People constantly ask why I do what I do when I have so many other priorities. When it costs money out of my own pocket. When I have my own indoor cats to tend to.
Because somewhere down the line, a human let them down. Either they were dumped off, their parents were dumped off, or their great-grandparents, etc etc.
Because people may have been feeding them, but nobody bothered to neuter them so that they wouldn’t keep giving birth to kittens who would potentially suffer and die out there. So that feral kittens would no longer be dropped off at shelters and healthy shelter cats who had been waiting for homes would be euthanized to “make room”. So that Toms would never have to fight for territory or mates anymore. So that they could live healthier, happier lives.
We are just coming out of a period of extended record-breaking cold weather in NJ and many parts of the US & Canada. And feral cat caregivers are exhausted and over-extended trying to help our kitties survive it.
We are out there in sub-zero temperatures trying to feed them wet food before their food freezes and scheming ways to keep water from freezing so that our kitties don’t dehydrate. We are trying to figure out HOW we can get them to use the shelters we have set up for them to weather the elements.
We are worrying ourselves sick when our babies don’t show up after the snow storm. When they get sick because of the rough conditions out there. When one goes missing to hunker down somewhere til conditions improve.
We look at untouched food bowls and hope that TODAY will be the day they are able to come out and eat.
We look at the pictures we took of them before the storm and HOPE we get to see them soon…alive and healthy.
We spend time on social media talking to other caregivers because our families and friends JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND.
We pray to God, St Francis, and/or the Universe to help our babies survive the harsh weather.
We spend money we don’t have on heating pads, heated bowls, straw, shelters, food, medication and supplements…hell, some of us build additions on to our houses or sacrifice our basements, garages and porches for our babies.
We dig our feral cat shelters out of the snow before we even dig ourselves out.
We scheme ways to treat sick ferals who cannot be handled or touched or just put into a carrier to take to the vet.
We look helplessly at our babies who can’t be handled while they deal with a mess on their bum from diarrhea and think “if she would JUST let me scruff her and wipe, she will feel SO much better!”.
Then we get a little break in the weather. And they come back or come out of their shelters. And enjoy the thaw right along with us.
They follow us around and try to trip us as we walk in the snow and ice and mooch treats and love.
They even roll around and play in the snow!
Those are the moments us caregivers LIVE for. Those are the moments that make it ALL worth it. When they look at us with love and gratitude in their eyes because they KNOW that all we do makes their lives THAT much more bearable.
Feral Cat Caregivers are unsung and often misunderstood heroes!
We may “think” that we aren’t making a difference in the world because we haven’t won a Nobel Peace Prize or saved children from sex trafficking or aren’t making six-figure incomes.
But to that feral cat, we have changed THEIR entire world.
And that’s ALWAYS enough!
***For more info on some of the products shown in the pictures, click Here ***
Chatty (now Cosmo) when he first came to me in 2015… scared, sick, and ass kicked.
And I am FUMING!
As I have four backyard cats who probably had homes at one point and are now “feral”…
I see pets on death row everyday on my Facebook News Feed …
I see rescues and volunteers knocking themselves the hell out and facing daily heartbreak. These heroes are overextended mentally, emotionally, and financially…often paying out of their OWN pocket trying to save the lives of these unwanted kittens and cats…
Chatty (now Cosmo), top, in his forever home with his new bonded brother, Winston (also a ‘feral’ rescue) six months after I rescued him.
And I look at my five indoor cats…even though I really should only have two for my size house, time and finances. But their mama, who was probably dumped off in the woods one day, showed up here already pregnant and I didn’t even know it til I saw her 1-month-old kittens … and because I rescued these kittens when Weeny died, it meant another rescue or shelter cat did NOT get a home …
I really don’t think people REALIZE the impact their negligence has on shelter cats, feral cats, and the people who see their heartbreak on a DAILY basis.
I’ve spent $500 out of pocket in the past 18 months neutering any cat who even LOOKS at my property….nevermind what I spend to FEED them because SOMEBODY has to give a shit …
With all the low cost spay/neuter programs making it cheaper to spay or neuter your pet than it is to go out to dinner….
I just wonder…
Why the HELL are there people out there STILL not spaying and neutering their pets??
I honestly think those people who are irresponsible pet owners should be forced to do volunteer work at a shelter, or go watch “feral” cats (often just pet cats who once had a home and were DUMPED) get rounded up and euthanized, or should spend the time so many of my friends spend trapping these poor babies for TNR (often we pay for this out of our OWN pockets, by the way), or watch all the shelter pets suffer their heartbreak, illness and despair … just get put to sleep to “make room” …
Trouble, after he got hurt in a cat fight while defending his territory.
Or even for my “lucky” ones…my backyard cats, who had to get their asses kicked repeatedly and kick ass repeatedly to establish their “turf” here. And the ones who lost that Turf War, like one of my original feral cats, Hitler? I believe he’s eating down the street at another feeder’s house but did try to come back here a couple of months ago after being MIA for a year and Trouble ran him right out. The heartbreaking thing is that when he saw me bringing him food, he meowed at me for the first time EVER. And because he’s too feral to be handled or rescued, I couldn’t do a damn thing for him but hope that I would see him again. And I haven’t yet…
Hitler, one of my first feral cats … who was chased away when Trouble set up “home” here.
Poor Tiggy, Shadow and Domino, my three ferals who have to sneak in and grab their food while my Core Four resident ferals aren’t watching and hopefully they get to finish their meal before they are “caught”.
Or Junior, who scrapped with Trouble and scrapped with Trouble repeatedly, almost every day, for six months, before he finally calmed down enough to become friendly to humans and we could adopt him out to my aunt.
