I recently caught my three year old daughter sneaking out of the house, still in pajamas, before she thought we were awake. The reason? She wanted to “see” the six perfect baby kittens that were born in the chicken coop. Translation: she wanted unmitigated access to do something she wasn’t supposed to.
There’s a long-standing farm rule I’ve heard since I was kid: Never touch kittens until their eyes are open. Kittens that take on a different scent may be abandoned by the mother.
Unfortunately, I’m having the hardest time enforcing the no-touchy touchy rule with a certain young member of the household.
The kittens are barely a week old, downy and delicate, mewling quietly with their eyes closed. Ellis can’t resist them. I find her sneaking in the coop at all hours of the day – so much so that we’ve had to start locking it. She talks about the kittens constantly. She wants to show them to everyone who visits.
I’m torn. The mother is a baby herself – part of our spring litter last year. She doesn’t seem to mind us being near, and welcomes attention whenever human visitors are around.
But the rule.
The interwebs are full of mixed messages about the rule. Some sites say it’s okay to touch them if the mother allows it. Others take a strict hands-off approach.
All I keep coming back to is the advice of the apostle Paul in Corinthians 10:23 – “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial.
(The whole passage really has nothing to do with baby kittens. It’s the principle that’s standing out to me.)
Certainly, we can touch the kittens. Is it the best thing for them? Probably not. But do we risk the mother abandoning them at this point? Probably not.
No clear answer.
But if I stop to look at what’s beneficial for everyone involved (kittens, Ellis, my sanity), the answer is simple. We need to wait. Free access to the coop – denied. The kittens need time, and Ellis needs to go another round in learning the wait/reward cycle of patience.
Wish us luck. It’s going to be a long week.