The weather was reasonably nice this morning, so I opened the door (for ventilation and for the entertainment of the native cats), and the mother cat was on the front steps. She was skittish of me, but as soon as I demonstrated I had food, she became my best friend. She let me pet her for a long while.
I had been slowly digging the hole wider, since it looked as if there was room for a person to get up inside the stoop to retrieve the kittens. I wedged myself up in there to try to see the kittens, and I eventually found that they were hiding in a corner all the way in the front, under the lowest step, against the side nearest me. There were two little black kittens, very cute.
I lured the mother away with a little more food and went back to get a head count. I quickly found that I could get my head a decent way underneath, but the distance would really require some form of tool if I didn't want to go entirely underneath. I went and got both the yard trash picker-upper tool and the longer gutter-cleaner tool, but I couldn't really reach with either one.
Trying, though, I ended up wedging myself much further under. I don't like getting slimed, I don't like getting bugs or webs in my face, and I hadn't wanted to risk getting trapped under there with no backup ... but I decided to just go ahead and slide in.
It was pretty easy to get under halfway. With my legs sticking out -- I didn't really want to commit to being entirely underneath the stoop -- I used the grabbing tool to pull each kitten towards me. I stuck one out the entrance, corralled the other, shoved the first one back out as it tried to worm past me, got hold of the other, climbed out ... and found I had only one kitten. The mother had absconded with the other, quite stealthily.
I put the remaining kitten in the top of the carrier and searched for the mother. I came back just in time to discover the carrier front hadn't been latched, and I glimpsed the kitten slithering back into its home. With a sigh and much grubbing in the dirt, I retrieved it again. After I got it into the carrier, I went back once again to be certain no one else was under there, and then I filled and blocked the hole so that this wouldn't happen again.
violetcheetah was up a short while later. We decided to leave the kitten in the carrier on the stoop, along with some food, to try to lure the mother back. About half an hour later, violetcheetah called the vet to find out what we should do; their best suggestion, unless we wanted to adopt them all, was to release the kitten back to the mother.
I wouldn't have minded adopting them, and the kitten was old enough to have its eyes open and some apparent consciousness. I had taken it out of the carrier during the call, to comfort it and try to accustom it to people, and it was so cute! I would prefer to keep it, have it vaccinated, and have it fixed than see it go feral and possibly be car-squished. That would require it to be old enough for weaning, though. We decided to take it over to the vet for assessment.
As I reached the front door, I saw that the mother had finally come back. I let the kitten go to her, she scooped it up, and she left. We tried to see where she went, but she used the overgrown fencerow of my neighbor to disappear.
I could have waited for help. I could have sucked up the sliminess and taken each kitten from cubby to carrier to ensure the mother didn't hide one away. I could have found some better way to follow the mother later.
I hate screwing up.