Earlier this week we discovered three cats living under our front verandah. Nice friendly cats, just a bit skinny and pesky. There was a sensible grey and orange cat with a collar, and two ginger and white cats, like feline teenagers, possibly her offspring. Anyway, we agreed that four cats in the household was really three cats too many and that they would have to go. Then housegeusts from Tasmania arrived and there was chaos (of the fun kind) and barbeques and the cats sort of settled in for a couple of days. The cats became very bold and it was harder and harder to keep them out of the house. Meanwhile G phoned the council, who advised there was a three month waiting list for a cage. Despite G pointing out that by then the cats would have multiplied (and taken over our house) and trying to convey that we weren't actually asking someone to come and get them (oh heaven forbid that the council might actually address the issue of stray cats) but that we just wanted to know what to do.
Finally the Lost Dogs Home said we could take the cats there. Then, last night as I was getting changed I saw the mother cat dash across our bedroom with something grey, squeaking and rat sized in her mouth and dive into G's dirty washing basket. I shrieked pathetically (while thinking that enhanced rodent control might be an upside of all the extra cats) and G came to investigate (he's very good with rodents). And there amongst his smelly socks and underpants was a mother cat and two little, little kittens. At first we thought she was actually giving birth but then on closer investigation, I realised that the kittens were a couple of days old. Still so very tiny. She must have come out of the rain from somewhere to give birth under our house. G moved them out to the shed for the night and as the older cats kept pushing the littlies away for a go at their mothers milk and as they were going the next day, he fed them. In the middle of the night there was more squeaking and mother cat had appeared to claim yet another three day old kitten. G got up and put them both out in the shed. In the morning he said, there were three generations of cats all curled up in the basket together. He told me later, that he'd had a little chat to them about what to expect at the cat home, given them an information sheet about their rights and obligations and told them that none of this was their fault, because they were really good, sweet little cats.
Grace was pretty excited about going to the cat home, we've been saying that's where they were going since Tuesday and I hadn't had the heart to tell her what a tragic place it was. She still thinks that the word home means something good. This morning we borrowed another cat cage and went to the Lost Dogs home. I filled out the paperwork and while we were waiting, read posters saying that feeding strays was wrong; that you either have to take on an animal properly or phone the council (hah!). A worker came to check the cats out and transfer them into different cages. She handled the cats gently and with a sort of respectful affection but said the kittens had no chance, they were too young and that it looked like the little cats had cat flu. At one point I had a few tears in my eyes, but really we can't take on more cats. Although it was tempting. The last stray we had here, we found a home for him, but there was only one. Not six.