in the cat house next to our old white house or in the woodpile across the yard, she buries them in the hay, conceals them under the old house next door, or buries herself under the weights in the weight house.
For the past ten years, my Grandma has caught her kittens, taming them and then giving them away to good homes. I always looked forward to visiting when I knew she had kittens, either already caught or waiting to be found. Some of my fondest memories of the ranch are kitten-catching: one especially complex plot involved the cat cage, twine, and half-leaning out of the upstairs window.
Last fall, though, Grandma-Cat outwitted Grandma, and as this spring rolled around, three half-grown, wild kittens showed up at the house. One of them died before I could meet her, but the other two are still around, skittish and distrusting but beautiful nonetheless.
All of Grandma’s kittens are beautiful.
But this summer, once more, there are kittens to find–five of them.
Naturally, I readied myself for war when I realized the challenge that was before me. I searched for days, looking in the woodpile, crawling under the weight house and into the neighbors’ basement, and snooping around in the hay and metal-pile, all to no avail. Finally, Grandma saw them, basking in the sun next to the neighbors‘ weight house. We investigated, but before we could grab them they disappeared below the weights.
I was determined. Sneaking back around with a bucket and gloves, I waited until I saw them crawl back out before striking. It was a guerrilla attack. I grabbed a few, but they’d squirm away. I finally managed to catch one, a lovely gold-colored male, which I deposited into my bucket. I went to nab another, but my prize already had his paws on the edge of the bucket, ready to make his daring escape. I pushed him down. He popped back up. I pushed him down. He popped back up. It was like a game of whack-a-mole, except gentler, and with a straw-colored kitten. Eventually, I decided to be satisfied with only one kitten. Crawling over a fence with one escape artist is hard enough; two would be impossible.
But one of five is only twenty percent–a failing grade. I am not a failing type of gal. Grandma and I returned for more kittens, but Grandma-Cat had moved them, and so we were back to stage one: the hunt.
It was Grandma who noticed the activity on the old tree in the orchard. She went over to try and catch the cats, but they were too fast, disappearing into the tall grass or sliding into the hollow branch. She had to give up the chase, but when I returned home that night from moving water, I was greeted with the news of their latest location. I grabbed my gloves again and set out for the fallen branch. Sure enough, two light faces could be seen in the dark, hollow space. The battle began.
I broke a couple branches and began using them to block off one side of the branch, as well as pushing the stubborn cats towards me. Alternating between sides, I got them to the point where I could stick my arm into the branch and touch them, but they would back up or wriggle from my grasp.
I needed reinforcements, so I called the house. Grandpa answered and was quickly recruited. He came out with a metal cat-trap. Like any good general, I explained my strategy and them continued on. He broke off more branches, pushing the kittens closer to my grasp. Finally–victory! A hissing, biting creature exited the branch, yellow and angry, and was deposited into the cage. Her brother, a calm, fluffy tabby, soon followed suit.
The war is not yet over, but I’ve finally managed the upper hand. After all, three out of five, sixty percent, is a passing grade.
*atcay-atchingcay is from the ancient, venerable language of Pig Latin, meaning cat-catching