The three kittens were toasty in the brooder house with sun streaming through the glass wall facing south. But after dark and without insulation, the cold would be far too hard on them.
Even their mother would have to seek a warmer place to survive winter nights to come. She might move them across the yard to the barn eventually. Meanwhile, going between the two places for her own food and water leaves her vulnerable to predation herself, especially with the snow we now have — at least four inches of it to slow her progress.
Feeding her at the brooder house isn’t the best option either, as the smell might attract other animals.
How to help? We could put an insulated box in the brooder house, but Mama would still be travelling to eat and drink and a fox or coyote could lay in wait, hiding between the old granaries on her route.
Moving young kittens — these may be about four weeks old — is risky business and can be disastrous. Mama cats have been known to turn careless or worse, abandon their babies, as if to say “You think you can look after them better than I can? Have at ‘er.”
In our barn there is a young tom too — their daddio. However, he’s a luvvie-bear and we’ve had a tomcat that looked after kittens instead of killing them, so … we took the leap and carried the squeaking three to the barn, where their mother had already been for hours. We set a styrofoam cooler with a lid up on a shelf; a hole was cut into it for an entrance; the kittens were tucked into it along with a swath from a bale.
Dressed in all my winter gear, I waited to see if Little Mama would come out of hiding. The kittens mewled and came out to explore. The two adult males came and sniffed at them. The two remaining spring kittens did the same. I sat at some distance in hopes Mama would respond to the babies’ cries, and she finally did. Unfortunately there was a cat kerfuffle along a wall and she bolted over there instead of up onto the platform, where her fall kittens had by now retreated into their box.
By this time I was getting cold. Since I saw that Ma knew they were there, I left the barn and came into the house to warm up. A couple hours later I went out again to see how things stood. Little Mama had moved them to a different insulated house inside the barn; she was on the job. Things were looking hopeful.
Mama has been skittish since we got her last fall, and has never let us near. Her spring litter was well hidden, so that by the time we discovered them they were big enough to run away at sight of us. They come to be fed but keep a wary eye upon us, and one move makes them dash away. This new three, having been inside our jackets and cuddled and petted, might not be afraid of us. If they survive.
Once I get through my coffee and start moving around, I’ll go out to feed the adult cats and see how things stand this morning.
I have coveted this sign at the Rustic Havens store for some time. It’s large — three feet long — and metal, and wouldn’t suit our bedroom “decor” in the least. But I like its message and that’s where I’d hang it. However, it’s 90 bucks and there are a lot of more necessary places for me to put that money.