Having Kittens

Who let the cat in?!!
No no! – She has to go outside, she’s having kittens. She’s bled all over Meethak’s foot already…

The cat is banished. The raki and chat are resumed. The handle of the front door – which is placed in the usual location, about half way up, slowly twists downward and the door begins to open. Expectant looks as we turn to see who has arrived. The cat walks in. No one else there. Rinse and repeat. This cat, while in labour, with only one eye, is able and driven to leap up and open the front door. For some reason she seems to really want company. Help? Reassurance? Is it within the capacity of a cat to feel a lack of assurance?

11 in the car, 2 bottles of Raki down and we’re trying to find “The Save The Children Party” – this means some NGOs working at Save The Children are having a party somewhere – most of the streets have no name, so exactly where is anyone’s guess. A fine rendition of The Lion Sleeps Tonight, or should I say “le lion dort ce soir” given it is being sung in French, is roundly interrupted by a French/Iraqi anthem-off. The French win. But then only two of the eleven are Iraqi.

Home after drinks followed by bar followed by NGO party and the cat’s labour seems not to have progressed much. I wonder whether she waited for us. Allowed inside now, she has worn everyone down. She paces the upstairs landing, mewling, discomfort foremost. She still wants company. She tries to climb onto laps. No one wants a cat to give birth on their lap though. She butts her head against legs, feet, hands, anything she can reach. I hold her and she quiets. My hands on her belly can feel the contractions. She tries again and again to get closer. I need to pee, but being alone is not her cup of tea right now. She follows me to the bathroom, wailing outside and scratching the door until I let her in while I take a piss. A tiny tail protrudes. The kitten is the wrong way around. Maybe this is why she is so anxious. I feel I should leave her to do what cats usually do – hide away and do their thing. But when I try to go down the stairs, she cries piteously until I come back and sit with her between my legs. I have to stay. But I don’t think there is much I can do to help her. She knows better than I what is required. The next contraction yields a pair of tiny feet, pads pink and as new as it is possible to be. But so still, no movement. An excited Wilson joins the fray. We sit with her. She cries with each contraction and more when we don’t stroke her. And finally, little legs, so scrawny, followed by a glistening sac full of, yes, squirming, wriggling, definitely alive kitten emerges. All but the head. Which takes a little more time and pain. And then it is out. Out and squealing as she licks it clean and devours the placenta as though she is starving. It is a moment before she seems to realise this thing is not over and she is about to do it again. This time the kitten is not breech and she makes up her mind to retreat to somewhere more comfortable than the cold marble hallway tiles. We imagine as she tries to pick up the first kitten, in much the same way that she dealt with the placenta, that perhaps she will eat it too – this little thing that is suddenly in her world having already caused her so much pain. But we are naive. She eventually gets a satisfactory grip and races straight to Jeremy’s bed. We try to put down a mat, in the interests of sheet preservation. Then we think it is time to leave her. But as I go out of the door, up she gets and follows, leaving her newborn alone and squealing on the mattress. Wailing herself, she butts my legs and I go back. Wondering how many kittens this will go on for and whether the rum I have drunk is sufficient to propel me through in a waking state. Some more of tonight’s revellers arrive on the scene, eager to check on her progress. At which point she finally behaves like a normal cat and, gripping kitten #1 by the neck, exits to a dark, rolled up carpet filled corner on the floor above to continue alone.

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