But both boys have the permanent scars on their faces and ears to show for it.
I. JUST. CAN’T…. sit back and freaking watch people be so irresponsible with their pets and keep my mouth shut ANY longer!
There is absolutely NO good excuse why a pet parent cannot spay or neuter their pet, barring a heart condition or some other illness that makes anesthesia too risky. But at least don’t let them outside to procreate then!
Please spread the word. Share this post if you think it will help! It’s ‘Kitten Season’ in rescue world. And SO many rescues and shelters are already overloaded! These people work TIRELESSLY saving lives. So many of these kittens won’t make it and they and their mothers will suffer this season. A lucky few, like my four “kits”, will survive. But they were VERY lucky their mama found me when she was pregnant.
Two of the LUCKY ones, my rescue kits Rascal (top) and Mischief (foot in mouth, bottom).
Rascal, about 2 months before I rescued him and one of his suspected daddies, Hitler
This can be a touchy and controversial subject. I’ll do my best to share with you MY reasoning without taking away from somebody else’s decision to rescue.
Let me start with my cat Smidgen, who I had growing up. We adopted her when I was in 9th grade from a pet store (I know, I know…this was the 80s and we didn’t know any better!) at the mall. And she was RIGHT at home when we got her here. After my previous two cats had been hit by cars, I made my mom PROMISE not to let Smidgen out.
But, my mom, being the bull-headed Taurus Italian “I know best” mother that she is, started letting Smidgen out when I wasn’t home one day. She felt bad because Smidge was a little wild and got bored with playtime easily. I was a teenager doing my own thing, and Mom didn’t really know what else to do to entertain her.
And we got very lucky with Smidge. Even though she had never been vaccinated past her kitten shots, even though she was FIV+, and even though she was an indoor/outdoor kitty, she lived a very healthy 14+ years before she passed and never had a health issue until the end.
When I moved out at age 23 (Smidge was 9), I knew that she would NEVER be happy in a one-bedroom apartment after being the Master of her 3-acre domain for almost 10 years, so I made the very unselfish and difficult decision to leave her home. She was also very bonded with my dad but we never lost our bond, either.
To this VERY day, even though I’m a FIRM advocate for keeping pet cats INDOORS, I still stand by my decision. Smidgen wasn’t happy being an indoor-only cat and I couldn’t have imagined her life any differently than the way SHE chose to live it.
So, back to my feral cats. People see my videos of them on Facebook…two can be pet, one sings with me and rubs all over me like I’m her property (although she cannot be pet yet), and one of the two who can be pet can also be pilled and syringed liquid medication. You can meet them in the “About” section of our site!
Fluffy (top left), Oreo and Trouble enjoying a Spring-ish day.
But they weren’t always that way! It took me almost three years of feeding Oreo before he would allow me to pet him. And I actually let HIM pet me first! Trouble would head-butt my hand while feeding him, but he was such a loose cannon before he got neutered that he even sent me to the ER on St Patty’s Day in 2016! I was afraid of him for a LONG time!
But as they both calmed down after their neuters, they definitely became more sociable and more like pet cats than feral cats. Fluffy still swats at me when I put treats down for her and I can ONLY pet her about five swipes on her back WHILE she’s eating before she literally turns on me. And I cannot even walk towards Orange without him running away.
Yet, they are out there to greet me everyday and they enjoy my company, as I enjoy THEIR company. And I adore them with all my heart and worry about them EVERY day! Especially with the way cars FLY down my street!
So why don’t I rescue them?
Because they are friendly to ME on THEIR turf. Oreo and Trouble are JUST starting to make friends with my mom and they are cool with my neighbors so long as the neighbors stay “over there”. It can go either way if I take them out of their turf. And I could “try” to tame them..hell, we are already halfway there, but I know how bonded cats can get to their territory.
So what if I brought Trouble in and it didn’t work out?
He can be a loose cannon, is territorial, and still marks even though he’s been neutered for over a year as of this writing. So what if he urine marks at his new indoor home? Or gets territorial with the other cats in the home?
As far as adopting him out, he’s FIV+ and anybody who has worked in rescue will tell you how DIFFICULT it is to adopt out an FIV+ cat because of the stigma attached to “Feline AIDS”. I REALLY wish vets would stop using that terminology!
So what if it doesn’t work out and he loses his territory that he fought SO hard to establish (same with Oreo). Then what will happen to him? A shelter? We know feral cats who are out of their element do not have successful outcomes at shelters and, most likely, he would not leave the shelter system alive.
So why would I uproot him like that from what he considers HOME just to satisfy my need to rescue him? I live in a town that is TNR friendly, in a county that just passed a TNR-friendly ordinance, in the first state that passed a declaw ban statewide and is making leaps and bounds toward animal rights every day.
So WHY would I break his heart like that? He has secure shelter in our shed, his heating pad, heated pet bowls, his favorite box, regular feedings, vet care, and me to feed, cuddle and play with him every day. We have 3 acres of land and my house backs to woods. Yes, I worry ALL THE TIME about predators and the cars speeding by my house.
Fluffy enjoying her heating pad.
On the flip side, I did rescue my kits at 4 months old. Rascal was about the only one who really was friendly out there. I could barely touch Mischief when I rescued him and if it weren’t for him being so bonded to his brother, I don’t think he would have adjusted so well. But, he does have issues. And 18 months later, we STILL don’t have him FULLY integrated into the household. And he had to start Prozac last Summer because I was at the point that it either had to work or he would have to be re-homed with his VERY bonded brother, Rascal, to a home without cats or euthanized. And I couldn’t stand the thought of either.
