My First Feral
I started feeding feral cats “by accident” in 2014 when my neighbor’s indoor cat got out during one of the coldest nights of the year and I put food out in the shed to help him. Their cat returned the next day, but I noticed that someone or something ate the food I put out.
That’s where it ALL began!
Charlie, Oreo, and Tiggy (the only REAL feral of the bunch) were my first feral cats and the only cats who came by to eat during 2014. We originally named him “Hitler” because my dad referred to him as “the Hitler cat”. I keep that in his name now because it’s a reminder of my dad and his unique and highly politically incorrect way of thinking (he was a cop, after all). My dad passed away in 2014.
Charlie and Oreo had many territorial shouting matches with each other back then. It didn’t even occur to me that neutering them would stop most of the aggression between the boys. Honestly, I thought Oreo was a girl that first year that I knew him!
I knew nothing about TNR and feral cat care yet. My Crash Course in TNR didn’t happen until 2015 when I met Fluffy and The Kits.
Charlie Rescues Fluffy and The Kits
Charlie is the cat who “rescued” a pregnant Fluffy in April, 2015. If it wasn’t for him, who knows if Fluffy would have ever found us…if her kits would have had been so healthy when I rescued them…if they all would have eventually been rescued?
He’s a very special little guy!
Up until 2015, Charlie would only stop by here once or twice per day to eat. He was a wanderer and there was no rhyme or reason to how often he showed up. The only thing he was consistent with was his “meal time”…which was between 10a-12 noon. He would eat here every day for five days and then take off up to a week at a time. I couldn’t pet him, but he would hang around at a safe distance and talk to me and he would eat inside the shed while I was in there with him. I couldn’t walk toward him or else he would run away. Although I had a heated shelter set up for him inside the shed, he never used it.
When Fluffy had The Kits tucked under the barn next door, Charlie was here more consistently. He would guard the shed while she was in there cleaning me out of six or more cans of Fancy Feast per day. At the time, naive little Robyn thought that he was just being kind and taking this kitten under his wing…because Fluffy was only a kitten herself!
Well, I was HALF right, anyway!
Once The Kits made themselves known to me, they would all hang out here like one big happy family.
It Wouldn’t Last…
I remember one day in August, 2015, a six-week-old Rascal running up to Charlie, tail up in greeting, and Charlie hissed at Rascal and ran off.
He didn’t return until November. By then, Fluffy was spayed, Oreo was neutered, and The Kits were living inside. Since it was still mild here in NJ, I knew that I had to grab him and get him neutered before he took off again! I quickly got appointments at the clinic and set out to trap him.
I’ll never forget when I trapped him. He decided to eat at the other feeding station, where I didn’t have a trap set, rather than where I had the trap. The trash truck was out front making all kinds of noise picking up our trash. I had about two minutes left to trap him before it would be too late to get him to the clinic since they had to be dropped off by a certain time. I remember running across the back yard, set trap in hand, yelling “Hitler! Hitler!” (I hadn’t renamed him yet). I plopped that trap down and IN he went right away!
That was SHEER LUCK!
When I released him the next day, he didn’t dart off like the others. He spent a good half hour cleaning himself, eating, and re-acclimating to the area before he left. I took a bunch of pictures of him just in case he went MIA again. He actually came back every day for a few weeks before he took off, yet again, in December.
And He Takes Off… AGAIN!
This time, Charlie didn’t return for MONTHS. By the time he did return, Trouble, Oreo, Fluffy and Orange had established our yard as their permanent home and Junior was working his way into the colony. Charlie tried to come back to eat quite a few times and Trouble would run him off despite my best efforts to stop him. One time, poor Charlie was crying his little heart out to me and I couldn’t stop Trouble from chasing him off. I was HEARTBROKEN for him and ready to ship Trouble off to a farm somewhere.
I later found out that Charlie had been eating at another feeder’s house about 3/4 of a mile away. He would bounce back and forth between our houses through the woods that run behind our houses. I felt relieved knowing that at least he was eating somewhere else and still okay.
I have worried more about Charlie in the past four years than any of the others because he just never wants to stick around!
In the Fall of 2017, Carol (The Other Woman) reported to me that she hadn’t seen “the Hitler cat” (that’s what she named him, too) in six weeks and she feared him dead. It had been quite some time since the last time I saw Charlie, maybe six months or so? I knew that if Charlie was alive, he would try to come back here, and I prayed HARD to God and St Francis to help him find his way back home and I called for him at each feeding time. I decided to set up a new feeding station in an area of our property where Trouble NEVER hangs out, thinking that he won’t perceive that as “his” territory and then maybe poor Charlie would have a chance here.
Charlie returned two days after I set that station up…starving and sick. He cried his little heart out when he saw me! He ate three entire bowls of food while I stood there, guarding him. When he left, I BEGGED him to come back the next day.
And he did. I posted on our Facebook page about his return, and my friend Marlene was kind enough to donate a house for him, so I bought a heating pad to go inside of it. We created “Charlie’s Corner”, complete with the heated house, his heated bowls, and a feeding shelter.
I sprinkled powdered catnip in his new house to get his curiosity piqued, and then watched while Trouble and Blacky (neighbor’s cat) checked it out. I was beside myself because if either one of them claimed it, Charlie wouldn’t have had a chance during the Winter. He has evidence of past frostbite because I noticed his ear tips are white now, even though his ears are black. I REALLY needed him to take to this house, so every time Trouble or Blacky went inside, I would knock on the back to scare them out. They had their shelters already. They didn’t need his!
It worked. Charlie returned the next day. Ate. Checked out his new snazzy heated house. AND STAYED. He also got the nerve up to rub against my shins one day, so I tried to lightly pet him while he was eating. He was all over me within five minutes. After FOUR YEARS, this feral cat allows me to pet him.
As of this writing, Charlie has been living here for five months. Knock on wood. I say that because I learned that the only thing I can count on with Charlie is that he never does what I want him to do! Trouble still gives him a hard time, but he is slowly becoming more tolerant and accepting of Charlie living here. Again, knock on wood because Trouble never does what I want him to do, either!
My hope is that Charlie moves into the back yard so I can move Charlie’s Corner closer to the house. Right now he’s about 100′ away from the house towards the woods. We just got slammed with four Nor’Easters in a month here in New Jersey. There are a lot of tall trees and we have several down around Charlie’s Corner as a result. It’s not as safe as the clearing in our back yard. I cannot rush the move and risk upsetting Trouble. They will show me when the time is right.
I have to stand outside with Charlie every day, no matter the weather, while he eats. Rain. Snow. Nor’Easters. He’s fussy. I typically have to rotate foods to keep him happy. But after worrying about him for almost four years, I will do what it takes to keep him coming around!
As for Charlie and Fluffy, either she doesn’t remember him or she just don’t care now that she has no use for him. He kept trying to make friends with Fluffy before I rescued her and brought her inside. He JUST figured out where her room is inside the house, though. Join Us on Facebook to follow the ongoing saga of “The Young and the Neutered”!
Nicknames: Hitler, Charlie Boy, My Char-Wee, Fusspot, Mr Charlie, Papa Charlie
Songs: “The Wanderer” – Dion
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