My grandparents live on a farm in Pennsylvania. Growing up visiting them every day that wasn’t a school day was a magical time–when I wasn’t swimming in the pool, I was riding the pony they kept for us grandkids. Or “learning to drive the tractor” with my granddad. Or feeding the horses or cows. Or perusing whatever antiques and ephemera were set up in the auction barn for the next sale. Or taking long walks in the woods, or riding my bike, or otherwise enjoying some moderately unsupervised play in a seemingly endless outdoor wonderland.
In addition to all these activities, there were no shortage of kittens to play with. People with no access to farms don’t realize how barn cats work–you can take them to the vet, spay and neuter, and it doesn’t matter. There will always be more barn cats. If there was a way to harness the reproductive power of cats as an energy source, we’d end our dependence on foreign oil in days.
Where do they come from? They come from other farms, or whatever magical portal exists in the woods to Catlandia.
One such cat to just show up at the farm was a sweet grey and white kitty- she was friendly and let you pet her and pick her up and cuddle. Unless she was pregnant. Which she often was. She’d still jump into your lap (usually poolside, leaving you will wet cat hair all over your legs) or you’d go out to one of the cars and find paw prints covering the roof and hood and maybe see a cat curled up on top of it.
After four or so litters of kittens, she earned the name Mama Kitty I’m not even sure anymore what her name once was. At that point, her constant pregnancy was a lifestyle choice.
You may be wondering, why not get her spayed after a few litters?
This was a question my grandmother raised with my grandfather after every litter. One answered with, “oh, just one more litter. Then we’ll have her spayed.”
Despite vet visits to the farm and rounding up cats for shots, many of them succumbed to the types of infections that happen with outdoor animals. These weren’t pets–they lived in the barn and came and went as they pleased, and would not tolerate little girls who tried to put baby bonnets on their heads.
Mama Kitty’s kittens were always robust and healthy and remained so for longer than the other cats. And because she was content to keep her kittens close to the house, they were less feral than your run of the mill barn cat, what with the aforementioned tendency of little girls to want to play house with them. As such, visitors, cousins, auction goers and the like would inevitably take a kitten home with them–and the once abundant supply of Mama Kitty’s brood would dwindle again.
Her kittens never looked the same, prompting my mother and aunt to call her Slutty Kitty when they thought we were out of earshot.
By the end of Mama Kitty’s life, she’d had 124 kittens. That we know of. She came to us as an adult (and pregnant) cat, so there’s no way of knowing what other kitties litter (haha, litter) her past.
Her kittens still live–some with cousins, one at my parents, some on the farm. I’m pretty sure none of them thought to send their mother a card for Mother’s Day (mine are already in the mail, boom!), what with cats not having opposable thumbs or the ability to put a stamp on an envelope without it getting caught in their fur…also that cats completely believe the world revolves around them and their quest to catch that damn red light…
So Happy Mother’s Day, to Mama Kitty, and to mothers everywhere.