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Little Bit

A few years ago, at the end of 2002, a tortoiseshell cat showed up with a kitten in tow (the first mention of her in my diary is December 30, 2002). We thought this kitten was a little boy, but early the next year, it was obvious she wasn't. We tried our best to get her trapped before she was able to have any kittens, but we caught her mom instead, who was spayed and released.

This was around Easter of 2003. We called this little black kitten "Little Bit" because she was so very tiny.

Little Bit on the bank in front of our house

Little Bit had at least two litters last year. The first, we never saw any kittens, she was pregnant one day and the next time we saw her, she wasn't. The following time, she had the litter across the street and brought them over here. The next morning, the kittens were gone. We don't know what happened to them. Brian looked for them up on the cathouse on the bank, but they were no where to be found. We do have predators in the area, raccoons and coyotes and the occasional loose dog. It was sad, but Little Bit didn't really seem all that concerned. Not like when we'd taken Little Guy's kittens years ago and she cried and cried for days looking for them.

January 2004, in front of our house, on the car;
SpotTee (in the front), Little Bit, KittyMeeze, and Notwally on the fence

Then early this year the boys started showing up, sniffing after our Little Bit. They were around for weeks, then they were gone. And on April 4, 2004, Little Bit gave birth to five kittens. We kept Ross and Rachel, the other three went to Los Angeles to be adopted out.

Little Bit and her five kittens, taken in May 2004

This litter had three calicos, one torbie and a little black kitten. Little Bit did good by keeping them here.

We tried our darnedest to get her trapped before she was able to get pregnant again, but she was very, very trap smart. We tried everything that people advised us. We pulled up all of the food for days (I felt bad for the other cats, but catching Little Bit before she had another litter was of the utmost importance). We brought home KFC chicken. We tried people tuna. We talked to her. We begged her. She ignored our pleas and ignored the trap. The morning that I found the possum in it for the third time, I gave up.

We let nature take its course and on August 3, 2004, she had another litter. She had them up on the bank, but we never got a chance to see them, because she moved them as soon as she was up to it. And she moved them out of our yard, into a neighbor's. Fortunately, these neighbors had just left on an extended vacation and their backyard was a very safe place to raise young kittens. I did worry about them, but I knew that they'd be okay where they were. She was smart enough to move them if there was a reason to. I was very curious how many she'd had and what they looked like.

And I found out on their one month birthday. She brought them up to our house on September 3rd, their one month birthday. The following days, I tried making friends with them the same way I'd done with the previous litter. She was having none of it. As a matter of fact, she moved them back to the neighbor's yard when she decided I was a little too curious about her babies. That only lasted a day or so and she brought them back up. But they weren't as friendly as the previous litter and I started to get worried that if I didn't get them soon, they may be too wild to properly socialize. So, on Saturday, 9/11/2004, I made my move and got all three. I had no idea what the plan was, but I just knew I couldn't leave them to grow up wild on the streets.

But I did know something else. That we would try to use the kittens to trap Little Bit. On Sunday, Brian heard her looking for the kittens. I put the kittens in a carrier with a door on it and Brian set the trap. We put the kittens in the carrier at the back of the trap and covered it (as you can see by the photograph below, with Little Bit looking on) with towels. It was a warm morning and Little Bit wasn't taking the bait.    I pulled up all the food and put food in the trap and the kittens were crying for their mom.  Oh, it was so heartrending, their little cries, her cries for them. She circled the trap, she got on top of the carrier, she tried to get to her kittens, but there was no way she was going to walk into the trap. We left the set up for a couple of hours and I would occasionally go out and move the trap and carrier to a shadier place in the entry way (the sun was moving overhead and shining in through the skylight over the entry way). I finally pulled the carrier up and brought the kittens inside. It was just too darned hot for them and I didn't want them to get heatstroke. As it was, their little faces were swollen from trying to get out of the carrier, pushing against the door. I almost cried.  