As for Patchy and Spunky… poor Spunky spent the first six months of her indoor life spending over 80% of her time down in our unfinished basement. And Patchy would intermittently hide in a storage box on the highest ledge possible down in that basement. They FINALLY adjusted with some confidence-building exercises, feline facial pheromones, and a WHOLE lot of love and patience on our part!
However, my mom still makes Patchy a nervous wreck and Spunky still beelines for the basement as soon as a stranger so much as pulls up in our driveway.
Yes, they are TOTALLY worth the effort! And if my feral cats didn’t have it SO good, a couple of them would have been rescued by now. I HAVE adopted out two of my former ferals already…the two who I KNEW, without a DOUBT, would be happier indoors than out there.
But I cannot and will not subject my current feral cats, who I know better than anybody, to a life that does not serve them. And if my patient neighbors move or the laws change in my township, county or state, I most certainly will do what I can to save each and every one of my feral cats..even the more “feral” feral cats!
But, in the meantime…
Like Red says about Andy Dufresne in Shawshenk Redemption…”some birds aren’t meant to be caged.”
Trouble enjoying the sunshine and schmoozing for treats!
Big Orange was originally named “OJ”. But, after a couple of weeks, I could no longer stand having a cat sharing the same name as OJ Simpson. So, I started calling him the big orange cat, and because of my lack of creativity and imagination, the name ended up sticking.
Big Orange came out of the woods and joined our family one day shortly after the Blizzard of 2016 and decided this was his home.
Before he decided that my yard was “home”, he would sit under the camper at my neighbor’s and wait for me to do the dusk feeding, sneak in, get his food, and leave.
Orange perches on the trailer hitch of the neighbor’s camper watching me put out food.
A timid guy, he was constantly being bullied by Trouble and a sometime feral (Blondie) who was trying to break in here last Spring before Trouble and Oreo chased him out once and for all. I found out later that this same cat was bullying Big Orange about 1/4 mile away at another feeder’s house.
Orange quickly took over the heating pad and feeding station out front of the house that was left vacant by Blacky when Blacky became sick and his mama was holding him inside the house to recover. When Blacky was allowed to come out again, his mom had it set up so that he could come and go as he pleases, so he gets to sleep at home and mooch over here now! More on Blacky to come…
But, Orange is definitely a feral. He quickly moved over to Blacky’s second vacant station under our back steps because he would get scared and run off whenever Mom would go out front to smoke. It’s been about a year now and he still runs away from me but is social enough to come out to greet me and you can actually see him trying to work up the nerve to rub against my legs but he hasn’t quite gotten there yet!
(UPDATE 8.22.17) We have made slow progress, but progress nevertheless! He has bumped my hand with his head and allowed for a few pets for time to time. He no longer totally runs away from me when I walk towards him. He will now allow me to put treats right in front of him without him getting totally freaked out.
One of many pics I took of Orange when he first came around to try to see if he was already ear-tipped.
Orange didn’t act like all the other Toms out here. I assumed he was a Tom because female orange tabbies are rare-ish and he just was NOT acting like an intact Tom. He was NICE! lol! I’ll never forget the first day he got close enough for me to see, for sure. I was out by that back feeding station at the far end of my yard putting out food and he got the nerve up to come closer to me. And guess what? I was RIGHT! He was already ear-tipped!! Which is the BEST kind of new feral cat a girl can have!! So when I saw I had an ear-tipped feral on my hands, I remember saying to him, “Welcome to the family, Orange!!”
He’s been living under my back steps and in my back yard for about a year and a half now. And, like I said, he’s trying REALLY hard to trust me. He will dance in front of me at a distance as if he wants to rub against my legs and he does come out to greet me with a squeak at feeding times. He sounds just like my Spunky. He’s also trying to break into the Shed Clique (Fluffy, Oreo, and Trouble). But, Trouble terrorized him for their first six months here and Orange would run back under the steps screaming like a little girl. Knock wood, they have gotten better recently. Trouble now “lets” him hang out in the yard. He will come hang out with Oreo when Trouble is not around. Fluffy sometimes chases him back to his area but in the past couple of weeks she’s growing more tolerant of him, as well.
UPDATE 8.22.17: He is now officially part of the Shed Clique with my new boy, Domino. He and Trouble sometimes greet each other nose to nose. But, now Trouble and Oreo will not use the shed for shelter when it rains. Something we are working on…
Orange, just trying SO hard to trust me!
He’s scared of us humans but craves feline companionship. I’m not sure if he’s related to my kittens at all, but whenever he’s at the glass sliding door in the kitchen and I say really loud “Hi Mr Orange!!”, Mischief and Rascal will drop whatever they are doing to come say “hi”. I would LOVE to talk to an animal communicator and see if the kits knew Orange when they were living outside!
Mischief and Orange during one of their daily love fests.
My hope one day is that when there is an “opening” that he can come inside. But, he has to get used to me first. The last thing I want is a former feral who will be terrified of us and of living indoors.
But, until then, he lives a pretty happy life under my steps and in my backyard helping to protect the property. I recently figured out that Orange is a “lookout” for Trouble and Oreo. Maybe that’s why Trouble “lets” Orange live here now!
NICKNAMES: Mr. Orange, Captain Pumpkin, Pumpkin Face, Squeaks
I didn’t want to write this today. But he came up on my Facebook memories.
And I want to honor him today as today is his Gotcha Day. This post was originally written on March 9, 2017.
The first time I saw Checky, he was in my back window and I thought he was my old guy, Oreo. But, back then, Oreo wasn’t as social as he is now. And this cat was awfully thin to be Oreo. We had just gotten out of one of the coldest Februaries on record and it was raining this particular evening. I usually don’t feed my feral cats after dark but I went out there to feed him.
