About 12 years ago, a neighboring farm was going to ‘clean their barn’, an expression used when they were going to start shooting the cats that were getting to be too numerous due to not one of them being spayed or neutered. My husband, Paul, was terrified of cats because his brother had dropped one into the back of his shirt when he was about 3 years old which he still bears the scars from today. He knew how much I loved cats and was not in agreement with the barn cleaning, so he grabbed two, which he felt was all he could tolerate at that time. If he only knew we were going from two to ten in about three weeks, I’m sure he would have reconsidered!
Chance's mom had a litter of four kittens. Three were fine and very normal. Chance was too small, and looked premature. She didn't have as much hair as her brothers and sisters, was significantly smaller, and was pretty listless. The other cat we rescued, Pretty, who was an old scarred up cat, had her litter two days before. Chance's siblings nursed easily. Chance did not. It looked like she wasn't going to live, so we went out and bought kitten formula and a feeding bottle, trying to get some food into her, but she wouldn't take the bottle. As a last resort, we took a chance on placing her with the other cat’s litter. So, "Let's take a chance", became Chance. The older cat actually moved her kittens away, gathered up Chance, and took her into a corner. She licked the daylights out of her to try and get her awake enough to eat and give her the opportunity to nurse. Well, it worked! And for the next month, Pretty would drag her off every couple of hours to nurse alone. She weaned her own kittens by 10 weeks, but continued feeding Chance for several more weeks.
From then on, Chance and Pretty were joined at the hip. Chance would pick a fight with a bigger kitten and then run behind Pretty. It was so funny, I'd laugh until I cried! Pretty wouldn't let anyone near Chance. It didn't matter if it was her own mother, or the other kittens, or the baby raccoon that took to playing with the kittens at night!
Over the next few months, everyone was spayed, given shots, and five kitties were adopted out. I was the vet’s favorite customer!
Chance followed Pretty everywhere. She is certainly a character, but wasn’t the sharpest stick in the pile! Pretty trained her to never go past the mailbox, and never to go past the barn or the shed. Somehow Pretty knew that this was the safe area for a kitten that wasn't going to survive long without a lot of supervision. Pretty would go out to the grain shed, and Chance would follow. If Pretty was mousing, that didn't work out too well , and we'd see Pretty carrying Chance back to the porch, leaving her there, then go back to the grain shed to hunt. Chance would stay on the porch whining until Pretty came back to get her. Chance was also trained not to go past the mailbox. She would sit at the base of the mailbox pole when I went for walks and waited for me to come back, even if I was gone an hour. There she would be, just staring down the road, waiting under the mailbox.
Perhaps angels were watching over her!
The first time Chance caught a mouse, I actually called my sister and gave her the play by play. It was a slow baby mouse on the drive next to the house. I was so proud I was actually yelling “Good Girl!” out the window at her. She was two years old. Not really bright, but she tried hard!
Chance has never reached the 5 pound mark. She's still mistaken as a kitten because she's so small. She doesn't do a standard cat meow. I don't know if she has some sort of problem with her vocal cords or not, but she makes this little trilling sound when she's happy and an almost dog like whine when she's upset. She finally started a sort of purring when she was about 3 or 4 years old. I had resigned myself to the fact that it wasn't something she was going to do, so I was really excited when it finally happened!
She never got a winter coat, so we have a high efficiency flat panel heater next to her bed that's on a custom platform so she's not getting chilled . When it's really cold out, she'll actually sit with feet stretched out, and her paws just inches from the heater like she's warming them by a fire.
Pretty finally passed away from old age about four years ago. Since then, Chance has been alone. She was so close to Pretty, and Pretty was so protective of her, she never really interacted with the other cats and barely tolerates them. Sleeping alone in her bed has always made me really sad.
She let her new buddy Gus stay, because when she swiped at him, he didn't fight back! He doesn't try to kick her out of her own bed, like the other cats, and apparently keeps his opinions to himself. She really seems to be taken with him. I'm so glad she finally has somebody to share her bed with again, that won't steal her treats or pick on her because she's so small. We thought about getting her a kitten to play with, but the kitten would be bigger than her in no time, and nature has a way of moving the weaker animals to the bottom of the pecking order. I just couldn't let another cat be mean to Chance, and I couldn't give it back once I adopted it, so we will get no new cats until Chance passes from old age.
As for my husband, she follows Paul around when he does chores, and he slips her treats when I'm at work, or busy. He has also taken her to the vet, and given her medicine when she needs it. He loves her too, though the other cats still make him a little nervous. If she's not following him around, he asks where she is, and we both worry if she doesn't come running when we call. She's a heavy sleeper and likes to retire to the barn if it's really hot out. She never leaves the porch if it's raining, too cold, or snowing. The porch was not meant to be heated, but was rebuilt and kept at a warm 70 degrees over the winter. We could have built a two car garage with what we've spent on electric heating on the porch over the winter months! Paul rebuilt the porch, did some insulating, put in more windows, and added a shelf for Chance to watch the world go by. Who remodels a porch, just to make a cat more comfortable?! I have a great husband! We are so thankful for Gus. We actually call him Chance's Gus, so I guess he's a part of the family now, too!