Tale of the Skrittens

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I hate to say it, but some of these skrittens have to go. Things are getting out of hand. I write this having barricaded myself in the upstairs office after they began shredding the downstairs living room, again, this morning.

I can still hear their thundering paws below and the occasional thrashing of a house plant or a glass crashing to the floor.

This is our cry for help. Someone has to take some of these skrittens off our hands.

It all started six months ago when Olivia wandered into our lives. There she was one afternoon, a short-haired silver tabby sitting on the hillside staring at us on the porch. I figure she came from this dilapidated shack down the road a couple miles that is always swarming with cats. She was young, less than a year old, and not yet feral.

My girlfriend Kelsey put a can of tuna out for the cat and they bonded. We live in the sticks 30 miles east of Redding, don’t have any pets besides hummingbirds and koi carp, and Kelsey works from our home office while I’m out substitute teaching. She needed a little companionship and Olivia came along at just the right time.

Actual photo of Olivia eating her first can of tuna.

We named the feline after Olivia Dunham, the character played by Anna Torv on the TV program “Fringe,” which we happened to be binge-watching at the time. Gradually, over the course of a couple months, Kelsey earned Ollie’s trust, and the cat began spending more time inside the house.

It took a while longer for Ollie to get used to me. I started calling her “Skritty” because she yowled and skittered away every time I tried to pet her. She sure didn’t mind me feeding her, though. The cat was ravenous all the time. That’s how we figured out Ollie’s secret: She was pregnant.

Ollie didn’t yet trust us enough to have her litter indoors. She’d show up for breakfast, lunch and dinner then disappear to wherever her secret lair was. One night she showed up on our doorstep and I could see that she’d just given birth. The next day we looked for her kittens, but we couldn’t find them.

Two nights later, we were awakened by a hideous animal scream neither one of us could identify. When Ollie showed up on our doorstep the next morning she was plainly in despair.

Some animal or animals, perhaps foxes or a feral tom cat, had killed all her babies during the night.

Believe it or not, Ollie’s had a tough life.

Ever since that night, whenever I get down about life, I thank god I’m not a cat. This is a cruel old world we live in.

Our plan was to capture Ollie and take her down to the vet to get her spayed so she wouldn’t have to go through that nightmare again.

But before we could do that, I caught her running around with another tom cat who’d shown up on the scene. She’d already gone into heat, and the next thing we knew, Ollie was pregnant again.

So we had no choice but to put her on house arrest. That was four months ago and she hasn’t been outside since.

Ollie took to her enforced captivity with gusto, eating until she was so fat and swollen she looked like she was going to pop any second, which she eventually did early one morning two months ago, delivering the aforementioned five squealing skrittens into our lives.

One more reason I’m glad I’m not a cat.

They were cute back then of course, five lumpy little monkey-faces barely able to crawl confined to their cardboard box. After two weeks, they began to look like miniature teddy bears, and Ollie began taking them out of the box and hiding them places, like under the couch, suspended from the lining like it was a hammock.

Kelsey started calling them our “little bittens.”

When they were four weeks old, the little bittens began asserting themselves. Like smallish gophers, they wriggled out of the box and began burrowing into any tiny opening they could find. Once, we found all five of them stuffed inside an arm of the couch. They easily slipped through a one-inch hole under the stove.

They gained their feet in fits and spurts, dashing two feet before tumbling out of control, then three feet, then four, until soon they were streaking about the house, chasing each other in mad fashion, dodging between the TV and furniture, running head-on into walls, ricocheting in the opposite direction and climbing the curtains and other high objects.

Kelsey set up an obstacle course made of oak logs and cardboard boxes in the living room to distract them from wrecking the furniture, and that worked for a while. We watched as they practiced their pro-wrestling moves, perching on top of a log and body-slamming the unsuspecting sibling below. Death from above!

Rare photo of skritten sitting still.

By week six, though, our house had descended into chaos. A large potted fern in the living room bore the brunt of the carnage. Ollie likes to sit in the fern, peering out at us through her own private jungle. The skrittens decided the jungle needed to be razed.

I came home one afternoon and heard the sound of rustling leaves as soon as I entered. Kelsey was barricaded in the upstairs office. I turned the corner into the living room, and instantly saw it was in shambles. Little bittens were bouncing off the walls.

Fern fronds were scattered on the floor, and standing upright on its hind legs in the pot, the last two remaining fronds grasped in its outstretched front paws, one of the skrittens was flexing its chest like King Kong, trying to tear down the pillars he was chained to.

“Hey!” I yelled at him.