As soon as I went outside, I KNEW it wasn’t Oreo. He was all over me like stink on poo and VERY VERY hungry. I fed him and tried to coax him to stay on the heating pad in the shed, but he just followed me to the back door. I snapped this pic to post on social media in case somebody local had lost their cat.
But, I live in the woods. So I know what happened. This poor baby was dumped. His ass was kicked. He was rail thin and sicker than ANY cat I had ever seen.
I found out the next day that he had been staying in neighbor’s garage and living on their covered porch. But they were feeding him table scraps and didn’t vet him or anything. As kind as they were to him, I knew he needed more.
So I SCRAMBLED… contacting the local rescues and NO luck. I finally got a local rescue to agree to help him. It was the ONLY rescue in our area who stepped up! So we set up an emergency vet appointment for the next day and I set out to trap him.
The neighbor called me when they saw he was on the porch the following morning, so I went over and got him to take him to his NEW life.
We took him to the initial vet appointment. By the time we got him there, he was covered in diarrhea. He was Snap tested… everything negative…initially looked okay but just malnourished and everybody chalked up the diarrhea to worms or a parasite, so he was given all the meds for those problems. I took him over to the rescue. When the director put him in that cage, he looked ABSOLUTELY heartbroken. He didn’t want me to leave. I wasn’t sure what to do because we didn’t know what was wrong with him, and I had Penny, who was diabetic and therefore immune compromised, and Weeny, who had MAJOR “cat issues”.
But I couldn’t get his heartbroken little face out of my mind and heart that night.
When the rescue called me two days later to tell me that she couldn’t keep him, he was just too sick and she was going away and didn’t want to put his care in a volunteer’s hands, I knew I just HAD to take him. He trusted me and I couldn’t let him down.
So Checky became our pet that day. He just didn’t know it yet. And I was excited. I couldn’t wait for that moment that I would return to the rescue and pick him up to bring him home later that week!
Checky sleeping in his favorite spot in Mom’s laundry basket.
She agreed to care for him for a few more days to try and get him stable before he came home. She was making little progress. No matter what she did, she could NOT slow down his diarrhea. She bathed him multiple times, which was hard because he was so bony and frail, and she would go check on him in the morning just to find him covered again.
So we took him to the emergency vet. And spent $500 to find out that nothing was wrong in his blood work. We even got him 2nd and a 3rd opinion.
Poor Checky had had FIVE vet visits in four weeks.
I did manage to slow down his diarrhea but we could not get him hydrated or gaining weight (and I used Young Again Zero, Nature’s Variety Instinct, Fancy Feast…anything high protein/low carb/high quality that he would eat). Then he started peeing over 12 times per day. Yet, his kidney and thyroid values and blood glucose were fine. No matter WHAT I did, I just could NOT get him stable.
And then I made a decision. I could not torture this poor cat any longer with vet visits and medications. I’m not a big fan of over-medicating cats. Enough was enough. I stopped all meds except for the B12 injections and probiotics to try to slow his diarrhea down, kept him well-fed and well-hydrated … the rest was between him and God.
He was camped out in Mom’s room because we didn’t want to bring him out with Penny and Weeny until we were sure he didn’t have something contagious. He snuggled Mom every night…ALL night. He would go up to her while she was sleeping multiple times and just tap her arm so she would pet him. Every time he saw us he would start “making biscuits”. And he had this sweet little meow that reminded me SO much of my late Tabby.
Then he stopped eating. He wasn’t able to eat because of a mass or infection in his mouth. We spent his last days spoon feeding him baby food, bone broth … I even made him homemade pureed chicken with bone broth. It would take the poor little guy a half hour to finish maybe 1/4 cup of cat food.
I knew he would not survive a dental. No way. Not in the condition he was in. My vet agreed. To this very day I don’t know if it was oral cancer or just an abscess, but since he had had several courses of antibiotics, including two courses of Convenia that was still in his system, I knew it probably wasn’t an abscess.
So we made The Decision. And it was the hardest one for me to make. I feel he had been cheated out of the life this sweet little guy SO rightfully deserved. He deserved better than being dumped, getting his ass kicked, finding us… only to die. That’s why today is SUCH a difficult day for me.
So, on April 13th I called the vet to come out and help him cross. While we were waiting for the vet appointment, I went into his room to spend some time with him and let him know just how loved he was. We had a radio playing country music (that was the only station we could get on the radio).
And while I was spending time with him, “Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts came on. I’m not a Country music fan but I think the entire world knows this song. And I just cried and held him and told him how much I loved him. I know God sent him to us to know love and comfort and good eats before he died. And I’m grateful God chose us to love him and make him a member of our family, if only for a short time.
Checky passed peacefully, surrounded by love. Even our vet cried when he gave him the injection. Hundreds of people on Facebook, who had been following Checky’s story, cried along with us.
This little cat doesn’t even know the impact he made on this world in his short time in our family.
He’s buried in our backyard with all of our other family pets. We promised him that this was his forever home. And that’s exactly what it became.
Fly free, Checky. You will never, ever be forgotten. We love you!
Checky, as he realized this was his forever home.
Checky’s Official Song: “Bless the Broken Road” – Rascal Flatts
Nicknames: Johnny (he was initially going to be named after my late dad and the Rescue Director’s late dad), Checky.
All treatments, foods and supplements mentioned in this blog are based on my own research, experience and done with my vet’s knowledge and consent. Consult with your vet as necessary.
Trouble, March 2017 waiting for a snack on his heating pad.
To see my definition of a “fake” feral cat vs a “real” feral cat, see Meet Oreo.
