Part 1 – the beginning
How it all began
Anne – a former coworker of ours – contacted us with a story that immediately reminded us of our office cat Pixi. As a teeny tiny kitten, Pixi and her siblings were abandoned by their mom, after which they ended up in foster care. Once she was old enough, we adopted Pixi and made her the star of our office. Now, Anne has a similar story, though luckily it has a much better start!
Is it a bird…?
On a sunny evening in mid-April, Anne was about to put up a birdhouse in her garden when she heard a faint noise at her feet. Naturally, she presumed it was one of the small birds that she knew lived in the climbing vine, but when she looked down, two big, yellow cat eyes stared back at her. The unexpected sight startled Anne, so a little bewildered she picked up the birdhouse and went back inside.
After a few seconds, it dawned on her that it was strange how she was the one to walk away rather than the cat, who didn’t even flinch. Anne decided to go back outside to have a closer look and soon realized what was going on. The cat she just encountered had recently become a mother, and was caring for her 4 tiny kittens, who still had their eyes closed and were definitely no more than a week old!
A cat needs a name
As the cat in the vine wasn’t hers, Anne went on a search for the owner of the beautiful calico cat. Many website visits and Facebook searches later, no one seemed to be missing the feline, so Anne and her partner decided to care for momma cat and her little ones until the owner would pop up, or the kittens would be old enough to be adopted. They provided mom with fresh water and some premium cat food and decided it was time to give momma cat a name. Since she and her kittens had taken up residence at the bottom of a climbing hydrangea, which is in the family of the hortensia plant, momma cat was named Hortense. The name Hortense also means “from the garden”, which is exactly where the feline was found.
The story continues…
Anne told us that, after a few days, Hortense and her 4 little ones seemingly had become accustomed to their new home. Hortense would often be spotted basking in the sun or having a drink from the water features in the garden, while miraculously leaving the 5 resident shubunkin – a type of goldfish – alone. Coming into contact with humans was a huge adjustment for Hortense, leaving her unsure about how to behave. One moment, she would rub against Anne’s legs, while the next she would be hissing and growling.
An adoption waiting to happen?
For now, Anne and her partner can enjoy the fluffy family from inside, as Hortense’s nesting place is visible from the living room. Anne promised to keep us up to date on the antics of the little ones and momma Hortense, so hopefully, we’ll be able to provide you with many happy updates on the little family!
Part 2 – big blue eyes
It has been little over 2 weeks since the 4 tiny kittens were found at the bottom of a climbing vine. The weather has been sunny, and the little ones have grown in the most adorable way possible. Their ears have unfolded a little, and their eyes have opened up, allowing the kittens to have a look at their mum, their siblings, and the world around them. While the little ones are still too young to walk, they sure are very active. The 4 siblings can often be spotted rolling around, trying to stand on their teeny tiny feet, squishing one another when they fall over, and snuggling peacefully when exhausted from all those activities.
Momma Hortense has made some big progress, too. She is no longer as frightened of humans as she used to be, and will show her gratitude for the care she gets every time she is fed. Momma Hortense is served dry food as well as wet food, but that won’t stop her from trying to catch a big, tasty pigeon. The rest of her days are mainly spent feeding and looking after her little ones, as well as going for perilous walks along the branches of the climbing vine.
Part 3 – the first steps
Last week, the kittens reached a major milestone: they took their first steps! The little ones are still pretty wobbly on their feet, but that is exactly what makes their antics so adorable. Every now and then, the kittens leave the safety of the climbing vine to explore the outside world. Loud noises and sudden movements are still a little scary, which is why the kitties never stray too far from mom.
Another big milestone will soon be reached, as at three to four weeks of age, the kittens are now old enough to start eating solid food. Anne bought a big bag of cat food that is suited for the little ones as well as for momma Hortense. For now, the kibble hasn’t proven a success with the kittens as they will just casually stroll across momma’s plate, ignoring the food while trying to stay upright on those teeny feet.
Momma Hortense, on the other hand, loves the food. She shows her gratitude by showering Anne and Wes with affection. Hortense will rub her head against their legs until they drop whatever it is they are doing to pay attention to her. The kittens are still a little scared and will run back to the safety of the vine when anyone tries to pet them. Except for the brave tuxedo cat. He doesn’t mind being pet at all.
Part 4 – messy eaters
As predicted in the previous update, the kittens have started to eat solid food. Especially the little tuxedo can’t get enough of the kibble. The kittens haven’t completely weaned yet and are still happy to pay ‘milk bar mommy’ a visit. In the video, your will notice how the little ones knead momma Hortense’s belly while suckling. This is instinctual behavior that helps to get the milk flowing.
