I wrote about the cat and kiwi incident in my June 27th column, but it seems that the pregnant cat referred to in that entry has had her litter. I say "seems" because I haven't actually seen the newborn kittens.
The other day, before leaving for an Seicho-No-Ie Public Lecture meeting in Hokkaido, I stepped out onto the wooden deck outside of our living room and saw the Mother Cat quietly drinking some water. I noticed then that her stomach, which had once been so swollen that it touched the ground, was now small and back to its normal size. However, I also saw that she had a large red something protruding from her birth canal. My wife was actually the first one to notice this and shouted for me to come. Since I've never been through childbirth myself, I'm not sure, but she must have known instinctively that something was very wrong. The Mother Cat, while drinking the water, would lift its head up at times and look far into the distance, but it didn't appear to be suffering or in any pain.
Returning from the seminar, my wife told me that they'd found the Mother Cat dead by the well near the side of the pond. The first thing I thought about were the kittens. I even wondered whether all the kittens had actually been born. In the "Human World", if the mother dies, it's only natural that the father tries his best to bring up the children. But, in the "Cat World", the male cat is far from being a "father." He simply impregnates the female and takes no further responsibility for anything. He doesn't even come to see the newborns. This particular male cat may not even be anywhere near the house anymore.
The Mother Cat has had two litters within a four-month period. Cats usually have about five kittens per litter. Of the ones born in April, two have grown and are running around our yard. However, they aren't "full adults" yet, and still this Mother Cat had another litter. According to some books, female cats go into heat twice a year, once between January and March and again between May and June, with pregnancy lasting anywhere from 63-65 days. So, in other words, this Mother Cat looked after her first litter for about a month after giving birth in April, and became pregnant with her next litter at the beginning of May.
On the morning of the second, my daughter heard what she thought was the sound of kittens crying. The weak mewing was coming from somewhere beneath the floor of the "Western Style Room" of a vacant house next to ours. Cutting away at the weeds, we peered inside, but, although we could hear them crying, we didn't see anything. There was a rather wide opening in a squarish vent under the floor. This was probably how the Mother Cat went underneath the floor and had her kittens. The average cat usually has 4-six kittens per litter, but, after we pulled up the flooring, we saw that, this time, she had given birth to seven. It's all too horrible if this was the cause of her death. I wanted to go and find the male cat and bring him here. "These are your children. Take care of them!"