There’s more to the story of the kittens the Sun Herald photographed living in a decayed old oak in downtown Ocean Springs earlier this year.
And there was a happy ending Monday.
The kittens grew up and left the tree, where their mother had raised them safe from predators — safe even from the city firefighters who’d tried to rescue them at Christmas.
Jan Munn, who works on Washington Avenue across from the tree, fed and watched the mother cat who put her kittens in the tree. She continued to keep an eye on them.
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There were actually three kittens — two black ones the Sun Herald photographed and a calico.
Eventually, the mother led them out of the tree. Munn said she tried to catch them, but couldn’t. The calico was later caught and spayed.
The two black ones disappeared in early February, she said.
Then in early May, after a heavy rain, Munn found a black cat crying in the alley near her shop over what looked like the lifeless body of a wet, 3-week-old kitten.
“I had a feeling that (black cat) had been one of the kittens in the tree,” she said. “I’m going by my gut and the direction she ran for home (in the area of the tree). There’s no way to totally prove it, but she wasn’t a year old. She was young enough to be (one of the tree family).”
Munn saved the tiny, nearly drowned kitten. It was a male, and was named Vader because he was black and rescued on May the Fourth (Star Wars Day). Then she set out to trap the momma.
Within a week, she’d trapped the young mother and her other two young kittens.
The mother was spayed and released back into the area near the tree, where she is comfortable and where people feed her.
Munn is a member of the Feral Feline Coalition for Ocean Springs and that group set about finding foster homess for the three latest kittens so they wouldn’t grow up wild.
On Monday, the last of them found a home with Avisa and Tesla Michael of Ocean Springs.
Linda Cox, with the Feral Feline Coalition, said the coalition’s purpose is to trap, spay or neuter and release. She said as the group’s efforts succeeds, the city’s feral population gets smaller through attrition.
The coalition, now officially recognized by the city, helped get a city ordinance passed that helps protect feral cats — it exempts them from the leash law, and those marked with a clipped ear to designate they are fixed are returned to their colonies.
Cox said trapping and killing them wasn’t the answer. Now city animal control and police cooperate with the coalition.
Cox estimates there are 1,000 feral cats in 100 colonies as small as four cats to 30 or 40.
“This is a happy ending to the kittens in the tree,” Cox said.