Mama Kitty and Jake were on the front porch today when I went out to chore. Mama Kitty used to lead me to the barn when she thought it was time to eat, but after I brought the kittens home, I only saw her in there once, and she didn't tarry then. She growled, hissed, and left. It took Jake awhile, but he finally yielded to hunger. I give him a separate dish, though. If one of the kittens gets less than five inches away from him, he stretches out a paw, growls, and slaps the impudent brat. It's a gentle slap with no claws bared, but it seems to convince the kittens to get back.
I believe Mama Kitty hates the kitten situation with such passion that she left for awhile, eating cat food left outside by neighbors. I read years ago that cats get as intensely bonded to a location as to a person... so she finally got homesick and returned, but she still did not go near the barn ever, staying on the porch and begging me to feed her there.
This morning I got my recumbent-bike-ride done and went out to tend to calves. There Her Majesty was, meowing at me politely. I put down the full calf bottles (seems like there are a lot of distractions lately) and gently picked the old cat up... as I mentioned in the last entry, she and I both prefer that I don't pick her up... and slowly started walking around the barn to the front, where the entry door is. As I approached that door in the dark, she began a low growling. Now, I don't know about you, but I'm a little leery of having my arms around an animal making that sort of noise, especially a creature with sharp claws and teeth. I talked softly to her and loosened my grip so if it turned out she meant business I could release her quickly.
Her growling got louder and more intense as we got to the door, and she even hissed. I reached inside the door and turned on the light; Grady and Buttons, the kittens, were still in there. Nervous and ready for anything, I carried Mama Kitty over to the pan containing the dry cat food, set her down very slowly beside it, and stepped back. She would take a bite, turn toward the kittens and growl, then take another bite, still growling and sometimes hissing.
In hindsight, I wish I had stayed out there a little longer; I have a feeling she left shortly after I did. I'll try to work with her several times a day and perhaps we'll work this out. I really don't want to keep cat food out on the porch because raccoons and possums are bound to find it. They're already too close for comfort! If I have to, perhaps I'll give her a pan for food in a different section of the barn or in the shed out by the chicken house, somewhere up off the ground. Her own special place to eat!
In other news, last night I closed the chicken house door completely instead of just closing the door to the outside pen, so no varmint bigger than a rat could get into the hen house. Cliff and I set the Havahart trap by the hen-house door and baited it with some bread soaked in bacon grease. This morning the bread was gone, the trap was thrown... and empty.
We don't have a lot of luck with traps. Or possums, either.