Caring For a Feral Cat Family
We moved to the Northern California area where feral cats are abundant. One cat, about a year old, came close to my family as we were relaxing in our spa in the back yard. We were snacking on some crackers when we decided to toss the cat a piece.
She wearily watched, then quickly ran up, snatched the cracker and ran off with it. She returned a minute later. This became quickly known to my father, who is against feeding feral cats because of how quickly they multiply, especially if it's a female.
This cat was a female, as was evident by her growing belly. My father allowed us to continue feeding her. A few months down the road, she became so comfortable with us, she would approach and lie on the porch to wait for a snack.
Then she would approach the house to pick up a morsel we would toss just a few inches from the open door. We named her Leah. She had her own food and water dish by this point and we were expecting kittens soon.
One day, we noticed she had not returned for a few days but only to eat what was in her bowl. We had a tree house, and after seeing her climb across one of its planks, it suddenly dawned on me where she was.
I climbed to the top and discovered three kittens in the top carpeted area of the house. Two of them calico, one of them tuxedo. One of the calicoes huddled in the corner and cried and hissed at me. The tuxedo kitten seemed to be very scared-- it was shaking and cried as it huddled next to the aggressive one.
The other calico cried, yet stayed in one spot, its eyes barely opening to see what had entered the abode. I scooped it up, wrapped it in my sweater and took it into the house. As I held it wrapped in my sweater, it meowed, yet relaxed.
I looked up on the internet about feral cats and quickly found out my mistake. I took the kitten back up to the tree house and placed it back where I found it and climbed away. My worst fear came to nothing when I saw the kittens a month later huddled together under a bush waiting for their mother to feed them her meals.
Leah knew our scent, so she did not reject the kitten I had taken! When the kittens were 4 months old, we trapped all of them and took them to be spayed and neutered. We kept them in a large cage in the garage for two weeks. They got very depressed, though I would visit and talk to them every day as I fed them.
At first, they would try to climb out of the cage, especially the tuxedo cat, he was very afraid, so we spent little time in there so as not to stress them out as they healed.
The mother cat we only set free after her surgery because we didn't want her to hurt the kittens. After their release it took about a year of love, patience, treats, and touches to get them to approach us without fear.
The tuxedo was a boy, the other two were girls. What a disaster that would have been a year down the road!! I loved the tuxedo cat; he had markings that were perfectly centered on his nose, chest and feet. I loved to watch him because he would often widen his eyes, especially when he was frisky, which was more often than the other two.
Once he caught a mouse and I laughed in hysterics as I watched him bat at it, pretending it was still alive so he could "catch" it again. We called him Felix. He had the loudest purr of them all, and would spin around as we pet him. The aggressive calico was a girl with bright gray eyes and a whitish-gray pattern like her mother.
We called her Jasmine. She warmed up to us a little and would purr and cuddle a bit into our hand, yet the aggressive streak was evident when she would suddenly stop purring and slash or bite after being touched for too long.
The other calico I had carried when she was weeks old turned out to be the sweetest and was named Tiger Lily. I call her Tiggly for short. She has a black marble calico marking with a red tint and greenish gold eyes. I was a little too focused on Jasmine's personality and trying to calm her down to realize what a sweet cat Tiggly was.
She was the one I had cuddled with as a newborn kitten! We often spent time feeding them tiny bits only to get them close so we could pet and tame them. They did end up calming down. One day about a year later I went out of town for a week. Tiggly amazed me when I got home. She immediately entered the house when she saw me and would not stop marking me with her face on my legs and hands.
I sat in shock to watch her climb onto the couch and roll around. She then jumped up onto my lap and layed down while pumping her paws on my lap as I pet her. Dare I ever leave her again!
That was the first time she acted like that.
When they were two years old, we had to move to a temporary residence. In that area, there were often coyotes and raccoons. We took the kittens and left Leah, knowing she could fend just fine with the neighbors feeding her.
We kept them in a nice wood cat home with carpeting, a heater and a lock to a gate during the winter months we were in our temporary residence. One time, Tiggly escaped the cage as I pet her. She ran off, not knowing where she was, then cried as she stood in the bushes. I cried because I didn't want to lose her.
To my amazement, she approached the cage that night looking for food, then entered the cage as I shut the gate. Felix escaped the cage once as well. He was missing for a week or so when I realized I could hear meowing from under the trailer house. It was Felix! I do not think he was stuck, just scared. I remembered there was a boarded-up hole on the rear of the house. I opened the hole so that Felix could escape if another animal had entered, trying to get to him.
I kept a food bowl out for him to eat from. I nearly caught him once, yet he scrambled out of my arms. One night, my Grandma heard a scuffle from under the house. To my worst fear, Felix had gotten injured by an animal, probably raccoons. He had a cut on his leg. He could barely move his back legs and kept his tail down. His tail had a tuff of fur at the end, yet an inch above had fur missing and exposed bleeding flesh.
One day, I was determined to catch him. I got my large house-coat that I would often wear outside. I took it off and slowly lowered it to him as he ate from his bowl. I wrapped him up quickly as he tried to get away. He ended up urinating -- I hope it wasn't because he was hurting, I want to believe he was just scared.
He was put back in the cage and hid for a long time. Yet, he never recovered from that injury to his back. I was never so glad to move away from that area. We released the cats to our permanent home after two weeks of allowing them to get use to the new environment.
Jasmine disappeared immediately and never returned. Felix disappeared only for a few days, then came back when he was hungry and stayed around afterward. Tiggly remained nearby, yet would disappear a couple of days at a time, probably looking for the other two.
A couple of years later after the move, something else had tried to attack Felix and he shuffled even worse after suffering a cut to his foot. He shuffled so bad that he dragged both rear legs to the point of scraping the top of his feet until they bled. He also had incontinence.
I believe what happened was a back injury due to his tail being bitten and pulled, because of this, he could not escape the predators in the area. We took him to put him to sleep not too long after that.
Tiggly is still around and alive and very tame now! I trained her to enter into the front door and find the back door. She occasionally cries in a meow still when she is in the house because it makes her anxious. Most days she enters the house only wanting cuddles and butter. On cold and rainy days, she allows me to scoop her up and hold her in my arms as she pumps her paws on my arm and purrs.
She doesn't jump up on my lap like she did a few years ago, she is used to me taking occasional trips away from home. Yet, she is the sweetest cat. She often rolls on the carpet, exposing her tummy. I hesitated tou ching her there for a long time when she first did this because she may not have wanted to be touched there, only to show me she trusted me. Now she lets me touch her tummy, grab her paws and squeeze them, look at her teeth and even close the house doors to keep her inside for a little while.
She use to freak and run into the glass door, now she'll only howl if it is shut and she can't get out. She also allows my young nieces and nephew to pet her. She is the most gentle and sweet cats I've ever had and I am blessed to have her as a pet.