The gremlin-looking creature bared its fangs at me and let out a screech like you’d hear from a large bird of prey.


The gremlin and what’s left of the fern.

Barricaded upstairs, Kelsey was at her wit’s end. Somehow, we’d imagined that we’d be keeping all the skrittens. My brother has six dogs. Why can’t we have six cats?

The reasons why were now painfully obvious. I recently learned some scientists say cats aren’t truly domesticated animals, and I’m inclined to believe them. These things are decidedly uncivilized. We have to get rid of some of these skrittens.

The problem, naturally, is which little bits do we send to the farm? The tom cat that fathered them was a short-haired silver tabby just like Ollie, though slightly more feral, and all of the them pretty much look and act alike.

For example, all of the skrittens can be classified as short-haired silver tabbies with stripes on their backs and black leopard spots on their cream-colored bellies. At eight weeks, all of them are nearly weened off their mother and are biting our ankles less frequently. None have been outdoors so far.

It seems there was a method to their madness.

I can barely tell the sex of these critters, let alone which one is which, but Kelsey has been able to distinguish their individual identities.

“The Climber” is the smallest of the two females, and as her name suggests, she’s a climber. First to get on the couch. First to get on the bed. First to make it up the stairs. She has two black dots next to the whiskers on her smallish face.

“Miniskrit” is the biggest female and a dead-ringer for her mother. She reminds me of the 1963 film “The Three Lives of Thomasina,” because both she and her mother look identical to cats I owned 20 years ago when I lived in San Francisco, and 50 years ago, when I was a kid.

“The Screamer,” as you might easily guess, is the gremlin that did the demolition job on the fern. He’s the larger of two smokier-colored males and is the only one who currently eats wet food. I sort of like him.

“Ginger Boy” has ginger-colored ears and will fall asleep upside down in your arms as soon as you pick him up. He’s a lady-killer.

“Little Screamer” is the second and smaller dark male, who nevertheless packs a powerful screech.

The truth is, we don’t really want to give any of these lovable varmits away, but we have to. We don’t know yet which ones we want to keep, but that decision is coming down faster than we’d like.

If you’re interested in adding a little bit of love to your life, comment below or contact me via email.

R.V. Scheide
R.V. Scheide has been a northern California journalist for more than 20 years. He appreciates your comments and story ideas. He can be emailed at RVScheide@anewscafe.com.
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30 Responses

  1. Hal Silliman Hal Silliman says:

    Cute story, but not to be cruel, you and your partner need to take the obvious step: You have to move outdoors.

  2. Avatar Vicki Gallagher says:

    The skrittens are adorable!!! Not to be a harpy, but I would strongly suggest that you have them neutered as soon as possible even if you intend to try to rehome some of them. With population growth being exponential, and female kittens being able to conceive as early as four months of age, you may end up with quite a colony. I know you haven’t let them out of the house yet, but it only takes one slip-up and then you have another pregnant kitty. I wish I could help relieve your burden by taking one, but I have four rescues as it is. Good luck R. V.!

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Our plan is to get them fixed if we still have them at that age. Ollie goes to the doctor to get spayed in two weeks.

  3. Oh, R.V. This column reminds me of what a great humor writer you are. Thank you. This was just what I needed this Monday morning. (Good luck unloading – I mean finding homes for – the skrittens.

  4. Avatar Robert Scheide Sr. says:

    Gee seems like I have been there and done that. Not to rain on your parade we kept all 5 cats. The choosing which one’s have to go will tear your heart out and I would almost bet you going to keep the all one bit of hope I give you is they will calm down as they get a little older. I don’t know what there is about cats but I have almost always had one. My last one Kelly came from a rescue. My wife and number two son said I needed to replace my cat of 18 years. Jumped on the SPCA site and there sat a Tortise shell cat identical to Dianh, so of course I figured reincarnation and went and picked her up. Keeping 6 cats is easy kinda like having kids, you cut em looses and put anything out of teach you want to keep.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      I suppose if we keep them all and let them go outside the house wouldn’t be so chaotic. It’s pretty amazing how much they can destroy!

  5. Avatar Candace C says:

    What great photos! Such cute Skrittens! It looks like the one Skritty nestled in the pot with the others might be openly mocking your thinking that you’re getting rid of any of them. Just sayin’.

