One of the items on our animal-loving daughter’s annual birthday list, which she revises often, is “anything alive.” A few years ago, my uncle brought wild kittens from the farm in a portable kennel to her birthday party. It was her favorite gift. She gently and patiently cared for them — and eventually, they became tame.

Over time, outdoor cats tend to disappear for a multitude of reasons. We’ve tried to create posh cat quarters by outfitting a doghouse with a heated bed and water dish to entice as many cats as possible to stick around.

I take our cats to the veterinarian for shots and have them spayed and neutered like a responsible crazy cat lady. Despite our best efforts, we still lose a few cats each year. The good news is, my uncle never runs out of wild farm kittens, so Anika has multiple opportunities to try again. She’ll tame any kittens my uncle delivers from his farmyard.

A few weeks ago, after her 11th birthday, Uncle Jim delivered four of the wildest farm kittens we’ve experienced. With diligence and patience, he loaded up the orange and white kittens and drove them down the road. First, we put them in the garage so they could be close by and get used to our family for a few days. Then we moved them to an outdoor cat house, complete with a litter box, a new cat bed and toys. We kept the door shut the first few days to get them accustomed to their new surroundings. We’d opened the hinged roof a couple of times a day to feed them and let them enjoy some outdoor playtime.

This past Sunday afternoon, my dad and husband moved the cat house into a former fenced dog kennel area to give them more space while keeping them safe from vehicles and predators.

Yes, I fully realize we’ve put in 100 times more effort than is given to most farm kittens. It’s what we do for kids/grandkids who have a little extra time.

Of course, the fiercest kitten, Ozzie, immediately climbed the fence, walked the top of it and toppled to the ground, escaping to the wild world. Then, the lone female, Nellie, pushed her body through the fence, joining Ozzie to freely explore. Griggs came out of the cat house to watch his littermates escape but stayed back. I watched from the deck but eventually went to find the fourth kitten, Nacho, who I hadn’t seen yet. I lifted the hinged roof on the cat house to find Nacho as cozy as could be in the bed. He lifted his head but obviously had no desire to leave the cat house. Nacho was content to stay put.

The kittens remind me of people these days after months of social distancing, working from home, changes in schedules, conspiracy theories and political divisiveness. Maybe you feel like recklessly climbing or squeezing through the fence. Or you’re outside for fresh air, observing others around you. Still others are content to stay tucked in at home.

When we came home one evening, Anika found Griggs in the tree, falling out to greet her. Ozzie and Nellie were snuggled on the deck together. And Nacho hadn’t strayed far from the cat house. She gathered the foursome back together and fed them in the cat house — their home, which is a place I think we all have come to appreciate more in the past four months.

No matter where my days take my family and me, being at home, all together, remains my place of retreat and comfort.

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.