A few years ago, we had a small, mentally disturbed cat. Her name was Kitty, and she avoided the dogs like the plague. We made every attempt to be responsible pet-owners and booked Kitty’s spay surgery for when she was 6-months-old—as suggested by the vet. Kitty reached her adulthood prior to the 6-month mark, and it started to become difficult to keep her inside. She eventually discovered that she could remove the screen from the spare room window and escape through the backyard. Now, what with her reaching her adulthood prematurely, you can imagine what came next.
I was watching her roll around on the living room floor and noticed that her stomach had expanded. She was naturally tiny, even by cat standards, but her abdomen looked as if it had been blown up with a balloon. As far as we knew, she had only actually escaped once. But, like they say, that’s all it takes. I searched google for “cat pregnancy signs” and ultimately decided that we were going to have to prepare for kittens. Perhaps it was fate, or perhaps not. I cancelled her spay surgery and tried to figure out how far along she was.
Cat pregnancies progress much more quickly than those of humans. They only take about 9 weeks in total, and we estimated that she was about 4 weeks along when we found out. So, we had around a month to learn everything we needed to know about pregnant cats and newborn kittens. Of course, with these things, you should leave nature to do its work. So, we waited. During the waiting we frequently conversed about how our two dogs were going to handle the new kittens. We were worried that they would try to eat them, or step on them. But, there wasn’t much we could do about it, so we put our negative thoughts away and focused on the impending arrivals.
Based on Kitty’s size, we estimated that there were maybe 2-3 kittens squirming around in her belly. She became much more loving than ever before, and liked to lay on my stomach, purring. She would let me place me hands on either side of her, which allowed me to feel the tiny beings rolling around, pressing against my palms. It was a magical experience. We don’t have any children at this point in our lives, so it was quite enjoyable to be a part of Kitty’s pregnancy from the beginning. She became fat and lazy, and wanted to sleep all day. Her appetite increased and she was much less venomous towards the dogs. It was a nice change, and we constantly remarked on how motherhood suited her.
When the approximate due date finally came around, we did everything possible to make her comfortable. You see, cats will search out a place to deliver weeks before they give birth. They dig around in blankets, corners, and underneath and behind furniture trying to find the safest place for their kittens to be born. At one point, I was afraid that Kitty might want to give birth on me since she became so attached, but I needn’t have worried. On April 15th, 2009, sometime after midnight, we woke to a strange squeaking sound in our bedroom. Sleep drunk and stumbling, we got a flashlight (as we didn’t want to disturb them), and searched for the sound. Eventually, we located Kitty behind our dresser, and she wasn’t alone. There was one tiny, slimy kitten on the carpet, and poor Kitty was panting like a demon. The corner behind the dresser was not a good place to have them, and the dogs were in the bedroom, so we shifted her into a box, padded with towels, and moved her into the spare room. We watched another kitten make its way into the world and decided to go back to bed. We did check on her a few times that night, but didn’t want to disturb her or the kittens.
The next morning, when we woke it took a moment to remember that we had a couple new members of the family to visit. Like I said, we had only seen 2 kittens the night before, so we were expecting at the most there would be 3. We were wrong. We made our way into the room and Kitty greeted us with an exhausted squawk. It was not a warning sound, so we approached the box where we could hear high-pitched squeaks and grunts. We found 7 mouse-like creatures with giant heads fighting for milk. 7 different colored, perfectly formed, brand-new kittens. Not 2, or 3. That meant that in total, we now had 10 animals in the house. A touch overwhelming.
We decided to allow the dogs to sniff around, not in the box of course, but near the door so that they would get used to the smell and sounds of our new wards. They were cautious, but not in an aggressive way. They were curious, tipping their heads to the side and looking up at us. I made the decision to let Kitty see them. She didn’t react at all. Whether it was out of exhaustion, or confidence I do not know. For some reason, she didn’t feel threatened by them. So, I let them go to the box where the 7 squeakers were sleeping with Kitty curled around them. Koda, the brave dog of our 2, went in first. He put his nose close to them and sniffed, wagging his tail. I stood beside him with my hand on his massive shoulder to let him know he wasn’t going to get away with anything. He looked at me as if he were asking permission to get closer. I gave him the “go ahead” and he dipped his head into the box again, this time ever-so-gently licking about 5 of the pint-sized furballs at once. Kitty watched him and purred. It was lovely.
Mylo was a different story. Although not aggressive, he was deathly afraid of the kittens. He too, sniffed them in the box, but he ran away immediately. He would come in, sniff, and tear-off in fear, over and over. But there was no growling or grumbling. He is just afraid of everything.
From the first day, the dogs had a good relationship with the kittens. But, I suppose I will have to make a “part 2” to this as there is so much more to tell.
Dogs don’t have to hate cats, and cats don’t have to hate dogs. From this lesson, I began to understand that dogs will surprise you every single time. Instincts can be overcome, and strange friendships can be forged. To me, it is no longer about typical dog behavior. It is about recognizing that they are part of a pack, even if it’s made up of dogs, humans, and cats. They respect the pack that is our family, and they understand the intricate relationships and expectations within it. They are much smarter than we give them credit for.