In March, reader Linda Grilli Calhoun sent us a largesse of kittehs: four of them, all from a single litter, and all black. Linda raises goats, and the cats get their milk.
I got these kittens at five weeks old. They were orphaned at ten days, and bottle-raised on goat milk from my dairy. This photo was taken at six months old. They arranged themselves on my tack box one morning while I was milking, and stayed in this position long enough for my husband to get a camera and catch them sitting there. I think the odds of trying to pose them like this are roughly the same as winning the lottery.
They are now eleven months old, and bring a dollop of joy to every day.
Left to right: Barney, Bibiana, Ebony, Bailey. “The Fearsome Foursome” [JAC: all but Barney are female]
At my request, she added a bit more information and a few recent pictures:
They were a year old 06/01/2011.
The girls have all done very well. Barney had a brush with death the first week in June, but he survived and recovered, thanks to one of my vets who jumped in and saved him. He brought in a dead baby squirrel, and a few days later came down with tularemia – fever, vomiting, dehydration. Fortunately we got it before it spread to his lungs. He spent a night in the clinic, and then had to be isolated for a week here before he was allowed back in with his sisters. He lost a bunch of weight, but has gained it back, and then some. It was pretty scary.
The Fearsome Foursome are, of course, loving being dairy cats. They get milk on their crackers every day, and always want more. My husband put in a cat door between the heated and unheated areas of the barn, so they are able to come in and get warm whenever they want.
Linda also sent a picture of one of her goats, a very short-eared type called the LaMancha breed. She has 31 of them, and their relationship with the Fearsome Foursome is amiable:
My market is primarily animal consumption. I sell milk to a grade A dairy for them to feed to their kids instead of replacer so that they can use their milk for product. There are also a couple of local zoos that use my milk to feed orphans. The local vets have my number, too, so if something is orphaned or rejected I can supply milk for those babies.
My kids are all hand-raised. They don’t nurse their dams, but are fed pasteurized milk out of feeder buckets. This makes them very tame and tractable and easy to work with, so that if you go up to the fence they will all come running. They know their names, too. If I go to the gate and call, the right one comes.
The goats and the cats get along with each other pretty well. I told you about my cat that lived to be 23 years old. She was completely bonded with the goats. She would sit with them in the kidding pens when they were in labor, and more than once I mistook her for a newborn kid. Once I came home on a cold November day to find two of my milkers in the yard lying back-to-back with the cat lying on top of them. All three were sound asleep.