My husband and I had dreamed for a long time of building a home in the country where we could have horses in our backyard. (I wanted the horses, he wanted the tractor). After searching for years (literally) we found a 20 acre lot in Adel, Iowa that was just perfect. The only drawback was that our middle daughter, Amanda, didn't want to move. She told us that she was a "city girl" who would much rather live in a high rise with an elevator, or
at least stay in our current home in the suburbs. However, it only took two words to convince her to come with
us: "barn kittens". See, Amanda never cared for horses (she actually thinks they smell bad), but cats are her passion. When we told her that her beloved "Twinkie", an orange and white domestic shorthair, would never be allowed to have a litter of kittens in town, she started packing.
Well, the house and barn were eventually built (that's another story), and the time seemed right for our own litter of kittens. We had already acquired our own "daddy". Tyrone was a free kitten from another barn, and he had reached maturity. I'll skip the details of what happened next, but you get the picture. Twinkie was pregnant. As she grew fatter, Amanda (and the rest of us) grew more excited. We just couldn't wait to see the kittens. We wondered how many would be in the litter. We dreamed about all the different colors they would be. Amanda wished out loud for a gray one. I told her that with an orange and white mother and a black father, the chances of a gray kitten were slim. She didn't care. She wanted a gray one.
During Twinkie's pregnancy, Tyrone had a horrible accident. He got into a fight with another tom cat and lost very badly. He almost had his entire tail bit off! Ty is such a sweet, loveable cat that he didn't want to fight back. Our vet told us this would continue unless he was neutered. We knew this was the right thing to do, but the kids wanted to make absolutely sure that Twinkie was with child before making an irreversible decision. Upon examining her, the doctor confirmed her pregnancy, but told us that he could only find one kitten for sure. When the kids weren't looking, he told me that this was highly unusual for cats and he was concerned. I was just so thankful that she would have at least one kitten, that I tried not to think about what could possibly happen. Tyrone had his surgery and has stayed out of fights ever since.
Weeks passed, and Twinkie's due date came and went. She was more than a week over-due and only carrying one kitten. Finally, one evening, we noticed that Twinkie was having contractions. We made her a box with towels in the laundry room and Heather, Amanda, and I took our pillows and blankets with us and camped out by her side. We watched all night as she continued to strain, but there were no signs of a kitten. I called the vet in the morning. He knew how important this event was to our family and hoped that everything would turn out for the best. I checked on her throughout the day. Around 2:00 in the afternoon, I saw what looked like a tail emerging. It was purple. In tears, I called the doctor again. He told me that it was not unusual for kittens to be born backwards and not dangerous like with humans or horses. But the purple tail worried him. I promised to keep him updated.
It also happened that my equine veterinarian was at my home that day to vaccinate the horses. After he was finished, I begged him to look in on Twinkie. He knew right away that the kitten was in danger because there was no wiggling. He helped to deliver the stillborn kitten. She was orange and white and looked exactly like her mother. I was heartbroken. We would not get to watch Twinkie be a mother to her baby. We would never be able to cuddle this precious kitten and listen to it purr. Then my thoughts turned to my own children. I strained to see the clock through my tears. The school bus would arrive in 10 minutes. They would be devastated.
I placed the kitten in a coffee can and closed the lid so the kids wouldn't have to look at it if they didn't want to. This was supposed to be a happy, exciting time in our home. How would they ever understand?
I picked up the phone and informed our feline vet of what had happened. He felt my pain and said, "Karen, I have a stray cat in my office that is in labor right now. It looks like she'll have 4 or 5 kittens. I'm sure she won't miss one of them. Bring Twinkie in, and we'll see if she'll accept one of these."
The kids ran in the door, anxious to see their new litter. One look at my face, and they knew something was terribly wrong. Amanda was worried that something awful had happened to Twinkie during the delivery. I explained the situation. They each took turns viewing the kitten through tear-filled eyes. They appropriately named her "Angel".
We gathered Twinkie and her box and headed to the vet's office. Once inside, he led us to the back room where a big, black female lay with 5 kittens. Three were black and 2 were gray. Amanda reached for a gray one. It had soft, curly hair which promised to grow long and thick. She placed it in the box with Twinkie and it immediately started to nurse. Twinkie responded by giving her the first of many baths. They were an instant family. Twinkie instinctively knew what to do. Neither one of them ever seemed to realize that there had been a switch.
Amanda named her "Tabitha". Since then, we've realized that she is actually a he and shortened the name to just "Tab". He is the most beautiful cat I have ever seen. And he's gray. Just like Amanda ordered.
Copyright 2009 by Stopek Stables
This page last updated on July 03, 2009