Saturday, 11 May 2013

Thoughts about life, occasioned by witnessing a kitten's birth

"The beginning and the end of everything is the most interesting" wrote 14th C. Japanese author and philosopher Yoshida Kenko (who deserves more study). And indeed, watching Moni's cat giving birth yesterday was Most interesting. Watching life replicate, intelligent life to a significant degree; though cats can't fly to the moon, create synthetic insulin or mobile phone networks or even open tins of cat-food, they are sentient beings, capable of rich emotions, curiosity, simple logical thought and basic communication. And of course, they can replicate with ease.

Watching the heroic travails of Lila the cat, until not too long ago a frivolous, playful kitten, has given me a renewed appreciation what is meant by 'female' and 'motherhood'; such a strong instinct that's not mirrored in the male. The father has done his deed, sowed his seed and said sayonara. His genes have been transferred into the next generation and to achieve that result, his input has been brief and exclusively pleasurable. The mother has spent nine weeks in pregnancy and will spend the next eight to 12 weeks of her life feeding and grooming their joint offspring on her own. Her maternal instinct is extremely strong. Pick up one of the kittens, and she will immediately rise to claim it back in no uncertain terms. And she is fastidiously hygienic.

Motherhood is a reason for living; I now feel sorry for our older cat Papusia (the feline zeppelin) that we had her sterilised and that she never went through the pain and joy of bringing offspring into this world. Whether Papusia feels resentment to us humans for depriving her of the chance to be a mother, I don't know.

These ponderings lead to wonder why we have obstinately chosen to make God male, a father, rather than a mother. Surely motherhood is more divine than fatherhood.

But there was a darker side. The youngest kitten, Bonus, was clearly the runt of the litter. One morning, several days after giving birth, I caught Lila trying to dump little Bonus first under my wife's bed, then under Eddie's bed. In both cases, I brought poor Bonus down the birthing box and the rest of the brood. But ten days later, Bonus was dead - a lung infection, the vet said. His mother sensed he was weak and did not want to waste resources on him. Tough - life's hard and then you die (aged ten days).

The complexity of life is also apparent. Those little living structures, after a mere nine weeks on from fertilised egg stage and still devoid of sight, can root through their mother's fur, locate a nipple, and fight off siblings equally anxious to feed. Four new little brains, with neurons being connected by the thousand every minute as they acquire new experiences and skills, have come into this eco-system; in time they will be hunting mice, voles, birds and moles in the garden as their ancestors have done.

Above: today's pic of Lila and brood, the last cat (Bonus, black with a white stripe around the neck) is somewhere underneath his mum. Below: a 55-second film of the same event, with added feline squirming.

Below: Lila aka Jinks the Sphinx in more carefree times when the only thing she needed to worry about was finding a warm radiator on top of which to spend a winter's day.

This time last year:
Waiting for the footbridge on Puławska

This time two years ago:
Lost in the wonder of it all

This time three years ago:
Bicycle review

This time four years ago:
A Celebration of the Garden

1 comment:

student SGH said...

Finally read your recent posts on new-born kittens. Truly marvellous little innocent creatures. Hope one day I'll get the chance to see the miracle of birth taking place before my very eyes.

Plus very wise musings on the parenthood.

Thanks for fixing the comment box (albeit the two older comments have got away)