We had four of our six cats spayed yesterday and I am feeling so sad and sorry for hurting them like this that I almost wish I hadn’t had it done. Then I think of the consequences!! Mozambique cats seem to have developed the habits of their feral relatives in the wild and so breed often and copiously in order to keep the survival of the species going. Of these four, two were sisters of a previous litter and the two younger ones were from litters they had three months ago. The one mother is already about two months pregnant and the two young daughters have started calling the males at night!!!
I said we had six cats. The matriarch and mother of them all is Nemo. She is a black baggage who I rescued from the bottom of a well when she could just fit in my hand. I actually did not think she was going to survive as she had been in the stagnant water at the bottom of the well for two days as far as I knew, and when I got her out she was a limp, bedraggled silent scrap. My heart broke for the poor little mite and I took her home wrapped in a towel and tried to feed her a bit of warm milk. She was very small and thin and my experience of kittens made me presume she was still suckling from her mother, so she would not be able to eat solid food yet. I left her on the lounge couch while I completed my afternoon school activities and went home fully expecting to have to bury her.
This was my first experience of the unbelievable courage, resilience and strength of Mozambican cats!! Nemo became queen of the house, even all five of the fully grown large dogs outside became very wary and respectful of this black bundle of spitting fur. She took over our lives and everything changed to suit her, we often threatened to send her back to the well!!!
Within three months she was pregnant with her first litter. Ok, that was sweet, that was fine, we were surprised, but decided she would only have about two or three little babies as this was her first litter and we wouldnt have a problem finding homes for them. She woke us up in the early hours one morning to pay her attention while she had the kittens in the bottom of my clothes cupboard on top of all my jeans and trousers. I closed my eyes to the disgusting mess all over my clothes and encouraged and stroked her for the next two hours while she produced six little black kittens.
At that time there were no vets in Beira and we could not figure out what to do about getting her spayed or to help put down the kittens that weren’t claimed. Within three months she was pregnant again, she totally and suddenly rejected the remaining two kittens we had kept from the previous litter and became quite nasty to them. She had not been a good mother to them anyway so they weren’t that upset, the little male started wandering looking for other females to cover and we never saw him again and the small female fell pregnant!!!
Nemo had her next litter inside the base of our bed making such a caterwauling noise that we thought something was wrong, so at 2.00am one morning saw myself holding up the end of the bed while my other half ripped away the hessian on the base of the bed to try and get to the mother and babies. More blood and guts everywhere and five new kittens later we got back to bed just before the new morning dawned.
I neatly stapled the hessian back to the cleaned and scrubbed bed base, one month later the young mother made a hole and climbed inside and had her litter of three kittens in the same place, at the same time of the morning!!!
This was now getting a bit frightening and we were started to have visions of being inundated with cats, nature was taking its course and some of the kittens from each litter had died of various accidents and sicknesses but we had seven cats by now.
Then, thank goodness, a vet arrived in Beira. He was a government vet transferred from Maputo and was trained with farm livestock but the town breathed a sigh of relief and he was kept very busy. He was a butcher!! Shame he tried his best but he really could not handle small animals and was petrified of dogs. We managed to get Nemo spayed after about her tenth litter and he spayed and neutered the rest of the bunch as well. All except one male died, something about his chloroform mixture had been the wrong strength.
So we were left with Nemo and Tigger and two of Nemo’s kittens from her last litter. Nemo was a terrible mother. She never stayed with her babies for very long and she would keep hiding them around the house and I would have to find them and put them back in a sensible place. One morning when I did the kitten hunt I found them under the couch in the lounge but there seemed something wrong. They were about two months old now but from being normal, healthy, mischievous animals they both suddenly seemed disabled. Neither kitten could walk properly and it was as if their spines had been damaged.
By now we had a private vet clinic in town and a vet would fly up from Maputo for a couple of days each month. Very, very expensive but that comes with having pets. We rushed the kittens there and she tried various treatments and vitamins but she said she thought the kittens had been hurt or dropped. We can only think that Nemo, in one of her hide and seek moods, had tried to jump onto the cupboard with a kitten in her mouth and had dropped them.
So now we had Wibbly and Wobbly. Wibbly slowly came almost normal and only wobbled when she tried to concentrate on something, Wobbly lives up to her name and wobbles all the time. They are the most affectionate and loving animals and talk to me constantly and with their disabilities I thought there would be no way they could fall pregnant!!!! Both fell pregnant the first time when they were about three months old. They each had litters of four kittens which people took and we managed to get rid of. Then they fell pregnant again.
Nemo and Tigger have moved out of the house and have taken over the cottage as their domain. Tigger is the most beautiful fat male who has a lovely nature. Nemo is still a witch and comes to you for strokes and loving but when she has had enough she will bite you, she moans and complains to me whenever she sees me and she gets very annoyed if we have visitors to stay in the cottage.
Wobbly had a litter of six kittens and she is such a lovely and proud mother. Two nights later Wibbly had seven kittens on my bed curled up in the curve of my legs. A very strange experience at my age, I thought I had wet the bed!!! We got rid of all but two; Columbus who is such an explorer and Tabby who is the cutest chubby tabby.
Now I have hurt them all and I feel so bad about it. Wibbly was pregnant with another litter so I feel her pain and loss as well as the pain all the others must be feeling. They don’t seem to be condemning me though, they are slowly getting up from the warm blanket bed I have made for them and going about exploring the house. They have tried to eat a bit from the array of tasty morsels I have spread out in my guilt and now I have Wobbly curled up on the couch next to me, Columbus is watching TV from the other couch and Wibbly and Tabby are keeping cosy in their blanket bed and make little conversational mews when I stroke them.
Cats really are the most amazingly strong and resilient animals aren’t they?