At her que, 3 of the older colony members; Shadow a deep grey 7 toed elder with a white chest, Baby a beautiful Rag Doll whos Moma was a thin black Irish fold, and Caramels Sister, a long haired solid grey positioned themselves into a 15 foot triangular boundary around this mother cat Carmel.
I watched in fascination as Tiger, an orange Tabby from a previous liter paced. I knew then, something special was about to happen. When everyone was in place, caramel mewed to the kittens at the side of the parking lot. Kittens I had only seen once under a pile of brush but that's another story! Nothing happened... Then moma mewed again, still nothing! The third "loud" mew sounded like the shriek of a drill sergeant: Merrooww! And suddenly, Tiger, Caramels Orange adult Tabby polydactyl Son ran an from the pavement to jump on the fence that seperated the kittens from the colony. His meow was louder and deeper as his cajoling continued until finally the tiny, cautious kittens tumbled out from under a blue tarp that was partially hidden by overgrown black berries.
As the kittens ran to mom their paws were passing their front paws like a row boat gone astray. Others came timidly following until finally all 9 of them made it skitishly, shakily to mom! As Caramel received the kittens she carefully surrounded herself around them to accommodate all 9 hungry kittens. Kittens so satiny, so new...
They feasted greedily until by mutual consent the kittens feel asleep, still subconsciously kneeding moma kitty as she carefully, tenderly, cleaned each one from head to tail. Then momma kittty watched on as the kittens slept, contentedly that she had feed, kittens content with full bellies, content with their little lives and unknowingly safe as they were guarded by the small feral colony.
After letting the kittens briefly nap Caramel picked one up by the scruff of the neck, it wriggled and wriggled until it just froze! Caramel delivered the first of the 9 back to her hiding place amongst the black berries. One by the the ritual continued until each kitten was tucked safely away.
Then Caramel sauntered like a gypsy princess back to join her adult children that she had brought with her from a previous litter: Tiger, Fluffy, Cali and Pajamas. Shadow the old feral, perhaps related to the others, perhaps not, and Ragdoll Baby.
Each cat stood their ground as lookouts. Together, individually the cats remained at their posts. As I watched from the back steps of the small store I felt honored to have been included in the feral cats club. A tight knit community that honors a hierarchy of respect for the matriarch within the colony! I now belonged to a membership where humans are usually denied, where trust is earned and privacy is demanded. The elation I felt was ecstatic. I had been so graciously allowed by these wild, feral animals to watch a most sacred of things. The illusive Queen surrounded by her guards, feeding her charges! This little misfit colony trusted me with the most precious of gifts, their kittens! I had witnessed something so special and so rare as I had been included and trusted: I had witnessed the bond that the cats and kittens shared. The bond that the cats and kittens shared, the bond that they ultimately shared with me...