Just a few months ago, on February 20, we spotted a beautiful calico cat in our yard. We had no idea that this initial catspotting experience was about to take us on an adventure that would teach us so much about these incredible creatures.
Getting To Know Her
As when meeting any new cat, our story started with a slow introduction. We were eager to bond, but the newest cat to have walked into our lives was shy.
She kept her distance and so did we, but she definitely seemed interested in us. This gave us hope. She definitely wasn’t feral, which meant there was a real chance of getting to know her.
We wanted to help her so we went out with some treats and stayed a safe distance away so as to not startle her. With just a few treats, this cat melted into our hands. We got her a nice bowl of wet and dry food mixed together. She seemed to be starving even though she appeared to be a healthy weight.
We started to feed her a generous bowl when she came by once per day. It didn’t take long to bond with her and we were contemplating what to do with this cat. We already have 4 and we weren’t even sure where she was coming from.
If she was going to be coming around, she was going to need a name, so we decided to start calling her Sylvie, short for Sylveon. One more Pokemon to join the ranks of Litten and Abra. (There’s a junior cat trainer in our home who loves Pokemon).
After having her come by a few times we started to become suspicious of her size. Some researching and a little examining later, we discovered that what we thought was a portly kitty tummy was instead a womb about to bring forth new life.
Sylvie was pregnant.
What To Do With A Pregnant Cat
None of us had been around a pregnant cat before so this came as quite a surprise. Google search got a workout on every device in the house that day as we tried to figure out what the best course of action was.
We began asking around the neighborhood to see if anyone knew her but it seemed like no one did. We even showed them pictures of her but almost everyone denied ever having seen her before. Those who did recognize her only knew her as a local stray and not a single person had any idea what an absolute lovebug this little girl was.
No one in the neighborhood had made it past her shy side so no one was even sure we were even talking about the same cat.
We really wanted to help this cat momma out, but with 4 adult cats of our own already, bringing her inside wasn’t really an option and no one we spoke to was interested in taking in a pregnant cat. We set up a dog house (cat house?) with blankets for her in our yard so she had a comfortable place to stay, but unfortunately, she didn’t take to it. On March 2nd, less than 2 weeks after our initial meeting, Sylvie seemed to go missing altogether.
Where Is Sylvie?
That day, we woke up to a rainy morning and Sylvie didn’t show up for her morning feeding and petting. It rained for a few days in a row after that and we didn’t see her around anywhere, but it’s not unusual for strays to hide out during a few stormy days.
As the weather cleared up and Sylvie still didn’t return, we really started to worry though. Maybe she was further along in her pregnancy than we initially believed? Maybe something happened to her during the storm? Guilt set in and we realized we had made a mistake by not bringing her in regardless. Regret was running strong as weeks went by without any sign of her.
By this point, we’d begun to consider that we might not see Sylvie again. She had been gone for over a month, closer to two, when we finally spotted her down the street. She was looking skeletal and obviously had her kittens during her time away.
As we approached, we noticed she was extremely protective of a neighbor’s driveway so we suspected that she had her kittens hidden somewhere on his property.
We left some food for her on the curb and spoke to the owner, who was surprised to find out he had cats in his backyard! A fellow animal lover, he started putting out food for Sylvie every evening and she eventually started coming back to our house for food in the morning too.
Still, no one could find the kittens. There are quite a few predators present in our wooded neighborhood. Hawks and other birds of prey are a regular sight during the day and the not-too-distant hooting of owls and howling of coyotes often pierces the crisp night air as they converse back and forth across the forest.
We couldn’t help but worry about all the what-ifs. We started taking regular walks around the area where we’d usually see Sylvie hanging out with no luck. For weeks, Sylvie was the only cat we saw around.
Finally, we spotted her with 2 kittens around the middle of May. They were deep in someone else’s property so we were unable to help anyone at the time, but we started trying to make our home a safe space for them all to come.
By this point, we’d considered catching them all and TNRing (Trap, Neuter, Release) at the very least. Sylvie was coming by to eat at our house multiple times per day but was still looking undernourished. We figured that she was in need of better nutrition since she was a nursing mother. We were already feeding her a high-nutrition kitten blend but we soon realized that we needed to ensure the kittens were getting the nutrition they needed too.
Getting our hands on the kittens proved to be a difficult task, though. The regret of not letting Sylvie in sooner was hitting all over again as we knew that we couldn’t help her much more until we got our hands on the kittens as well. Finally, on the evening of June 4th, Sylvie led a long-haired kitten who looked a lot like a ragdoll to our home.
The kitten, who we’ve since named Yuki, appears to be around 12 weeks old which means that Sylvie had them right around the time that she disappeared. We were able to bring the kitten in that same day.
With just slow blinking and a little food, the kitten trusted us pretty quickly. We brought Yuki in, gave her a flea bath, and got her treated with a flea preventative. We’re now just waiting on getting her tested so she can be introduced to the rest of the pack.
Unfortunately, Sylvie has not come in yet. She has been given a flea treatment though and we’ve been flea combing her daily. But since we’re not sure if kitten # 2 is still out there, we don’t want to risk it getting abandoned. Since Yuki is still nursing, any other kitten out there may still be relying on Sylvie for food.
Since Yuki is not yet fully weaned, we’ve been giving them daily together time outside for them to bond and nurse. Yuki is at a good age to wean though, and she’s been eating both wet and dry food well throughout the day. It’s even obvious that Sylvie is trying to reduce their nursing sessions and has even been cutting them short lately with a hiss and a bop.
It’s been almost a week and it seems like there are no longer any other kittens with Sylvie. We’re not sure if a predator got their hands on the second kitten, if someone adopted it, or if it just went off on its own since they’re already around 3 months old. We’ve called the vet to make appointments for both Sylvie and Yuki, but there are staffing issues that are causing a delay to get them in.
We want to make sure Sylvie is fully rid of fleas before bringing her into the house. (Our oldest cat, Shadow, is severely allergic to fleas and we can’t risk him being exposed.) The vet will help us get rid of Sylvie’s fleas, get them both their shots and make sure that they don’t have any illnesses that would be contagious to the others. Once they have both had their vet trips, they will be introduced to our clowder and will have full access to the house along with our other four cats. We’re planning on delaying Sylvie’s spaying surgery until Yuki is fully weaned, though. They will then likely be spayed at the same time and given space to recover together away from the other animals.
Although we made some mistakes along the way this has been such a humbling learning experience. Each cat’s life is precious and we deeply regret not having been able to help more of the kittens, but we’re going to take what we’ve learned and do better next time, as well as make sure these two beautiful cats that walked into our life are well taken care of. By the time they leave us, Sylvie and Yuki will be socialized with dogs, small children, and other cats to ensure that almost any home will be suitable for these great girls.
*We’ll continue to add to Sylvie’s story and our journey of fostering both Sylvie and baby Yuki. Stay tuned for updates on what’s up with the foster cats!