My name is Miss Igloo. And I drowned my first litter.
For nearly five years, I buried those words in a hairball of secrecy and shame. But today, at long last, I open my almost-lips and speak them publicly for the very first time. I got pregnant at six-months-old. And I drowned my first litter. And my only regret is having ever felt any shame for it.
I was feral the first nine months of my life. I don’t even remember my mother. Judging by my petite runtish frame, she must have left… or died… before I even finished nursing. My father could have been any of the tomcats who prowled the alley off of Aaron Street where I grew up. But I’ve always suspected it was Sir Duke. I have his eyes. Unfortunately this resemblance did not stop Sir Duke from mounting me when I was only three-months-old. By that time, my only sibling who survived long enough for me to remember him had been literally eviscerated by a gang of raccoons in an ongoing territorial dispute over 14 inches of dumpster space.
I was all alone and at the mercy of a vicious cat-eat-cat world. I hid under a house for weeks, eating bugs and occasionally making a daring dash for the dumpster to find more substantial meals. I was adorable, and that’s not a good thing to be under those circumstances. Sir Duke was not the only one who had his way with me when I dared leave my shelter in search of sustenance. And that’s assuming the coyote’s didn’t get me.
After A while, I stopped caring what happened to me. I started doing nip to dull the pain and forget who I was. I even began venturing beyond the two blocks of alley which was all I had ever known. This was the first time I had ever seen the front side of a residential street. I had no idea such beauty existed just 20 yards from the nightmare I had occupied my entire life. And that’s where I met him.
Zanzibar was a majestic and sensitive Maine Coon. His bright yellow eyes were as big and seductive as his promises. He was domesticated, but I didn’t care; he made me feel protected and he brought me exotic meats. We made love and bathed each other for hours-on-end. It was the first time in my life I had ever known happiness. I was in love. Nine weeks later I gave birth to a beautiful litter of five. Then, only a few days after I gave him the news, he was gone. Maybe he recommitted to his family, or maybe he was just frightened of something real. But Zanzibar stopped leaving his big warm home and I was left alone with our kittens.
Did you know that some feral tomcats will kill an entire litter just so the mother will feel empty and lonely enough that she’ll sleep with them? I didn’t. I was once again a target. And I could neither protect nor provide for my little ones. Without a father to guard them, I knew they would suffer the same fate as my litter: Starvation, gruesome death or in the best case scenario, life in a hopeless hell-hole. I could not sentence my little ones to that fate.
I also knew the only chance I’d ever have at a life where I could have a home and family, like Zanzibar had, was if I was adopted before I reached full maturity; and didn’t come with baggage. But even knowing all this, it was still the hardest decision I ever had to make. And in a life full of pain, it was the most painful day of my life.
After it was over, I was numb with grief. I stumbled from street to street, calling out into the night until one day I woke up to find myself on an unfamiliar porch, being stroked tenderly by a young girl who lived there. It frightened me. But I was too exhausted to run; too heart-broken to hiss. All I could do was purr.
The little girl’s family took me in, nursed me back to health and gave me a life I had only ever dreamed of. I was safe, loved, and fed wet food every Goddamn day. I had warm faces to sit on and an elusive red dot to challenge my faculties and give me a sense of purpose. I’d never even heard of a litter box before then, but somehow I knew that it was exactly where I was meant to shit. Sometimes I would just stay in there and reflect. It was my sanctuary.
I even had another litter before they had a chance to fix me. And this time I could give my kittens the life they deserved. Two of them, Raisin and Fluffy (I didn’t pick the names,) I got to raise myself and they live with me to this day. And the other two were adopted to loving homes.
I meow this story not in an effort to justify or excuse what I did. No one can judge me who has not walked on my paws. I tell it for all the other mothers out there who did the right thing, but still struggle with it every day. You did your best. Stop tormenting yourself. You never asked to be born into a world where doing your best would involve leaving the lifeless bodies of your precious newborn kittens facedown in a dirty puddle. And neither did they.