Life at the mill wasn’t bad. It was beginning to get a little cooler at night, but it wasn’t so hot during the day anymore. Our mother would let us be most of the time now that we were learning more and more each day. Some of the men that would come there most days started to bring some yummy food for us. We didn’t like to eat while they were near, but they didn’t usually linger. They would put down the dry food, usually right on the concrete, and then walk back to the building to sit and watch while we ate from a safe distance. My sisters and I were fast enough to run if they came back, and there were lots of great hiding spaces where we could squeeze ourselves into and they could not.
Then our mother started to leave for longer during the day and stopped letting us nurse the way we always had. We could occasionally hunt for ourselves, but we preferred the dry food brought by the men that worked at the mill. Sometimes a woman would come, with some children, and they looked like they were having so much fun playing and chasing each other. My sister usually wanted to play with them, but I cautioned her against it. The people were so big, even the children, and who knows what might have happened if they got a hold of us.
One day, my gray sister was not there when I wanted to play with her. I did not know where she went, or if she would come back, but I still had two other sisters to play with. Soon, a man that had been bringing us food had captured one of my remaining sisters. She was black and white, like my remaining sister, but had more white. (My colors are more like our mother’s, brown stripes that help me blend into the shadows and hide.) He wasn’t hurting her. In fact, he talked very calmly to her and stroked her fur, even though he held onto her tightly. I could tell she was scared, but she was very brave and did not cry or fight against him. That was the last time I saw her.
That night, the woman came back, but instead of children, she came with another woman. They brought food, but instead of leaving after they put it down, they sat down just a little ways away. I didn’t want to go near them, but I was very hungry. My mother watched but she did not approach the food. I couldn’t help it. My tummy was so empty. I ate a little before the women tried to come closer, then I ran and hid in the shadows. My sister was out hunting that night. The next night, the man that usually fed us came out to play with us. We liked playing with him. He never tried to pick us up. He would only put down food, sit real still, and brought toys that helped us learn to be better hunters. We chased his toys and relaxed when he tried to pet us. He was safe to be around and would never hurt us. He had a soft voice and loved to play like we did.
But that night, everything changed. After we played and ate for a while, he started to pet each of us. Then he picked up my sister. I didn’t really pay attention, because the food he brought was super tasty. But when I looked again, I did not see my sister anymore, and the man was suddenly picking me up, too. He put me into a small box, with a door that latched. My sister was already in the box, and we were very frightened, but we were very brave and did not cry or fuss. This man had never done us harm, and only good things had happened when he was around, so we waited to see what would happen to us. We were not in the box for very long, though it seemed like forever. Then the women returned. The new one picked up the box and spoke very gently to us. She smiled a lot and spoke to the man, and then we went home with her.
The car ride was a little scary. Everything smelled new, and there were sounds we were not used to, but we only cried a little. After a little while, we were taken out of the car and into a building. The woman called this her house, and said that it was our new home. She sat the box with the door on the floor for a few minutes while she ran around and moved things about. Soon, she returned to open the door. When she did, she only took out my sister and closed the door again, leaving me locked in. She offered my sister some food, but my sister is very fast and found a great hiding space right away. It took a long time for the woman to find her, and when she did, she collected both of us and put us in a small room. In the room was a box of sand to play in, and bowls with food and water. There was also a nice, big, soft cushion in the corner. That is where she sat us down.
Then, one at a time, she picked us up. She would place each of us on her legs, turned on our backs, and rub our tummies. When it was my turn, I did not squirm or cry. I just looked at her, trying to read her intentions in her eyes. She rubbed my body with her warm hands and pulled fleas out of my fur. Then she would just stroke my ears and scratch just under my jaw, and it felt pretty good. I wanted to relax and start purring, but I was still so scared. I did not know where I was or if I would ever see my mother again, but since my sister was here with me, I was a little more comfortable with not knowing.
The next few days were weird and confusing. The woman gave us both baths, which were nothing like the baths our mother would give us. But after all the wetting and all the sudsy soap stuff, she wrapped us up in warm towels and gave us yummy treats.
