Four Little Kittens

After the farmers market two weeks ago, I came home with a litter of baby kittens…

…and it’s been quite an adventure having them around the house.

They were given to me as barn cats, so once I knew that, I didn’t take any issue with them. Only half-feral animals will make it up here on the hill. As you can tell from the picture, they aren’t acting very feral lately.

Once I got them home, I immediately sought to build them a comfy enclosure, hoping that I could get them out to the shed or another safe place before the cold moved in. The enclosure itself was a success, but they began venturing out a bit sooner than I predicted.

Once they popped the lid open it was all over, and so were they. Instead of timidly exploring the house like I would expect from a baby kitten, it was only seconds before they were roaming about everywhere. Now they’ve taken to curling up next to me at some point in the night, and I wake up with kittens in random spots, and I must move and roll carefully in the morning to avoid squishing one.

Anyway, more on that in a moment. I want to talk a little bit about the enclosure, because it was such a cool idea and I hadn’t thought about doing it this way before. You see the blue stuff behind the kitties in the picture above? That’s Styrofoam insulation. I still haven’t finished putting those tiles on my ceiling, and with the equivalent of one single 4×8 foot sheet, I managed to make a very cozy home for the little babies, which they continued to sleep in for several days after their initial escape.

Since the sheets were already cut to 15 inch widths and 4 ft lengths, I used one piece each for floor, ceiling, and two long walls. I stuck it all together with some sturdy duct tape, cut some end pieces, and also split the ceiling piece to make a door that I could open and close to check on them.

Inside, at one end was placed a litter pan that had to be emptied frequently (they now have two bigger litter pans in the house, and use all three throughout the day). At the other end I build a smaller box out of the same stuff, that fit snugly inside. The ceiling on that box was double-stacked, with a little gap above it.

Basically, it’s the equivalent of a Yeti cooler in there. With the idea being that this would be their safe spot to hide at night, the extra insulation would ensure that they could stay warm without additional stress, and hopefully keep other animals out as well. As soon as they got out (they used some teamwork to lift that metal grate and scoot it to the side) I cut a “mouse hole” in the side of the box to give them another entry method.

I originally planned to clad the box with plywood to make it stronger, and went through about six other plans before deciding that the final spot for the enclosure will be inside of my old 8×12 cabin, which is operating now as a tool shed. That’s still the plan, but I’m pushing the move date off until the spring. The kittens are already curious about outside, but I’m trying to limit their time out there to give them the best chance of not getting snatched up by a larger animal.

Speaking of insulation, I actually worked out the math on that box, and determined that the little bedroom in there would keep six pounds worth of kitten nice and cozy to outside temps as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The foam I’m using is 1-1/2 inches thick, and that gives the bedroom part of the enclosure an R-value of around 15 total, a bit less outside of the smaller box. It’s better insulated than my house if you take into account the diminutive size.

A similar box could make a wonderful beer cooler too, in case you need a DIY project. the price of the foam is much less than buying a new cooler, and you could add some heavy plastic inside to keep the tape from getting wet.

So, much has changed with my kitten plans. For the moment I keep them safe in the house, and they seem content to be inside. Come spring, they should be large enough to roam about, and they’ll know where to find fresh food and water. As they have stopped spending so much time in the enclosure, I may move it out ahead of them, and once they start venturing, I’ll show them the shed. I plan on cutting some windows and a kitty door as well for added protection and light. It’ll be a tad safer than my barn, which has rather large bay-size openings in it.

If I have the timing right, they should be starting their “teenager” phase around that time as well, which means they’ll be more interested in doing their own thing and less interested in me, though for the moment they are pretty independent. Even when I’m off work, I’m outside most of the day, and the kitties stay inside and sleep or play. When I’m at work, I’m gone for eight hours, and after a few days of letting me know they didn’t like that, there hasn’t been a mess to clean up in over a week now. They aren’t even waiting for me anymore. Most of the time they keep sleeping even after I come home, until I make dinner for them at least.

And, much to my luck, they are already killing stuff. Mostly little spiders and other bugs that come in with the firewood. I might try to trap some small prey for them (as their mother would do), but I haven’t gotten that far yet.

I gave them their first round of vaccines the other day, and plan on keeping up with that. I’ll likely neuter the two boys when they are a bit older. I may spay the girls too, but they seem like pretty robust cats, and we need some new cat genetics around here. All the local cats are pretty much from the same lineage. I swear someone came out here with two cats and those are the only two responsible for every cat in the vicinity. Most of them are retarded or weird, and I think with all the bigger predators around here (coyotes, bears, wild-cats, eagles, hawks, owls, etc) having a breeder or two might not be a bad idea. I’ll just need to find another male cat to let the females play with for a bit.

But that’s getting way ahead of myself. For the moment I have four little kittens, and I’m trying to give them the best shot at making it out here. They’re my little off-grid kitties, except they don’t know that. They watch me build fires in the wood stove, and probably figure that it’s a normal thing for humans to do. My composting toilet system isn’t that far removed from their litter pans. We get drinking water from the same buckets. There’s a pump that comes on frequently (still don’t think they’ve made the connection that the sinks trigger it). There’s a lot going on here that most cats don’t get to see. Even though they are inside, it’s quite wild in the house as well as out. Maybe that’ll work to my advantage when it comes time for them to start killing vermin (starting with the influx of mice that’s certain to attack my wheat next spring).

We’ll see, but those are the new additions. They don’t all have names yet, though I’ve been calling the torties Peanut and Tater Tot. Mostly their name is “kitties” because I only really call them to wrangle them up for “chow” or “hotdog time.” They know those words.

Anyway, speaking of off-grid stuff, I need to disconnect the water lines and drain the heater. Going to be another cold night. Stay safe out there and keep in touch. Any questions about the kitties, please ask.

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