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This can be a touchy and controversial subject. I’ll do my best to share with you MY reasoning without taking away from someone 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!
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.
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.”