From Pipi’s Pasture: The year of the topsy-turvy cats
The other afternoon, while I was filling a stock tank at the corral, I was watching the cats and remembering the years that the topsy-turvy cats lived at Pipi’s Pasture. I have written about the stray cats before. They come and go at our place. Some of them stay with us awhile. I feed them all, and it’s the cats’ habits to stay either at the corral or around the house, usually not both places.
Anyway, one year a gray mama cat lived around the house. She was a gentle cat, and one spring she had kittens. We didn’t notice until they got big enough to come out from under my cottage office, just a few steps from the house. We didn’t really notice the kittens even then because they were wild.
Then one day our granddaughter Megan was visiting, and she found a kitten in the backyard. It was obvious that there was something wrong with the kitten; it staggered when it tried to walk. Megan thought it had fallen out of a tree. I don’t remember the particulars, but the kitten disappeared.
Then the mama cat moved the kittens out in front of the house where I keep potted plants in the summer. It was a good place because there’s a thicket of rosebushes, chokecherry trees, and lilacs to one side of the house — a good place to be out of the weather.
Then we noticed that there was something wrong with three of the four kittens. A gray one was normal, but the others, a black and two gray-white kittens, had some sort of nervous affliction.
We called them topsy-turvy kittens because they had trouble coordinating their walking movements. They would start out to walk, fall over, and when they did walk, they staggered. Their heads bobbed up and down when they ate, too, as if they couldn’t quite get their mouths in the right position.
But they could eat, and they could get around, and they played like normal kittens. The mama cat stayed with them, nursed the kittens, and groomed them. I put food and water, in shallow pans, out for the kittens. While the mama cat was tame, however, the kittens were not. We didn’t try to hold them because our efforts just brought on the strange staggering movements.
I can remember pleasant summer evenings when it was hot and we turned on the outside light and sat out on the front porch, watching the kittens as they played around the flower pots.
The kittens grew braver as they got older. They ventured onto the front lawn and even tried to catch birds and insects. To walk, they stiffened their front legs, putting them out in front of them as with toy soldiers that kids play with. Their hind legs followed. Sometimes the kittens staggered and fell over, thus the name “topsy-turvy.” In an attempt to catch insects, the kittens jumped straight up in the air — always falling over but trying again and again.
Until I started writing I had no idea that I had so much to “say” about these unusual kittens. I’m out of words so this story will be continued next week.
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