To every season, churn, churn, churn.

Marat the Gerbil passed away overnight, which is a great shame. Though gerbils only live a few years, he was approaching three, and, along with his buddy F. Loyd, seemed to have lived a full and content gerbil lifetyle, full of Habitrail tunnels and peanut treats. A golden agouti male, he was a handsome, friendly little fellow, and seems to have died in his sleep: possibly the best way a gerbil – or indeed any of us – could go.

There is a lot of change going on in my professional life these days. But even at its dullest, having a couple of gerbils scampering around on a bookshelf behind you certainly makes the days a little more fun. Marat will be missed, mostly perhaps by F.Loyd, who’s now on his own. Well, except for me, of course. But gerbils lead poorer lives without companions that have been around them all their lives.

Igor’s gerbil, Wolfgang, by the way, was named after a little guy I had about six years ago. A family was just going to release him to the Wisconsin wild when a friend rescued him, and asked if I’d like him. I’ve had gerbils running around the Habitrail (described by one friend as a “deee-lux apartment in the sky”) on my back office bookshelf ever since.

Little Maratti may be no longer with us, but (cue “Circle of Life”) Kitty Kitty, the feral female who’s become relatively tame since hanging around Chez Muskrat, has just had another litter of kittens. She finally brought them by the house yesterday, where I made a little shelter for her last winter beside one of the back walls, in a window well.

Kitty Kitty is Doozer’s mom, and one of her kittens from the last litter, Muesli, was supposed to go into the vet this week. Doozer’s now about a year old, and has adapted to life indoors amazingly. He’s a total love sponge of a cat, even if occasionally he expresses his love with his teeth.

Muesli is about six months old, and a total sweetie. We’re not sure if she’ll make the transition indoors, but she does need to be spayed, as a colony of ferral cats is the last thing we want outside our front door.

Kitty Kitty also needs to be spayed, for the good of her and everyone else. The current litter is four strong – a goldie, a grey, a grey tabby and a blackie, making this ten kittens within twelve months. We would have had her spayed after the last batch, Muesli’s, but she got pregnant again almost immediately.

The kittens seem to be between four and five weeks old, and are to-die-for-cute, smaller than a fist, but chock full of furry, mewing goodness. They also seem to be eating “real” food, judging by the chipmunk Kitty Kitty brought them this morning. I’m trying to take them a little canned food every few hours, so they get used to me. But I wonder if just taking Kitty Kitty to the vet immediately, and trying to bring the kittens indoors right away, wouldn’t be the best way to go. It could take Kitty Kitty’s mind off of things, while she’s drugged up and recovering. And the kittens would be easy to catch, now. Easier than in a couple of weeks. They’re still at that “flummoxed by anything bigger than a bread box” stage.

After that, it’s finding good homes for four adorable bundles of fluffernutter. Making sure kittens go to truly good homes is tougher than it sounds. You certainly don’t want to go the “ad-for-free-kittens-in-the-newspaper” route, as some folk make a living by picking up free animals then selling them to testing labs. Others use them to train attack dogs. Ain’t life grand?

But anyway, here we are. We’re minus one gerbil, but plus four new furballs whose only defence against predators at the moment is killing them with lethal doses of cute.

Au revoir, Maratti, little buddy. You’ll be missed.

But you probably wouldn’t have wanted to meet the kittens, anyway.

****

Hummm. I was supposed to update some friends news, today. Let’s wait til’ Monday for that.

John

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