Trouble came to me JUST before the Blizzard of 2016, when we got pounded by 2′ of snow. The night before the blizzard, just as the first flakes were falling and our new snow thrower was being delivered, I saw him running around in my back field. I didn’t have time to worry about it as we were feverishly trying to figure out where to put this monster of a snow thrower while it was already snowing at a good clip.
For three days after the blizzard, he was the ONLY cat showing up to eat! I guessed him to be about 4-6 months old at that time, and he was social, but DEFINITELY a loose cannon and DEFINITELY wild.
And I was afraid of him. Especially because he immediately took to head-butting my hand while I was feeding him, but he was a wild one and I didn’t trust him one bit!
He was a holy terror, fighting EVERY cat he could find, including my neighbor’s outdoor cat, Blacky, and literally terrorizing Big Orange, a docile orange tabby cat who showed up here shortly after Trouble did.
On St Patty’s Day 2016, he even sent me to the ER when he bit me. He hadn’t had his rabies vaccination yet, so I figured why not blow $13,000 to get the rabies series? It’s not like I had anything BETTER to do that day and OF COURSE I had thousands of dollars of disposable income to throw around to get sick and feverish from the rabies series!
Trouble’s indiscretions definitely cost him! He would scrap CONSTANTLY with another new young feral tom, Junior. But Trouble is a SMART guy and aligned himself with the Alpha Big Man on Campus, Oreo, for protection and to ensure that our property became HIS!
I finally started to train him to eat out of the humane trap that I use to trap the feral cats to get them neutered and vaccinated, but he was NOT having it AT ALL. This cat would NOT enter that trap no matter HOW hungry he was! I was 8 for 8 with trapping feral cats at this point, and Trouble was going to BLOW my 100% capture record!
But I’m just a LITTLE BIT smarter than Trouble! Just a little… I had my friend Dana’s trap, which has a “back door”, so I started to feed him on the door of that trap in the shed in his usual spot, with a towel over the back of the trap. I figured if I could JUST get him halfway in, I could gently close that back door behind him while he was eating and get him that way!
And it worked! After two LONG months of “training”, I got Trouble in that trap and off we were for his Castration Day! And I didn’t blow my PERFECT record! 9 for 9! HA!
He was actually my most well-behaved feral cat during recovery. Didn’t make a peep. And didn’t growl or hiss or spit at me that next morning once the anesthesia wore off. And he’s VERY forgiving! Because not ONE hour after I released him, was he BACK looking for more food and rubbing up against my legs!
It took this little pistol quite some time to calm down. But, alas, he did. FINALLY. But he IS territorial, bossy, whiny, and still a bit of a loose cannon. But I finally started to fall in love with the little turkey. He just has this way about him that just when you get REALLY MAD at him, he does something super cute and gets all submissive and you just CAN’T stay mad at him!
He assists Oreo with protecting the property. Hence, he has earned the position of Trooper Trouble, again, in honor of my dad, a retired NJ State Trooper. He still scraps, but has FINALLY, for the most part, stopped terrorizing the resident ferals and just focuses his attention on terrorizing any newcomers or anybody who is not in the Core Four (Fluffy, Oreo, Trouble and Big Orange).
Trouble, the day I found the scratch and resulting abscess on his face.
In October 2016, I found him with a scratch on his face and the side of his face swollen up like the Elephant Man. I managed to lure him into a cat carrier and take him to my vet. I have to say, for a cat named Trouble who has EARNED that name, he was better behaved at the vet than my indoor Maine Coon, Penny! And when we got home, he was scared for about a hot second and then enjoyed the special sardine treat I gave him for being such a good boy.
And he’s been thanking me ever since. Our relationship changed that day. I’m not sure if it’s just because I REALLY became endeared to him that day or what, but I cannot believe that at one point I had secretly hoped he would find somewhere else to hang out than here. I love him as much as all the others, and honestly, he is my mom’s favorite out there!
When he had a pretty nasty URI in January, I learned he gets rather submissive when I scruff him. I was able to pill this cat for 10 days and I syringe him Lysine powder mixed in with Fancy Feast broths twice per day, which he actually LOVES. He will still swat, nip and scratch if you pet him the wrong way and is sensitive about his tail being touched for some reason, but he really has become the official Baby Cat out there!
I don’t believe he’s a candidate to be adopted out. He’s one of those cats who is very bonded with his land. He loves his life out there. He’s bonded to Oreo, too. And he’s extremely territorial. Still marks out there even though he’s neutered.
To bring him inside with my males is out of the question. And to adopt him out and have it not work out, and have him lose his territory, is just not a chance I want to take. So I hope and pray he stays out of the the street and he gets to live a long, happy life on HIS terms. Which is how it must be with him. On HIS terms.
Like Red says about Andy Dufresne in Shawshenk Redemption, “I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright.” That’s Trouble.
Just when I get REALLY ticked off at him, he pulls one of these little acts!
There are the “real” feral cats…you know, the ones who are afraid of humans and slink around when I’m not looking and God forbid I make eye contact with them..
And then there are the “fake” ferals. The ones who came to me, feral, or at least out on their own long enough that they WERE afraid of me, till they realized that the more they get used to me, the more they get the perks of being a Wilson cat!
Oreo is one of my “original” feral cats. When I first started feeding in 2014, he was one of the three cats who came around once per day to eat, usually at dusk. He lived under my neighbor’s large barn across the street.
I remember my dad talking about a black and white cat who he would see running around when he went on his 2-mile walks. He would remark how FAST Oreo ran and was blown away by how stealth he was!
Oreo learned to talk to me, but would NOT eat in the shed until I walked out. And, of course, he would run away if I walked toward him.
