From Pipi’s Pasture: The topsy-turvy kittens grow up
October 30, 2015
This week's column continues with the story about the topsy-turvy kittens that were born here at Pipi's Pasture a few years ago. One out of the five kittens was normal; the other four had some type of nervous disorder, apparently some type of genetic or birth defect, that caused them to stagger and topple over when they walked — thus the name "topsy-turvy."
Early in the summer, one kitten died. After that the mama cat moved them to the area in front of the house where they had shelter in a thicket of bushes and trees. That's where I left food for the mama. Before long she started weaning the kittens, and they found the food and water, too. Their "eye-mouth" coordination was affected by the disorder, so their heads bobbed up and down as they located and finally got the cat food in their mouths.
Eventually the mother cat started leaving the kittens for periods of time and left disappeared altogether. The kittens thrived. We never took them to a veterinarian. Although they didn't run off when we were near, the kittens remained wild, and we didn't want to cause unnecessary stress by picking them up.
As fall approached, I worried about what would happen to the kittens when the snow arrived. They couldn't stay in the bushes out front; that much was clear. The kittens had grown to nearly adult size now so I started putting their food closer and closer to the backyard area. They found the food pans, and I moved them just a little farther. Slowly, slowly, they became accustomed to the back and east side of the house where there was shelter under buildings, at the back entrance, and on the patio.
By the time the snow started falling the cats could get to dry shelter under one outbuilding. I made little houses from boxes, lined them with rugs and other cloth, and set them up on the patio where snow couldn't reach them. One of the topsy-turvy cats died early in winter, despite our efforts to help her, but the other two got through the winter just fine.
In the summer, the black cat went to live around the corral, but he still visited the house pretty often. The cats have access to plenty of shelter in the haystack, but I worried that the black cat couldn't get up on top of the bales to find the cozy tunnels between them. I needn't have worried. One day, my husband Lyle saw the cat on top of the stack.
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The other topsy-turvy, a gray cat that I named "Topsy," stayed around the house, spending most of her summer days in a row of lilacs to the east of the front lawn. Each time I took food and water to the patio, where I fed all of the cats, she marched across the lawn in her toy-soldier-like fashion, sometimes toppling over but always getting there. She was able to step onto the patio where her head bobbed over the food pan.
Topsy spent her summer days chasing butterflies, birds,and grasshoppers, jumping up in the air and falling over, only to start all over again. She even gave birth to two kittens that she hid in the lilac bushes but sometimes brought out onto the lawn. (They were normal kittens.)
One morning, late in the fall, I found the black topsy-turvy dead at the base of the haystack. He had not exhibited any signs of illness so perhaps he fell off the haystack or was attacked by a predator. Topsy died during the winter.
We will never forget the time that the topsy-turvy cats spent with us. Mostly, we will never forget the lesson they taught us — be grateful for what you have and never, ever give up.