Survivor Kitten

Heloise Shilstat

© Copyright 2005 by Heloise Shilstat

It was dark in the sack and the kitten was jumbled together with his sisters and could hardly tell which were his own legs. All the kittens were mewing loudly, desperate to let their mother know where they were. The truck bounced along and suddenly came to a stop.

“Honey, don’t do this,” a woman’s voice said.

“Well, what else are going to do with them? They will survive.”

Then the sack was lifted and without a goodbye or good luck the kittens were dumped into the weeds at the edge of a gravel parking lot.

The little kitten and his sisters looked around for something familiar. It was sunny and birds were flitting around. It seemed like a friendly place. They lay in the sun, stretching and dozing.

A shadow fell over them. Little eyes widened as the kittens looked up. The hawk swooped down and without effort lifted and carried away one of the kittens.
The others scattered.

Night came and the sounds changed. Katydids and frogs chirped. Owls hooted and made other spooky sounds. The kitten didn’t know where the others were. He curled up under a big tree root and wondered what had gone wrong. He missed the cozy basket where he had slept with his mother and sisters. He thought about the little people who had seemed to like him and his sisters so much. He was sad and lonesome, very hungry, and most of all very thirsty.

Even before it was light the kitten was wakened by the morning noises. Birds were chatting and tweeting and making sounds he had never heard. He moved out from under the root and stretched, then looked for some soft dirt to use for a potty.

Something caught his attention. It was a big grasshopper. The kitten pounced and the grasshopper was his. Except for the wings it was tasty – crunchy too. He decided to see what else was around that he could eat. Wandering farther from the parking lot he found beetles, butterflies, and a funny tasting mushroom.

He heard a murmuring sound - a sound like the one that came from the hose when the people worked in the flower garden. Maybe there was a flower garden here. Peering between the leaves he saw pink flowers! Yellow flowers! Was this a garden? The ground sloped downhill and he followed the flowers. Below him was a clear but brown moving mirror. It smelled good. Water!
The little kitten carefully picked his way to the river’s edge and drank. He felt much better, even a little happy. He curled up on a rock at the river’s edge to take a nap.

As the sun got higher in the sky, the insects began to jump around and make so much noise that the kitten woke up. It was a good thing too, because he wasn’t the only animal who thought they were tasty. A snake slithered over the rock and flicked its tongue at him. The kitten’s fur stood up all over his body. The fur on his tail stuck out like a brush. The snake suddenly formed a coil. The kitten sprang from the rock onto an overhanging branch and clung to the branch with all his little nails. From his upside down position he watched as the snake flicked his tongue and slithered under the rock.

When his heart stopped pounding he realized what he had done.

“I can climb,” he thought.

He experimented with this new trick. The tree had to be small enough for him to get his little arms curled a little. The bark had to be rough enough for his little nails to get a good hold, but if the bark was too rough his little paws were too small for him to hold on. The shaggy bark of some of the trees sometimes fell off when he grabbed it. Choosing the right tree was crucial, but there were a lot of trees to choose from.

The second night the kitten slept on a tree branch, close to the trunk. He dreamed little kitten dreams, of butterflies and sparkly spider webs. A soft fluttering of wings and a rush of air wakened him. He half jumped and half fell onto a lower limb and slid down to the ground. A night hawk was perched on the branch he had just left. He hid under a root, but he didn’t sleep very well that night.

During another night the kitten was awakened by a strong smell -  a smell like the peoples’ coffee. He peered out from his bed under the roots. A fluffy black and white animal, a little bit like his mother, was making her way down to the river. She began to dig around at the edge of the water. As the kitten watched, an owl flew down and swooped over the furry animal. The kitten sucked in his breath. His fur stood up all over. Suddenly the furry animal turned her back to the owl. Up went her tail! It began to twitch. Then the owl made a funny squawk and flew off in a hurry. The bad coffee smell was so strong that the kitten's eyes began to water.

