Rescuing Feral Cats
by Elisa Black-Taylor
Litter of ferals
My rescuing feral's adventure really began on June 7 when I arrived at GCAC in Greenville, SC where I rescue off of their euthanasia list. I was there to pick up three post surgery females and overheard someone requesting a "walk through." This is a visit to the cat holding area that must be accompanied by a staff member at the shelter. I asked if I could tag along. I'm putty in kitties hands once I walk through those doors.
One of the cages held the sweetest looking gray, white and orange long haired kitten I've seen in a long time. The shelter worker said it was a feral and I just looked at the employee like "so?" and proceeded to open the cage and take this little baby in my arms.
I wanted it right then, but was told it couldn't be released until Monday as it was brought in by Animal Control and they have to give an owner time to claim an animal.
I emailed Andrea (rescue coordinator) and she had confirmed the family of ferals to me Monday morning. This was no small task as she had to obtain permission from her supervisor for them to be rescued. Cats who are considered a danger to the public can't be released to just anyone. I was literally in tears until I got the confirmation on them.
So on Monday I made a trip to the shelter to adopt this precious kitty and its family. Three kittens were placed into my carrier and I was about to leave with them when I noticed something was wrong. My kitten was not in the carrier. None of the kittens looked familiar. I then searched the shelter for my baby. One of the shelter employees told me my kitty was no longer there. I didn't take the three ferals because it just didn't feel right. I did take a stray named Frankie. He's a beautiful long haired kitten with cream colored fur and baby blue eyes.
I suppose lesson #1 is not to go to the shelter after Andrea has left for the day.
On Tuesday morning I emailed Andrea about the kittens and she was very upset with me. Frankie had a littermate who had escaped and Andrea thought I'd just refused to take it at the time I rescued Frankie. And I was told the feral litter would be euthanized since I didn't claim them. I agreed to return Wednesday morning and rescue the feral litter and Frankie's littermate.
Andrea met me at the shelter at 8a.m. and we headed for the back rooms. First she placed Frankie's mate in the carrier. Then the three ferals were next. My adorable little kitty was one of the kittens. All I can figure is the shelter employee pulled the wrong group on Monday. I also rescued a little blue kitty named Vine and a Maine Coon mix named Calipso. All are around 8 weeks old. Calipso was at the top of the euthanasia list. I couldn't leave her behind. My excuse for pulling Vine is she just looked very lonely.
The first thing we did after turning the six new kittens loose in my home was to arrange a mass feeding. This takes place in the bathroom on three different plates. My daughter places canned food on the floor and all of the kittens we can round up are put in there to eat. This has proved to be the best method to introduce kittens to each other. Most of them do growl, but no one is pushed out of the feeding bowl area. There's always enough canned food for everyone.
My special gray, white and orange kitty has a funny story.
I was determined to get this kitten friendly. As I held it in my lap, Mandy proceeded to give it a tongue bath and eventually the kitty left me. Mandy's in charge of welcoming the new babies. A few hours later I decided to get something out of the fridge and saw this adorable little gray and white kitty sitting by the cat food bowl. It took me a moment to realize this was MY kitty. The orange color was red dirt and Mandy had licked her clean. I named her Grisabella which means beautiful gray. Her nickname will be Bella or Furbette since she's almost identical to Furby.
Calipso was a bit skittish the first few days, but is coming along nicely. I'm almost certain she hasn't known the love of humans. She allows my daughter and I to hold her now.
I have three kittens who are VERY feral. The mate to Frankie and the mates to Bella. Laura did manage to catch and hold each of Bella's family using a bath towel. We have yet to catch the other kitten, who is a dark gray tabby. One of the feral's has the same orange coloring as Bella. I'm not sure if it will turn out to have mud on its face or truly has orange in its coat. The other kitten reminds me of an Abyssinian. The latter was described by Andrea as "mean as crap and beats up it's brothers/sisters."