In the Summer of 2015, when Fluffy was around and pregnant with the kits, Oreo would show up for his usual nightly feedings when Hitler wasn’t around. Or they would be out there arguing and eventually Oreo, the Big Man on Campus, would win. A few weeks after Fluffy gave birth, and after Hitler decided family life was not for him and he went on his way, Oreo was spending MUCH more time here.
He would patrol here DAY AND NIGHT and would come eat with Fluffy and the kits, often allowing them to steal his food and I would have to bring another plate to him outside of the shed. As much as he was Alpha King and the bully out there, he was gentle as could be with Fluffy and the kits.
That’s when I started to fall in love with him. And after I rescued the girls, he spent day and night looking for them for a few days and my heart BROKE. I felt so bad for him because up until Fluffy and the kits, he was a loner…at least that I know of.
He went back to living across the street and coming over once daily to eat. I never gave much thought to neutering him because I thought he was a SHE until I saw him walk out of the shed one day and saw his “family jewels”.
I had been HAD. Again!
He was pretty old by the time I went on a castrating spree so he was one of my last thoughts; I honestly felt that he was “too old” to reproduce. But then I did my research. And after two years of feeding Oreo, I managed to trap him and get him neutered and vaccinated in October, 2015. The vet guestimated him to be over 10 years old at the time of his neuter.
And boy…does neutering CALM THEM DOWN!
In Spring, 2016, after Fake Feral #2, Trouble, showed up and started having major problems with another feral cat. Oreo took it upon himself to be Trouble’s “protector”. They became thick as thieves and Oreo would follow Trouble EVERYWHERE. Trouble would challenge Oreo, but when push came to shove, he would roll over submissively and gaze at Oreo upside down and all sweet and whatnot.. lol.
Then, after two years of only coming once per day to eat, despite my best efforts to make my yard Disney World North for these clowns, he FINALLY decided to live here full time! I have all the amenities out there and he FINALLY figured out that he would have it MUCH better here than where he was living! By then, he REALLY looked worse for wear. I, as well as a couple of my neighbors who know Oreo as he truly is our “community cat”, didn’t think he had much time left. I remember asking St Francis to please let him allow me to care for him if he ever got to the point that he couldn’t care for himself.
Not long after that, Oreo would start eating in the shed WHILE I was in there and would dance around in front of my feet….just TRYING to get the nerve up to rub against my legs.
And then he did! And then he would rub against me when I crouched down. He’s so strong that he practically knocks me OVER when he head butts me! I remember him really sniffing my hand when I put his food down so I would let my hand linger so that he would associate good things with my scent. And then I would feed him treats.
Today, we cuddle ALL THE TIME. He loves chin rubs and “noogies”. I even hand-feed him cheesy snacks with Dasquin wrapped in them for his limp. I still can’t scruff him but I keep trying to “train” him for that in the event I ever have to pill him. Oreo runs to greet me when he hears the back door open and follows me ALL around! I know now that if Oreo ever became debilitated, I would be able to handle him enough to care for him and bring him inside. If Oreo doesn’t take off to be alone, that is.
I owe him that much. He protected Fluffy and the kits, he protects any young lad who he deems a candidate for our colony, and he even protects Mom when she’s sitting outside.
This once feral cat has now become my outdoor pet. He has a home, a family, and knows the love he so rightly deserves after caring for everybody else for SO long. He protects our property and the other feral cats and takes his “job” very seriously. We are bonded now. My hope is that when his “time” comes, that I will be able to be with him and make sure he knows LOVE in his final moments. And God be willing, if he doesn’t go off on his own to pass, I will bury him out back and REALLY make this his “forever” home.
NICKNAMES: Mr Oreo, Bubba Booey, Lion King, Lieutenant Oreo (of the Hooven Estate Police in honor of my dad, who was a retired NJ State Trooper)
OREO’S SONG: “Circle of Life” (theme from Lion King) – Elton John
Oreo, Summer 2016, hoping to grab a free treat or pet from me!
Because I was feeding feral cats and not doing TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return).
And I ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS, and my folks ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS…spayed or neutered our pets as soon as they were “old enough”.
The first time I saw Fluffy, she was eating under my back steps and my feral cat, Tiggy, chased her out and a fight ensued.
I praised Tiggy for chasing the “stranger cat” away (even though Tiggy is a TRUE feral and to this very day, three years later, is still afraid of me!)
Now, knowing what I know, and loving Fluffy AND the kittens she was pregnant with at the time, I feel REALLY bad about that!
Fluffy with one of the ‘suspect’ kit Daddy Cats, Hitler.
The next time I saw Fluffy, she was with one of my regular feral cats, Hitler, who was “showing her around”. He would bring her to eat, show her how to drink out of the bird bath, and would protect her while she was eating.
Me, having NO idea she was pregnant because I ALWAYS spayed my pet cats, thought, “Awww…how sweet. He’s taken this kitten under his wing!”
She WAS just a kitten then. Maybe only 6-9 months old? And she was blowing through SIX cans of Fancy Feast per day, so I figured she was “still growing”.
Well…yeah! I was right about THAT, at least!
They chummed around every day and left together. Every morning he would wait for her to arrive so she could eat me out of house and home!
Imagine MY surprise when I saw two orange and white, 1-month old kittens, in my shed around June 21st?
The next day, we had a thunderstorm blow through that was SO bad, it took three days for the National Weather Service to determine that it was actually NOT a tornado, but a micro burst. This storm knocked out power in MOST of South Jersey for 5-8 days.
During that time, I had brought my cat Penny’s insulin to my neighbors, because they were running a generator out of their garage and it needed to be refrigerated. That’s when I found out that Fluffy and Hitler had kittens. Four, to be exact. Two orange and white kittens, one who looked like Fluffy, and one who looked like Hitler.
