Cuterebra. Have you heard of it? It's disgusting. If you have a weak stomach, you may not want to read that paragraph. One of the five grays had this condition. But first - names.
The first little kitten that we captured (the one who spent a day and night without mom and siblings) received the name Tibby Bean. The longer-haired kitten became Circe. The kitten who was colored up almost identically to our Pitter Patter was named Honey Bee. The girls couldn't come up with a name for the fourth kitten or for momma cat. They would get to know them a little better and maybe names would come.
This group went to the vet within a couple of days. Mom would be scheduled for spay in a month or so. The vet looked at Circe's ear and had us put some antibiotic ointment on it - he did not believe it was infected. Tibby Bean and the nameless kitten had no extra issues - just the same ones all five had: too skinny and worms. That would be easy to take care of. Honey Bee had an open sore on her shoulder. I assumed antibiotic ointment would be the treatment just as with Circe's injured ear. But I got quite a nasty surprise when the vet told me what Honey Bee's problem really was.
(Here's that disgusting part I warned you about.) Cuterebra are large flies whose larvae infect the skin of rodents, squirrels, rabbits, and even dogs and cats. The adult female fly deposits eggs near the nests of rabbits or rodents. The larva hatches from the egg and burrows under the skin of a nearby animal. A cyst forms around the larva, with a hole in the center (for the larva to breathe). After about a month, the mature larva emerges from the cyst and burrows into the soil to pupate. Gross. It was not an injury on Honey Bee's shoulder. The vet removed the larva and said the area would heal - nothing a little antibiotic ointment couldn't handle.
The five grays came home with us and into their cage in the basement. It wasn't long before that cage was too crowded. Mom was completely tired of those four kittens continuing to try to nurse. We set up a second cage in the basement and moved mom. The girls finally decided on the name Jeannie for mom which immediately named the nameless kitten Joanie. This was the kitten that had actually walked into the crate with mom on the day we were capturing. She couldn't get enough of her mom. She was by her side continuously. We even ended up moving her into the cage with her momma because she seemed to need her so much.
And now we had to face our dilemma. What to do with five gray female cats. They couldn't live in our basement. They couldn't stay in cages indefinitely. So - as I told you a couple of days ago - we got serious about building a cathouse. My husband and father worked that summer to get our tiny cathouse built. By September, we were almost finished. My husband built a climbing contraption in one of the back corners with carpet wrapped around the posts and everything. We had priced them and they were $200. We built our own. My hope was to eventually add a small deck on the back side of the building. There would be a cat door to the outside so that whatever cats were making a life in this cathouse could lie around outside in nice weather. The cat deck would have to come later.
One day in September 2008, we moved Jeannie, Joanie, Circe, Tibby Bean, and Honey Bee to the cathouse. It was wonderful. Jeannie seemed immediately at home, but the (now big) kittens were a little nervous about their new surroundings. It took a while but they eventually got comfortable and then the playing began. We had been letting them run and play in our basement twice a day. But this was full-time. And there were windows to look out of and fun things to climb on. A home until a real home comes along. I hoped they wouldn't spend their lives here. I hoped we would get lucky enough to adopt them into fantastic homes over time. We never did have people rushing to adopt our homeless dogs. I was pretty sure it would be even more unlikely to find good homes for cats. We would see. In the meantime, these five cats would not stray around - starving and breeding. They would all eventually be spayed and they would live in comfort while waiting for a home of their own. It was certainly a life better than they would have had.
By the way, we never called Jeannie by her given name. She was ALWAYS Momma Gray. We never called her anything else. She didn't seem to mind.
We have no pictures of Tibby Bean at the cathouse when she was young. I'll explain that the next time I blog.