Even though mommy is still providing the little ones with nutritious milk, the kittens have developed an interest in the water that sits inside momma Hortense’s drinking bowl. Being around water isn’t easy when you’re still a little wobbly on your feet, so when the little tortie kitten tried to crawl over her sister to get to the water, things didn’t exactly go to plan (wait for it…).
Part 5 – kitty personalities
The kittens are now about 6 weeks old. They have been climbing and exploring up to 10 feet (3 meters) away from their hiding spot in the vine. Time has come for the kittens to learn to stand on their own feet – or paws, rather – so mom enjoys venturing out a few times a day. As the kittens are becoming more independent, their little personalities are starting to emerge.
The tuxedo kitten is very active and playful. He will chase his siblings’ tails and at times seems surprised by his own clumsiness, which results in adorable scenes. Cute as he is, the tiny tuxy doesn’t mind being pet and will approach anyone that reaches out to him.
The calico kitten is a true sweetheart that loves being cuddled and held. Unlike her siblings, this little lady has developed some typical cat quirks, like sitting in an elegant manner or laying on the floor all stretched out while grooming herself.
The tortoiseshell kitten is very timid. She never strays too far away from mum and prefers climbing the vine over going out in the open to explore the garden. While her siblings will happily drink water, the little tortie can often be heard meowing at mom for some milk.
The ginger kitten is a tad shy yet appears to be braver than his tortoiseshell sister. Our ginger boy is huge fan of eating wet food and chasing mum’s tail though he will hide away when startled. Just like his siblings, he adores climbing the vine.
Part 6 – Learning from mom
Over the past few weeks, the kittens have grown a lot. They are now ready to learn how to become big kitties that can fend for themselves. The little ones will develop hunting skills by chasing, pouncing, swatting, and rolling. To teach the kitties how to catch real prey, mom even brought her children a dead mouse to practice on. The kittens’ reaction is priceless! (sorry, little mouse!) Just check for yourself.
In addition to hunting, the kittens are also learning to scale objects, including garden chairs and small trees. It’s unreal how mom keeps a close eye on all her little ones. When the little tortoiseshell cat climbs too high up a tree and nearly tumbles down, momma Hortense immediately comes to the rescue.
When the kittens are finally done playing, it’s time to learn how to properly groom themselves. They learn by mimicking mom’s behavior, and it’s adorable to watch!
Part 7 – Time to go home
Now that the kittens are almost 13 weeks old, it’s time to start looking for a forever home for them. And we received some great news: Anne and her partner Wesley are keeping momma cat and 2 little ones! The tuxedo and the calico cat will stay with Anne, as well as momma Hortense, while the ginger boy and the tortoiseshell girl will be adopted by one of Anne’s students who’s very excited about welcoming the two kitties.
Now that it’s time for all kittens to settle in their forever homes, they of course need a name! The little tuxedo will be called Adrien, while his calico sister will be known as Pippa. Adrien and Pippa form a bonded pair that love to share a cat basket, which is why they are being kept together.
The ginger boy is now called Reser, and his tortoiseshell sister goes by the name of Rester. We’re just as curious as you are about how Rester and Reser’s first days in their new home will go, and about how Hortense, Adrien and Pippa will respond to the absence of their children and siblings. We’ll let you know how that went in our next update.
Part 8 – Settling in
At Anne’s house, the number of resident cats has gone from 5 to 3. This doesn’t however mean that the peace and quiet has returned as momma Hortense has become fed up with her children. She will hiss and claw at the remaining 2 kittens, which is, however, very normal behavior. In the wild, mom shoos away her kittens when they are old enough to go live on their own, and Hortense is merely following her instinct.
At Reser and Rester’s new home, the first night has been eventful. A flowerpot didn’t make it through the night in one piece, and the kittens decided to pee on the bed sheets. Yikes! The little ones have long been forgiven though. After all, how could anyone be angry at such cuties.
Part 9 – Happy kitties
We’re a few weeks later now, and the little ones have all gotten used to their new living situation. Adrien and Pippa don’t seem to miss their siblings, and momma Hortense is probably relieved that her kittens are old enough to fend for themselves now. All kittens, as well as Hortense, have been spayed or neutered, and have received their vaccines as well as a microchip so they can be traced back to their owner in case they get lost.
Momma Hortense continues to live outside as she couldn’t get used to a life indoors. Every few days, she will however show up and ask for food, after which she disappears again. Adrien and Pippa, on the other hand, love their indoor life. As Anne lives in a quiet neighborhood, the little ones are allowed outside every now and then, but when Adrien isn’t let back in whenever he demands to be… he will show off his window cleaning skills.