I had been HAD. #chump
The neighbors told me that the kittens and Fluffy were living in their barn, and even though they weren’t “cat people”, they thought it was cute watching the kittens frolic in their backyard and watching her teach the kittens how to hunt.
My next thought was that I HAD to find rescue for these kittens. I just HAD to give them a chance. But it was at the height of a VERY bad kitten season. I must have contacted over TEN rescues in my area and nobody could help. And I knew that dropping those kits off at a shelter would likely be a death sentence.
Luckily, my neighbors were totally cool about the kittens living there and eventually the kittens ended up moving over here. I did assure them that I was going to try to find homes for the kittens and neuter everybody else, because the neighbor did mention she wasn’t sure what she was going to do yet but maybe she would take the kittens to a shelter. So I took over to make sure that wouldn’t happen.
In the meantime, I could not find them homes. And my baby cat, Weeny, who was coming up on her 4th birthday, was diagnosed with a rare (for cats) malignant mast cell cancer. We figured it out AFTER it had already spread to her lymph nodes.
In the meantime, Fluffy and her kits had gone missing in mid-August for three days, at which time my mom and I went into a panic and decided to go for a hike in the ACRES of woods behind our house to try and find them. We didn’t find the kits, but we DID end up with the absolute WORST case of chiggers known to man. Rule #1: Never go hiking in mid-August in the woods in the Wharton State Forest!
Fluffy and the kits came back that evening. AFTER we got chiggers!
Soon after they returned, Fluffy started to distance herself from the kittens. She would eat and hang out in alternate places. I had to put food in other places besides the regular feeding stations I had set up outside. And she was eating enough to choke a horse again..
UH OH…Now I’m smarter. I KNEW what THAT meant.
I was SO terrified of TNR because I was afraid someone would get hurt, or they’d never return again, or someone would die at my hands. But I had to do SOMETHING.
So I made the appointment, talked to my friend Dana, who lent me her humane trap and came over to show me the ropes. I caught Fluffy five days after I rescued her boys.
I was a NERVOUS WRECK. I knew a spay/abort was risky. But it was the end of September. Winter was coming. And I was out of resources to help her new litter. It was a VERY tough decision for me so please don’t judge. I prayed to God and St Francis to forgive me. I talked to MANY people and looked up lots of advice from the experts. And while I was driving Fluffy to AWA, I was apologizing to her and begging for her forgiveness.
From what I understand, cats are not bonded to their unborn kittens. They only become bonded once they give birth. And I could not allow those four kittens to be born and have to tough out Winter while I had no more resources to help them.
We set up Fluffy’s recovery area in my friend Dana’s secure garage, in a secure dog pen, with a little feral cat den, somewhere for her to go to the bathroom, and eat. We had planned on keeping her for at least three days to recover.
Fluffy, the day of her surgery, when Dana first found blood.
But, Dana called me later that night. She found blood. LOTS of it. And more the next day.
So, I had to bring her back for a second surgery. When I went to Dana’s to pick her up, even though she was hissing and spitting, as soon as she heard my voice, she went from growling to squeaking because she recognized me. That just BROKE my heart. What if she died? I could never live with myself…
I spoke with the doctor at AWA that day and she was further along in her pregnancy than originally thought, and they didn’t suture something inside correctly because there was a lot of blood. They fixed her up, gave her an antibiotic injection, pain injection, and instructed me to hold her at least five days because she lost a lot of blood and was slightly anemic.
I was beside myself with guilt and heartbreak. My very first TNR and I almost killed this precious baby…
BUT…she recovered BEAUTIFULLY. And once I released her, she returned five days later like nothing had happened.
And, after another nine months of her only coming to eat and living somewhere else, and sometimes going missing for up to four days at a time, she decided that she liked it here and would live in my shed and backyard “full time”.
And after another couple of months, she started to rub against my legs. Now, she lets me pet her, but ONLY while she’s eating. And, sometimes she still scratches me when I give her treats.
But, she will also sit on my foot when I’m ready to leave the shed because she does not want me to leave her. And she’s a “social eater”, so I have to stand there, NO MATTER THE WEATHER, while she eats her crunchies.
And you thought I was lying about her sitting on my foot so I wouldn’t leave!
She is happy, healthy, and LOVED today. I hope to one day bring her inside, when she is ready, and when her bonded protector, Oreo, passes on. But, she’s living a better life than she probably EVER imagined, and she never has to worry about taking care of anybody else besides herself EVER again!
NICKNAMES: Fluffaluffacus, Pretty Little Princess, Witchy-Poo, Bitch (when she swats at me lol), Boss Lady, Bossy Paws, Squeaks
Mischief (L) & Rascal (R)-4 months old just after I rescued them.
“The Kits” are actually two years old as of this post. Their mama, Fluffy, is one of my feral cats who lives in my shed and backyard. She showed up here pregnant with them in May, 2015. I’ve never had any experience with a pregnant cat before since I’ve ALWAYS spayed/neutered my cats, so I thought she was just a kitten with a voracious appetite! (Meet Fluffy Here)
UNTIL I saw two little 1-month old orange and white kittens in my shed around June 21, 2015. When I walked into the shed, they were so frightened they nearly killed themselves scrambling out!
RASCAL & MISCHIEF
Rascal is the friendly one. I never planned on ever petting or rescuing any feral cats. My theory was that they were too wild to be tamed, too bonded with their land to be brought inside, and should be left alone. Until I met Rascal.
He was the first to rub against my leg at feeding time… even with his mama in the shed with us…and I was so terrified that she would attack me because he was chumming up to me! He would stay behind after breakfast, after his mama and siblings left and went about their day, and would wait for me to come out to mooch seconds, get some free cuddles from me and to play with me.