The days passed and the kitten learned to catch lizards and small birds. He liked the way they tasted except for the little green parts, the sharp tail of the lizards, and the tail feathers and beaks of the birds.

One day when he was having a drink from the edge of the river he saw very small shadows under the water. Quickly he scooped with his paw. The little fish wiggled and escaped. The kitten tried again and again until he had a fish for lunch. All the parts of the fish tasted good.

As the weeks went by the little kitten got stronger. His climbing muscles were very reliable. He could crawl under roots and rocks where there was hardly any room at all, because he was very skinny. All the dinners of grasshoppers and bugs and lizards and frogs and birds and other critters could not fatten him up.
His ears were big and pointy. His strong legs were longer than his little body. His tail was long and skinny.

One afternoon the kitten was dozing on a branch when he heard voices. They sounded like people voices. He peered through the leaves, and saw people floating down the river in little boats. They seemed to be having a good time.

The kitten ran along the bank, mewing as loudly as he could. He hadn’t had anyone to talk to in a long time and his voice was a little croaky. The people kept looking up into the trees. Perhaps they thought he was a bird.

“No, no! Here I am! Look! Take me with you!” He mewed.

No luck. They seemed to be discussing him but they weren’t looking in the right direction. Desperately he scampered out onto a root that hung over the water. One of the boats passed below him. He plunged into the water.

“Oh, a kitten!”

One of the boaters reached out and pulled the kitten into her boat. She carried him in her boat to the bank.  All the boaters pulled their boats up onto the grass. They all looked at the kitten. He was soaked and looked ever skinnier. The boaters thought they could see every bone in his little body.

“You need something to eat! Would you like some tahini sandwich?”

“Would you like some cream cheese?”

“Would you like some cheddar cheese?”

"Yum, yum." The kitten liked everything except the bread. He began to purr and walk around the boaters’ legs.

“Someone should take him home. He won’t survive out here.”


“Let’s give him some water to drink.”

The kitten drank the water to show he was a good kitten. The sun began to dry his fur.

“What a beautiful kitten. A tiger cat."

“Is it a boy or a girl?”

“Looks like a boy to me,” said one.“I’ll take him home.”

“Well, I don’t want him in my truck,” said another.

The people began to gather their gear. They loaded it into the vehicles and began to load their boats.

"Don’t forget about me,” mewed the kitten.

The people seemed to be ready to go.

"Isn’t someone going to take it home?"

“Not in my truck,” said one.

“I could put him in my gear bag,” offered another.

The gear bag was black mesh. The kitten could climb the sides but couldn’t get out. It was a little scary. What would they do with him? The kitten’s heart began to pound. He tried frantically to escape from the bag.

“You will be fine,” said the person who was scratching his head through the mesh. “You will be just fine.”

The kitten settled down and went to sleep.

The truck came to a stop and the people unloaded it.

“Goodby! Thank you!”

“Good luck with the kitten!”

Two big dogs came close and sniffed the kitten in the bag.

“It’s ok, Gabby and Lewis. It’s just a kitten.”

Inside the house the mesh bag was opened and the bony little kitten was fed more cheese, goat cheese this time. He was introduced to cat litter, which wasn’t as nice as the soft dirt he was used to, but he understood what it was for.

The next day he was taken to a vet, a nice woman who gave him a shot, cleaned out his ears, and said he was beautiful.

He was given the name “Augustus”.

He was taken on  walks with Gabby and Lewis and his boater-person. He always kept an eye out for a  climbable tree, “just in case”. When Gabby got too near, the kitten raised his tail and shook it just like he had seen the black and white animal do. Gabby just gave him a funny look, as if to say “What is that all about?”

In  the evenings he snuggled in the boater-person’s arms and watched baseball.

One of his favorite things to do was to curl up on the porch in the sun and watch the birds at the bird feeder.

His little legs and tail and ears still looked too large for his body but he got a little fatter. His fur became shinier.

He was praised as being a courageous, survivor kitten. He was very happy.

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