The Circle of Life

July 7, 2015

You know, one of the things I haven’t gotten use to here at the plantation is nature’s circle of life. Growing up, I lived in small cities and towns so I didn’t have much experience with rural life. Heck, I didn’t see my first cow up close until I was eighteen years old. And like most girls, I have trouble handling the death of a pet or animal. Brett likes to say that I prefer to think that the animals we eat from the grocery store committed suicide.

Moving here, I knew I was going to be exposed to nature and that life and death would be a part of it. But I try not to watch when it happens. But sometimes, things happen that can’t be avoided. The first day I arrived here as I was return to the plantation after dinner the first night, I hit a rabbit that was running across the road. As I looked into my rear window, I could see it as it rolled out from under my car. In tears, I called Brett and said, “I killed a rabbit! I haven’t been here a whole day and I have already killed an animal! Why am I here?” For the next week, I avoided that road not wanting to see the damage I had done.

During the winter, you may remember our feral cat, KittyKat. Being so tenderhearted, I couldn’t stand that he was out in the cold and snow. So we built him a feral cat box out of a plastic storage container, lined it with reflective insulation and hay. He used it almost as soon as we got it out. We put food out for him and helped him get through the tough winter months. When he didn’t show up, I would worry that something had happened to him. But he would always return a few days later.

We worked with him and get him to a point where he would come in and eat in the sun room. I felt like it gave him a chance to warm up. In the Spring, he would show up with a wounded foot. After we were about to capture him, we took him to the vets to have it looked it. At that point, we had him fixed. No need to have more feral cats than we already have. He would recoup in the house for a month and then we had to let him back out. Two weeks later he showed up looking like he had not eaten to two weeks. We captured him again and took him to Wendy’s Feline Friends in Colonial Beach. One week later, we got a call from someone who wanted him. We sent them to Wendy’s and as far as we know, KittyKat is living the fat life with a new family.

A good ending to KittyKat’s story.

Two weeks ago, we noticed that we had two new kittens on the plantation. There is a black cat that has had a liter every spring in our Ice House. This year, the two kittens, one solid black like the mother and one black and white like KittyKat, were seen running around the edge of the wooded are with their mother. If you tried to approach them, they would take off. They weren’t as friendly as KittyKat.

On Saturday night, as we were coming in from dinner, one of the kittens jumped off the front portico and ran down the side of the house. The mother and other kitten were no where in sight. So I walked down to find the kitten tucked under the downspout. I was able to pull him out. He was the little black and white kitten and he looked just like KittyKat. My heart melted. He didn’t look so good, as if he was starving.

Brett grabbed KittyKat’s old feral box and we placed the kitten inside. We brought him in and grabbed some food for him. Sadly, he wouldn’t eat. We waited until morning, letting him settle down, but he still didn’t eat. I began to get worried. I didn’t want him to die. So about mid-morning, I tried to pick him up and show him where the food was. For my efforts, I got a nice bite on the tip of my finger. I quickly washed it off and pushed on it to bleed it out. It was a pretty deep bit so bleeding didn’t take much effort.

After not getting him to eat, I knew we would have to let him go again. My hope was that he might find his mother again and she could help him find something.

So with a heavy heart, I took him back to the Summer Kitchen and let him go. I figured this would be where his mother would come. He ran off quickly and I just took a deep breath … and hoped.

Later in the day, we would see the kitten make its way across the circle and end up along the wooded area behind the parking spaces. He would remain there for the rest of the day. Brett took food out to him and even took a bowl of milk, just in case he couldn’t eat.

People that came to the plantation on that day saw him. One of our friends pointed him out and said that he didn’t look good. I knew he was starving. But I couldn’t make him eat. Thankfully, later in the day, mother showed up. She sat with him for the rest of the day. Later, we would come back from dinner to find mother and kitten had left. In my heart, I hoped she would help him find food.

Yesterday, I would see the kitten again. Walking around the parked cars and the wooded area beside the garage. I called out to him and he quickly ran away. I didn’t get a good look at him, but I hoped he was doing better after getting back with mother.

This morning, just as our overnight guests left for their day out, they came back in to inform me that there was a dead kitten under their car. They said that they tried to get it to move, even tossed small gravel near it in hopes it would move, but nothing.

My heart sank.

I took a box out to the car and asked the gentleman if he could help me gather the kitten up. I had explained what we had tried to do and that the kitten had even bitten me. As he tried to use the shovel to move the kitten, the kitten moved back.

It was still alive …. Barely.

He was able to pick him up and we placed him into the box. I grabbed my keys and off to King George Vet Clinic I went. How strange to be returning here after brining KittyKat here just a few months before.

I didn’t think the kitten would make it to the vets though. When I brought him in, I didn’t even open the box for fear of what I might see. I let them know what had happened over the last few days as well. This of course throw us a whole new curve.

After they looked at him, they let me know that he was still alive, but barely. I told them that I didn’t think he was going to make it. They agreed. They let me know that because he was feral, we needed to find out what caused his death. For my sake.

So they put him to sleep.

Even though it had only been a few days, my heart broke. I don’t know if it was because he was so small and so innocent or if it was because he looked like KittyKat. But to see such a small life taken so quickly. I asked how old he was. I thought he looked like 4 or 5 weeks. They told me he was more like 7 or 8 weeks. I wanted to cry.

So now that he has passed, the vet will be contacting the health department. They will be sending him to Richmond today to be looked it. In about two days, we will know if he had rabies or not. Let’s hope not. I don’t relish getting rabies shots.

I understand the circle of life. I understand life and death and that it is a necessary part of life here at the plantation. But what angers me is that this death could have been avoided. Since coming here to the plantation, we have seen a fair share of feral cats. We know most of the ones here on the plantation are results from family pets that have been allowed to continue to have kittens after kittens with no regard for where they go and how they turn out. Most become feral and live a tough and short life. With the larger animals in the area as well as the busy highway, these kittens have a very short life expectancy.

So if anything, I hope this story will educate others on the need to have their pets spayed or neutered. It is the kindest thing you can do for them and for the babies they could have.