Kittens to the Rescue

Mom hand and kitten.

After sixty plus years on this earth and zero desire to have an animal share her living space, my mother has suddenly become a cat lady.

First of all, let me tell you that she’s a softie. Not a pushover, but someone who sees a person in need and instantly has the urge to help them even if her own resources are slightly strained to make that help possible. We’re nothing alike. She raised an only child who barely tolerates other people.

Anyway, on with the story.

Over the years, there has been a marmalade cat having babies under my mom’s deck then moving on once the kittens are old enough. This latest litter is a batch of three tabbies. Cute as buttons – that is, if you think buttons are inherently cute.

As usual, mother and babies hang out under the deck. Gradually though, since my mom noticed them and started leaving food, they migrate to the deck itself, just outside the sliding glass doors. The babies are wriggly cute. Mama Tabs is super protective but tolerant.

One day, Mama Tabs disappears.

Mom continues feeding the kittens, thinking nothing about it. Maybe Mama Tabs is on walkabout or something. But then that notion is laid to rest when she discovers Mama Tabs in the backyard, basically dead.

“What am I supposed to do with this?”

The kittens continue being cute and Mom starts to worry about them in their newly orphaned state. During her worry, one of the kittens disappears and Mom worries some more. Maybe there are predators in the neighborhood waiting to pick off these innocent tabbies one by one. Perhaps there’s a budding serial killer practicing on cats in preparation for their human victims.

Weeks pass. Mom continues feeding the kittens and ponders out loud to me about bringing them inside to keep them safe. She sends me endless videos of them being adorable.

While this is going on, my mom realizes that she’s starting to inexplicably lose weight. At the doctor’s, she gets some bad news – she’s diabetic. It’s scary, and it sucks. She begins to worry about herself in addition to the kittens. My mom and I talk on the phone even more than usual. During those phone calls between Florida and Madrid, vibrates the awareness of Mama Tabs, of mortality, and the important things we can leave behind in the pursuit of our own dreams. She asks me to come back to Florida, so I do.

Diabetes is so common in the black community that there are endless jokes about it. Doctors routinely check me for it though I never ask them to. This thing that has always lurked in the background is suddenly right there in front of me. Insulin and horror stories about foot amputations, falling asleep and never waking up, blindness. One of my mother’s co-workers shared with her how his diabetic wife is frequently in the hospital. All comforting stuff.

After some weeks of understandable panic, Mom takes a class on diabetes and learns more than her doctor ever told her. From her house in Florida – with growing kittens now making regular visits to her deck for food – we tackle this new thing. It’s not easy, but it slowly becomes manageable.

In the midst of all this, Mom suddenly says, “I want to bring my kittens inside.” Of course, I’m shocked at everything in that sentence. My kittens??? Inside??? Where we grew up in Jamaica, animals stay outside. They eat table scraps and chase away undesirables – mongooses, burglars, salespeople, etc. This is huge.

But since this is the woman who never asks for anything, I set about making it happen.

Which is why – after two separate kitten-catching fiascos and corresponding visits to the vets – there are now two feral tabby kittens being house-trained in the spare bathroom.

Suddenly “inside.”

They are disgustingly cute. When Mom calls them “my babies” I try to be adult about it and not be jealous, but there’s just so much an only child like me can control.

Now, everyone’s learning in this house – my mom how to be a cat-carer, the kittens how to be inside (without the need to fight off psychopaths and other vicious neighborhood beasts), and me how to share. Or whatever. I won’t admit this to many people, but it’s kind of nice.

So, if you have any advice on feral kitty taming, I’m all ears.

A killer in love. A super hero in danger.
My latest baby – A Lover’s Mercy – out now.






  1. That’s a big challenge. Cats, like people, are unique with their own personalities. I had some success with a squirt bottle of water, when kitty got into something I didn’t want her into I would spray her with water. BUT I also had a wild child of a kitty that was determined to go his own way and nothing seemed to work. My present feline is an absolute lamb and I have had nothing but goodness from her. I would suggest research lots of research. And I also think it’s wonderful your mom is getting information of diabetes. It doesn’t have to lead to amputated limbs or blindness. It can be managed. My husband was diagnosed decades ago and managing it is crucial.

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  2. Did you say how old these kittens are? The best time for socialization is 2-7 weeks, From 7-14 weeks the window gets increasingly smaller, but it’s still there, so don’t give up! Regardless of age, though, the bathroom is too isolated a place, even if they do feel safe in there. Of course, you don’t want to let them loose in the house either, in which case they’ll disappear behind furniture and your mom will spend all her time looking for them (I’m convinced cats wear invisibility cloaks; if they don’t want to be seen, you will not see them).

    Anyway, everyone who works with feral kittens will have varying opinions, but having done TNR work for many years, my advice is this. Get them out of that bathroom and set them up in a crate (one end covered for security) in the middle of human activity, They will become quickly desensitized to the sights and sounds of human households: people, faces, voices, movement, televisions, other animals, etc.. This is why vets often cage feral kittens for adoption right in their waiting rooms. And, of course, the primary advantage of a cage/crate is that it gives you easy access to the kittens.

    HANDLE them a few times a day. If one freaks out when you try picking it up, approach from above. With your thumb and index finger slowly get a firm but gentle grip on the nape of the neck (like the mother would carry them). Lift and support its butt in the palm of your other hand. Sit with it in your lap, petting its head and chin until it begins to relax. But keep a ready hand over the neck in the event it tries to bolt and you need to secure a grip again. It’s the best way to avoid scratches and bites. Trust me. Many times I’ve had my ass seriously kicked by a kitten.

    You’ll see a huge difference over the course of several days. Soon will come the sound of purring…kittens feeling content enough to doze off in your lap. A sweet victory! Then the really hard part — finding good homes. If you’re anywhere near NY, CT or MA, I’ll put my feelers out, Fiona. Let me know.

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    • This is great! Thank you. The nape carry isn’t something I’ve heard before.

      The kittens are out of the bathroom and running all over the place, usually in plain sight. My mom is determined to keep them. For now, I’ll have to dash to the store and get another litter box and a different type of litter. This current one gets everywhere.

      The trial and error continues here apace but Mom is enjoying most of the experience.


  3. Thank you for giving such a sweet story of kittens and mama. I really enjoyed it. I think her need to bring the stray kittens inside should be a little symbolic of society in helping out other strays once in a while. Perhaps see that offering a fiver or an old jacket To a homeless stray is the kind thing that should be done. MayBe letting those strays in the house after a lifetime of keeping them out is not only a change heart but and eye opening moment that your mother May not understand but her heart does. Those in need sometimes require the protection or care from those that are able to give it. And the positive mojo doesn’t hurt either. I hope she feels better.

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    • Thank you, Jeanne! All positive hopes and wishes gladly accepted. I agree with all this 👆🏾. A few years or even months ago, she wouldn’t have seen herself with kitties at all.


  4. What a delightful story, Fiona! Those two kittens are lucky that their mama had them under your mama’s deck, and that the time was right for your mama to take them in.Things happen for reasons we don’t always understand. Perhaps your mama’s new babies will bring her “catventures” along with a renewed awareness of the need to do everything she can to manage the diabetes. BTW, what are your siblings names?

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  5. I don’t, but that is an absolutely amazing story. Congrats to your mom for being a cat mama and for you for learning to share! Good luck to everyone. And i hope your mom keeps her diabetes under control. It’s a terrible disease.

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