I first noticed them in May: tiny kittens playing on our back deck.
We watched the kittens grow. We knew some of our neighbors were feeding them. We also reluctantly put out food; the nursing mother was very thin. We watched the kittens get bigger. After a while, the mother disappeared. The kittens stayed, making their home under our deck.
We borrowed traps from a feral cat organization. We successfully trapped two of the four kittens and drove them to the next county to be spayed (the nearest clinic at which we were able to get an appointment). A week later we trapped the third and had him “fixed.” We had to keep feeding them for two more weeks before we finally trapped the fourth.
It could have stopped there. We had done our part to inhibit the population growth of feral cats. But, by this time we were getting attached. They were just so cute! It was the blue eyes of the white kitten that hooked me. (According to science, the faces of house cats are strikingly similar to the faces of human infants; the similarity triggers hormones that lead to human nurturing behavior toward cats.)*
So here we are, still feeding cats we did not want. But they are amusing to watch, as they chase each other across the deck. In these days of pandemic isolation, the simple touch of another living creature lifts my spirits. And when Snowball, the white kitten, nuzzles against my chest, purring, and looks up at my face which his big blue eyes, he is not a problem, but a gift.
*Abigail Tucker, The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World (Simon and Schuster, 2016), chap. 3.