We were still afraid to come near her, and so we mostly stayed in the small room. I think during the day she would leave the house for many hours. But when she came back, she would always come talk to us, even though we would run and hide, and she would find us and pet us again like that first night at our new “home”. She started to bring us out of our room more and more. She started doing the most peculiar thing, though. Instead of putting food in our room, she would wait until she brought us out of the room, and put the food on the floor near her. She sat down on the floor with us, just far enough that we were not afraid. But each night at dinner time, the food would be closer to her. She soon stopped locking us in the room so much, as we started to trust her more, she began to trust us, too. It was not long before we would come to her in the evening as she sat in the floor, and wait for our food.
We finally started to trust her. She gave us names, calling my sister Loki, and calling me Jubilee, or sometimes, Juju. And there was a man who came to the house sometimes. He was alright, but it took us a little longer to trust him. Knowing that the woman was kind helped. Eventually, we were all comfortable together, and after only a few days in the house with the people, Loki and I decided we were very safe, and finally, we started to purr when the people held us. The people seemed delighted. They even let us sleep in their bed with them. This was great fun, as they would move their feet beneath the covers, and my sister and I could pounce on them like we were really hunting. Our new mom put our little bed at the end of her big bed so we could be more comfortable. It was not long before we learned to sleep at the bottom of the bed and not bother the people by trying to sleep near their heads where our purring would keep them awake.
One day, our mom took us to a place she called the “vet”. It was a little scary riding in the car again, all cramped into the tiny box, which seemed to have gotten smaller since our first car ride in it. The vet’s place was scary and exciting at the same time. There were so many smells, like a hundred different animals had been there before. We saw a dog and some other kittens, but they were shut up in a box just like we were.
The vet seemed okay, but she poked us a couple of times, and put some yucky tasting stuff in our mouths. But it wasn’t as scary as we thought it would be, and we were soon back home with our people.
Our new man, our mom called him “daddy”, liked to play with us. Mom preferred to pet us and take care of us like our real mother used to do. But daddy bought us cool toys that we could chase and run after. When we were all tired from playing, we would curl up on our people and sleep while they stroked our fur.
Loki said I was silly, but I told her that not only did I trust the people, I was starting to love them too. Especially our new mom. She was very special and knew just how to rub my tummy so that I would purr every time. Loki took a little longer to warm up, but I realized that she liked Daddy better. She probably loved him more because of how much he liked to play with us. She always was the most playful of all my sisters.
Sometimes, the man and the woman from the mill would come and visit us. He still called us our old names, Spots and Stripes. They said that we were getting fat. I didn’t know what fat was, but I knew I liked my new home.
It was more than a year ago since Mom brought us home from the mill. We have had lots of other brothers and sisters since then. Mom says they are “fosters”, and sometimes one will leave, sometimes more with come live with us. But we are always the oldest because the new ones always come as kittens. Sometimes we like to play with them, but mostly we try to stay away from them. They can be pretty annoying. Mom just laughs at us and gives us lots of kisses and rubs. Today we have one other sister and a brother, and one foster brother. The boys are both orange and like to play together (which keeps them out of our fur), and our new sister is the littlest, with gray and orange fur. She follows Mom around the most, and is always crying when Mom leaves the room.
We don’t always get to sleep in the big bed anymore. Sometimes we don’t want to because the younger cats are in there. But that’s alright. It’s always warm and cozy in the house, and there are plenty of great places to curl up or stretch out for a good nap. There are even lots of windows to gaze out of, where we can watch the birds on the bird feeder, or the squirrels in the trees. There are always a lot of toys to play with and sometimes a few bugs to chase. Life at the mill was fun, but usually pretty scary. Life here at our new home is pretty good. We don’t always know when Mom will bring home more annoying babies, but most don’t stay long, and the ones that do eventually grow out of the irritating stage.
I asked Loki if she ever thought about the mill, or our mother. She told me to shut up and bit my tail. My new mom laughed and called us silly kitties. I have to say that here, with our half-human-half-kitty family, life is pretty darn good.