  6. Avatar Karen Calanchini says:

    Nice story, and thanks rescuing momma cat and giving her a good nome. Kittens are adorable and so much fun. My advice, as a cat lover and owner of lots of cats over the years, get them all neutered, and start teaching them manners . Cats are not supposed to tear up house plants (many are poisonous) climb curtains, scratch wallpaper, or just go wherever they please. They, and you will be a much happier family.
    Cats living in the country do not live long outside, unless in a controlled environment.
    Have fun with them, kittens are so much fun to watch and provide hours of entertainment.

  7. Avatar Candace C says:

    Cat training. HAHAHAHA (;

  8. Avatar Karen Calanchini says:

    No book on cat training…just keep rolled up newspaper handy…when they do their unwanted behavior, approach them and slap it to make a load noise on your palm, saying, “NO” Cats are very smart and easy to behavior train and potty training is very easy . They can take over your house, you need to establish Alpha and sooner the better. I have never had trouble with our kitties. Love them, such beautiful creatures.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Well, that sounds easy enough. I may have to resort to the newspaper, since I’m not getting a lot of offers!

  9. Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

    “Dog is man’s best friend. Man is cat’s best friend.”

    • Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

      We adopted a kitten that some kids found at the bottom of a stack of tires. My son named her “Susie.” Sure enough, Susie got pregnant before we got her neutered, and she had five kittens. We knew we didn’t need six cats, and we managed to find homes for two of the kittens right away.
      That was twelve years ago. The other three are still with us

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Well, so far, it seems like the skrittens like the woman better than the man!

  10. Avatar Sue Shine says:

    R.V., such a refreshing article, it was a surprise. Tabbies are my favorite cats, I loved seeing your photo. We had cats when living in the boonies, in Oak Run. My favorite became pregnant. On our porch, we prepared a snug box for her to give birth in. She soon disappeared for a day or two. We’d go outside to feed her, and follow her out our dirt road, but she was so wary. She’d lie down beside the road and take catnap. Days later, we finally discovered her secret. The kittens were up in the bowl of an old oak tree. My husband used a rope to climb the tree, then dropped all three, one at a time, down to the very thick layer of leaves below (it had been a carefully considered maneuver).

    It was a delight to watch Hilo training her offspring. One day she returned from a hunt. She was dragging a jackrabbit, by the neck, with the body and legs beneath and behind her (she was not a large cat). Her kittens were lying in tall grass behind our fixer-upper house. Through a window we observed her attacking and “killing” the rabbit – she was teaching them to hunt. What an experience, so glad to have witnessed it.
    I’m Bookmarking your article. ?

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      We actually set up three boxes for her in the house to have her babies, and she ended up using all of them. First she moved them to the boxes farthest away from us, then she moved to the closer ones. Now all six cats are sleeping with us!

      We plan to let the ones we keep, which at this point looks like all of them, learn how to hunt from Ollie who’s an expert. In fact, as soon as she showed up, there was a marked decrease in the local lizard and small bird population.

  11. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    Dog guy. Can’t help you.

    We did have a cat once. We called him “Thunk.” It sounds like a play on “think,” but it was the sound he made when leaping from great heights and distances onto the floor, stalking imaginary songbirds.

    Thunk has all the charm of a Bourne Identity asset.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      I had and all black cat back in the 80s that my girlfriend at the time named “Stupid.” I was preparing some chicken one time and my hands smelled like chicken, so Stupid took a full bite out of the heel of my hand. I think she was paying me back for the name.

  12. Terry Turner Terry Turner says:

    What a lovely, delightful article! I have the allergy issue with cats, otherwise I would love one of your little sweeties.

  13. Avatar Sue Shine says:

    I hope this appropriate. For cat lovers, I recommend two authors of good reads. Beverley Nichols: Cats’ A – Z, and Lillian Jackson Braun : The Cat Who books, 22 of them, mysteries that include two Siamese. One of them, Koko, has special instincts that aid him in indicating clues. Our Shasta County library, here in Redding, has many of them.

  14. Avatar Candace C says:

    Sue Shine, my mother loved all “The Cat Who” books. I’d forgotten about them, great recommendation!

  15. Avatar A. Gail Paulsen says:

    The Cat Who ….. books are great. Also, can’t ignore the books by David Michie, The Dalai Lama’s Cat, The Art of Purring, and The Dali Lama’s Cat and the Power of Meow. Delightful book series.
    I am currently proving food, water, a soft bed, and kindness to the neighbhood cat whose family moved away and left her.
    Loved the kindness you showed to this homeless cat and her kittens.

  16. Avatar Sue Shine says:

    A. Gail Paulsen: So glad to learn about David Michie’s cat books. I see that our library as “The Dali Lama’s Cat. I’m looking forward to reading it. Thanks.