Update May 28, 2017 Petition to save the cats can be found here.
There’s a cat advocacy movement taking place among those who care for a feral colony. A good percentage of feral caregivers are doing their best to convert the calmer ferals, the ones they believe could be rehabilitated, to live as indoor-only house cats. Whether you agree with this concept or not, it may be what’s best for the cat. This is the story of reforming ferals in general and the success we’ve had with our cat Peter in particular.
On July 19, 2012, Michael Broad posted an article here titled Percentage of Stray to Feral Cats where he stated
“There are also degrees to which cats have become feral. It is a sliding scale and not black and white as is portrayed in the press. The online newspapers write of the ‘feral cat’ as if it has those words tattooed on his forehead. But what if 30% of cats roaming around the suburbs are still domesticated and should be classified as stray cats. That would put a different complexion on the feral cat problem and how to deal with it.”
There will always be a percentage of cats in a feral colony who would never accept a life indoors. Those are the cats who would climb the walls, not learn litterbox etiquette and put the caregiver at risk of personal injury.
Groups on Facebook tell a different story about how a good percentage of these cats, either abandoned by thoughtless owners or born into dangerous life circumstances, are benefitting (and even enjoying) life as an indoor cat. Some of these “reforming ferals” allow human contact. Others do not but are content with a cat companion as well as the joys the indoor life can provide.
I have a reformed feral named Peter. I began caring for Peter in June 2014 when he was just a kitten. He was part of a colony of 19 cats, many of whom I’ve found a forever home. Others disappeared, most likely killed by natural predators such as coyotes and chicken hawks. Peter became an indoor cat late last summer when he became ill from the constant 95-degree heat. He had undergone TNR May 2016.
When he refused to be recaptured in a standard humane trap I panicked, afraid he’d die before I could bring him indoors. I invested in a drop trap and had him within five minutes using TNR bait casserole (cheese, eggs, and spinach baked into a pie).
Peter began his transition in a small bathroom where he was treated like royalty around the clock. He always had good food, water, a cat bed and even a cat companion in our senior cat Coral. Peter is actually the only cat our old lady has grown fond of.
Even after we began leaving the bathroom door open, it still took Peter almost two months to venture out of the bathroom. He’d poke his little head around the corner, then he’d retreat to what he felt was his safe place. Beginning in month three we began to see progress.
Now our former feral is a lap kitty. He knows his name and is very fond of snuggling and exchanging cheek rubs. He has cat friends and spends his days either looking out the window overlooking the bird feeders or receiving ear massages in my lap. It can be done, especially when the cat is accustomed to the caregiver.
There’s a situation taking place in Mauldin, South Carolina where a colony of cats has until June 14 to find a new home or they’ll be trapped. This article tells of their dilemma. Out of possibly 17 colony cats, three have found a new home with people willing to take a chance while at the same time saving a life. Because no one knows what the HOA’s definition of “disposed of” really means.
It takes an understanding cat lover to go about the task of turning an outdoor feral or community cat into an indoor cat. While these cats may never become as loving as my Peter, they do enjoy the company of a fellow cat, a comfortable bed, toys (you should see Peter with a toy mouse!) and perhaps even a catio to enjoy the outdoors in safety.
As for our Peter, it’s been an amazing experience as we’ve watched him learn to trust humans. I’m amazed at how his markings have come in over the past year. As a kitten, he was mostly a white cat with a ginger striped tail. He’s three years old now and totally tame. I can even carry him around the house, which he wouldn’t allow for the first six months.
Have any of you ever taken in a feral? What did you do to make the transition easier? Please share your story in the comment section below. If you can offer one of the Mauldin colony cats a new home, contact Andrea Durham on this Facebook thread.