Brian was outside washing the Escape and I heard him talking to Little Bit. I listened to what he was saying to her. He told her if she ever wanted to see her kittens again, that she'd have to go into the trap. Then they could all live here for the rest of their lives, one big happy family (this was the first I'd heard that this was what he wanted to do). He told her that she'd be safe here, away from the predators and cars and humans and other nasty things out front. She'd be dry in the rain and cool in the heat of the summer sun. She'd never have to worry about boys fighting over her and she'd never have to raise another litter of kittens.  Life as she knew it would be much, much easier.  

A while later, I went out to move the trap out of the sun, since there was food in it and I didn't want it going bad. The trap had been set! It was about two in the afternoon and Little  Bit had walked right into the trap!  I was astounded!  I yelled at Brian "We got her! We got her!  Your talk with her must have done it!" (because all of these years we've been trying to get her, this was the first time he spent time discussing her life with her). I called the vet and they were able to take her. We were down there by 2:30 that Sunday afternoon. She was spayed on Monday and came back to her onetruehome on Tuesday, September 13, 2004.

Little Bit and her three kittens, September 2004

Her first week, I kept her back in the exercise room in a crate. Then I moved her out to the living room, where she could see the other cats. She came down with a pretty bad cold, which scared me. I had no way to give her antibiotics. She wasn't eating anything at all. And my original set up of the crate wasn't working. Brian had put a shelf in it for her and he drilled holes in the side at my direction. He hung a length of nylon rope across it so that I could hang a towel down from it and give her privacy. The litter box was a regular sized box and it was below the shelf. While she was so sick, I found her laying in the litter box, litter crusted around her nose. This wouldn't do, this wouldn't do at all. I was able to get her to move and I pulled out the litter box and put towels down in the back (I had to be really, really careful because she did not like me in her space and she had some pretty sharp claws as I found out on several occasions; at first I was using a crowbar to pull the litter box out to me for cleaning) and got the cake pan I'd used for the April litter and I put that in the front of the crate, leaving room for her food (we got some coop cups and attached them to the door) and water.

I started letting the kittens in with her which helped calm her down. After she'd been sneezing, coughing and sniffling for about a week and a half, I told her that as soon as she started eating again, I'd let her out. The morning that I watched her eat some kibble, I opened the door to the crate. She was able to come and go as she pleased. She found a new spot, the hole at the bottom of the kitty sleep center that Brian built a while back. And once it was obvious that's where she wanted to be, I was able to remove the crate from the house.

The first couple of weeks, she'd explore the house at night, crying and talking to her kittens. She looked for a way out, which she didn't find. She'd sit at the sliding door in the evenings and just stare out. She trilled and chirped. She never tried to get out, though, when I opened the door to let the other cats out. I never left the door open, but she was really good about staying inside.

Until we left for our annual Disney trip in October. When we got home, she was laying in front of the house, on a blanket in the entry way. It seems she'd slipped past the catsitter when she took Potter outside (Potter wouldn't shut up and taking him outside calmed him down). She ran down to the corner by the pool, under the fencing around the fishtail palm, and was gone. It took us about four hours to get her back in, but she wanted in. She came up to the sliding door and went back into the house. Brian fixed the problem at the palm tree and, hopefully, if she tried to get outside again using that spot, she wouldn't be able to.

November 1, 2004

Yesterday, I let her out. I watched her closely and she seemed to be okay. Her main concern seemed to be her kittens. She found them in the yard and whenever she'd get nervous, she'd run back into the house. A good sign, one that she's equating the house with "safe place". And last night, for the first time since she's been loose in the house, she didn't spend the entire night talking. She was a lot more relaxed.

When we get the kittens fixed next month, I'll be working with her more to let her outside. It will be nice to not have to watch who wants in and who wants out, once again.

March 5, 2012 ~ We lost Little Bit, it was her kidneys.





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