He was a TRUE mama’s boy and wherever you saw Fluffy, he wouldn’t be far behind.
When his mama got pregnant again, she started to avoid her kits. One day, just after Weeny passed away and I had already been toying with the idea of rescuing him, he ran up to his mama and she FLAT OUT rejected him and ran away. That’s when I made my move because I was SO heartbroken for him.
So, I went inside, got the carrier, set it down in the shed and he immediately walked into the carrier and into his New Life!
Rascal’s Song: “Let the Sunshine In” – Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm, The Flintstones
MISCHIEF is definitely the most “feral” of all the kits. He’s Rascal’s partner in crime and bonded brother. What I figured out later was that Rascal is the ringleader and Mischief is just his innocent follower. I played with the idea of renaming him but he knows his name. I often call him “Chet” (after the clumsy Reindeer on “The Santa Clause II”).
I had no intentions of rescuing Mischief because I just felt he would be better off living his feral life. I was BARELY able to pet him before I rescued him. And he was SO skittish around me! But two days after I rescued Rascal, Mischief was out there with their sisters trying to play with them and they wanted NO parts of playing with him. He started to play by himself with wet leaves under our picnic table and just looked SO forlorn I figured I just HAD to give him a shot and get him back with his brother.
So OUT came the carrier again! I set it down in the shed with some food in it and within seconds I had Mischief in the carrier and inside to Rascal’s room!
Mischief was FLIPPING OUT when I let him out of the carrier. He ran around the room in a COMPLETE PANIC and Rascal went chasing after him. When Rascal finally caught him, he nipped Mischief on the scruff of his neck, on his back, and then on the scruff of his neck again, and Mischief IMMEDIATELY calmed down and started to purr. That’s when I KNEW I did the right thing by bringing these two back together! It would have been a shame to keep these bonded brothers separated, for sure!
Mischief’s Nicknames: Captain Cuddles, Mischievous Mischy, Chet
Mischief’s Song: “I’m Not a Bad Cat” – Jackson Galaxy, My Cat from Hell theme song
Double Trouble at about 1 year old.
PATCHY & SPUNKY
Patchy & Spunky were supposed to be TNR’ed (Trap-Neuter-Return) because I had JUST started petting them two days before I caught them for their spay surgeries. And I could ONLY pet them while they were eating. They were definitely more “shy” than their brothers and didn’t even really start to seek me out until after I rescued their brothers.
I trapped them 10 days after I brought in Mischief. They were trapped together in the same trap and taken to Animal Welfare Association for their “Feral Fix It”, where they would be spayed, ear tipped, and rabies vaxxed. I also had them give the girls their distemper vaxes…I guess maybe I knew in the back of my mind I wasn’t going to release them back outside, after all. I felt I was already “over my cat limit” inside with three indoor cats.
BUT God, St Francis, and the girlies had OTHER ideas. While they were being spayed, I was watching the weather and found out that a coastal storm was supposed to arrive the day before they were due to be released after their recovery. This storm was forecast to sit and spin over us for FIVE TO SEVEN DAYS. Now, anybody who lives on the East Coast can tell you that our coastal storms and Nor’Easters can be as bad as tropical storms and even hurricanes sometimes.
So how was I to release two 4- month old kittens who just had total hysterectomies into THOSE conditions?
So I set up a LARGE dog pen in my bedroom, fully equipped with a “feral cat den”, litter box, bed/blankets..everything they would need for an “extended stay”.
I picked them up from AWA, got them home, got Patchy into the pen, but Spunky got out when I was trying to transfer her from the carrier to the pen. She ran and hid behind my TV in the corner. Poor Patchy was LITERALLY climbing the walls to the pen, so I let her out to go be scared with Spunky.
I closed the door to my bedroom after getting everything set up, and proceeded to go outside and call my friend Dana, who was teaching me all about TNR and feral cats (I was a newbie at this point). I was in a COMPLETE PANIC because I had two feral cats “loose” in my bedroom and was afraid they would attack me if I went back in there!
Later than night, I went to check on them and see if they had eaten before I went to bed. The poor things were STILL huddled behind my TV together! I decided to sit on the floor and see if they would feel more at ease and come out to me.
Within five minutes of sitting on the floor, I kid you not, I had TWO PURRING KITTENS in my lap.
Patchy & Spunky at 1 1/2 yrs old…because Patchy does not care that she is CRUSHING her sister!
My next thought was to post on Facebook and ask people how many indoor cats could I have before people would consider me a “hoarder”! By the next day, Mom and I had decided we could NOT let these babies back outside. And we became a five-cat family.
It has taken some time for them to adjust. In the beginning, I was worried they would never be completely at ease as indoor cats. And although Spunky is VERY shy around people she doesn’t know (she basically runs and hides), they have adjusted quite well to indoor spoiled cat life and are the most affectionate little things with SO much personality!
It’s hard to tell in some of the pics but they are both long-haired with raccoon-like tails…just like their mama. And both little beauties!
PATCHY’S Nicknames: Erica Kane (because she likes to slap all and sundry at feeding time just like her soap-opera twin, Susan Lucci), Itty Bitty, Stinklett, Patchy Watchy, Hop Along Betty, Pinky Tuscedero
SPUNKY’S Nicknames: Squeakers, Hop Along Sally, Spunk-A-Monk, Spunky Little Monkey, Spunkster, Fluffy Jr, Little Bosslady
Still working on a song for the little ladies…Stay Tuned!
Patchy (L) & Spunky (R) at 4 months old the day after I decided they were not returning outside!