It's going to take a lot of work and a lot of patience to rehabilitate these three. I believe at least a couple of months. As for now we are leaving food and water in the usual places where they can come out after dark when we are in bed and they feel safer.
I believe we did save their lives. It's hard for many rescues to take kittens as feral as these are. Rescue's and foster's are overrun with kittens this time of year. It's kitten season and there are plenty of irresponsible people who have never heard the word "neuter." It's hard enough to find homes for picture perfect kitties, let alone those with people issues.
TNR doesn't seem to be practiced in the Greenville area. I live in Greenwood County and it's very common to take an animal in for spaying and meet up with someone doing a TNR procedure.
Several of my friends have asked me which kittens I saved off of the euthanasia list. These feral cats didn't make the list nor would they have. These are cats made dangerous by man's stupidity. Yet it's the animal that must suffer. Somehow it doesn't seem fair. Frankie and his litter mate also didn't make the list. I rescued Frankie on the day he was turned in by his owner. Then I committed to his mate the next morning so there was no need to put it on the list.
I'm fortunate to have really fast reflexes. I've named the dark gray tabby kitten Zippy because it's so fast. I almost picked up the Abyssinian one last night. Until it turned around and tried to bite and scratch me. Bella also almost nailed me last night while I was petting her.
I have to remember these babies are feral and live by a different set of standards than regular kittens. Chances are they haven't known the love of a human. A feral doesn't know how to nip in self defense. A feral may bite down and not let go. This is how Furby was after he was rescued.
I watched in amazement that first night with the ferals when my dog dropped a bite of food on the floor and Zippy stole the morsel right out from under him and kept on running. These poor babies have probably had to fight for every meal until Greenville County Animal Control finally captured them.
Our plans now are to play it by ear. I try not to look a feral in the eye as this frightens it. No eye contact is VERY important. If I pretend not to see the feral it doesn't run. The picture of the Abyssinian looking kitten was pure luck. I'd already gone to bed for the night and wanted a sip of water. It was sitting on the stove and I was lucky enough not to frighten it. I took the photo and then left it alone. It was only a few feet away from a food and water bowl and I didn't want to ruin it's desire to eat.
The other kittens will play a major role in helping the wild ones settle in. Hopefully they will see my house isn't a bad place and they'll slowly build their trust in us.
It's really interesting to see how a dozen kittens interact with each other. You'd think litter mates would stick together and that's just not the case. My kittens buddy up with the kitties they like. Vine is a sweet kitty, as is Frankie.
Frankie is very calm and loves to sleep with Pippa and Pinky. The calmest of the ferals (after Bella) also likes Frankie. Stitch sleeps with Pippa and Pinky. I often have Bella, Vine, Garfield and Lilo asleep together in my lap. It's virtually impossible for me to type except when I'm at work. I don't have the heart to make them move.
Bella is now sleeping with me. I have to be careful not to roll over on her since she likes to scrunch herself right up next to me. I never had that privilege with Furby. Unless Furby is sick he prefers sleeping with Lola or Lucky.
Failure is not in my vocabulary. I have many online friends who have caught and tamed ferals. I can even accept a worst case scenario where the kittens continue to hide and come out to eat when all is quiet. At least they will remain alive and free.
Do any of the readers at pictures-of-cats.org have any feral stories or suggestions. It's been awhile since I took on this many ferals at one time. And the first I've done on an indoor basis. All of the others, excluding Furby, were outdoor cats.
P.S. The photo of the ferals includes the first picture taken of Bella at the shelter the night I met her. She's the cat on the bottom left. See what a difference a little love and cat spit and polish makes. Thanks Mandy! You cleaned her up very nicely. Mandy also seems to have taken on the role of surrogate mother to Bella. Which goes to show even a spayed female can have mothering instincts.
I'm sorry I don't have a photo of Zippy yet. When one becomes available I'll ask Michael to add it.