Barb the cat has lived here at the olive mill longer than we have. She came with the house, along with Marybelle the huge potbellied pig. Every spring without fail, Barb has delivered a beautiful litter of kittens. At first we were worried we would be over run by cats, but Barb seems to call some sort of meeting to order and eventually they all move on to pastures new. We never know where they go, or even exactly when. They gradually become more independant and will miss the occasional meal. This happens for a period, and then we realise we haven't seen one for a week or so. Sometimes they return and but often we never see them again. It's sad at the time, but I guess it's nature. Barb is the only female allowed to stay, so they others will make their own lives, and hopefully have their own litters too.
It's amazing to watch Barb educate her kittens. She will give birth to them in the strangest of places, where of course she feels the safest. The last 3 years, after having them, she has come and actually shown us where they are. If we get close to them though, she will growl at us. That's fine, she want's to keep them as safe as possible. We have watched her move them, if either the alpacas are getting too close, or the weather changes for the worse. What is obvious is that we are watching Mother nature at her best!
This year for the first time she had had 4 kittens. Eeny Meeny Miny and little Mo. They were born at the beginning of April, and all thankfully doing well. They were only about 8 weeks old when we realised we hadn't seen Barb for a couple of days. I feed the cats to keep them healthy, although they still hunt. We have never seen a rat on, or near our land, and very rarely even a little mouse. We need to keep that instinct in them. Barb, feeding 4 kittens needed her energy, and the kittens had started enjoyed dried cat food too. When we hadn't seen her for a couple of days Alan suggested that maybe she had gone away for a few days to allow her milk to dry up. I must admit I had never noticed her do that before, although as she was feeding 4, possibly it was getting too much for her.
That was the beginning to the middle of July, and we still haven't seen our beautiful Barb. She was looking a little thin, although she seemed fit and well. Possibly she did disappear to allow her milk to dry up, and maybe she has found a new home. Of course maybe she was ill and took herself away, bless her.
Who knows what the outcome of this years kittens will be. At the moment they are dependant on us for food and water. They have not been taught to hunt. Barb would normally take them out with her. She would also gradually teach them where they should and shouldn't go. They are used to the chickens as they met them when they were very young. They just met the alpacas whilst following me just a couple of nights ago. They are also very inquisitive about the dogs. Our dogs have never been great cat lovers, although, touch wood, none have ever been hurt by a dog. When it is dinner time 8.30 give or take 5 minutes they start scrambling up the door to look for me, or should I say food, and they run in as soon as the door is opened. Thank goodness it takes Blue and Arthur a while to go from horizontal to standing, on a slippery floor. Alan and I have usually managed to round up the kittens and launch them back outside again.
Hopefully they will in time learn what is and what isnt such a good idea. I guess next year we will have another dominant female, and let's hope Barb is having a lovely time whereever she may be!
Barb, feeding her little family.
Nervous Mo is making a run for it!
And little Mo, hiding as usual!