Meet Big Orange – The Feral Who was Already Fixed!

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 inked under camper

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 it wasn’t much of a problem for Blacky that Orange had taken over “his” area.

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. I can actually see him trying to work up the nerve to rub against my legs but he hasn’t quite gotten there yet!

 

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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!  I’ll never forget the first day he got close enough for me to see, for sure. I was out by the 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). Trouble terrorized him for their first six months here. Every time Orange would work up the nerve to hang out in the back yard, Trouble would chase him back to his “allowed” area under the steps. I even had to set up a litter box there so that Orange could do his business without fear of being ambushed. The poor guy had to live like that for a LONG time. 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.

 

Orange March 2017

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!

orange and Mischief March 2017

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

ORANGE’S SONG: “He’s So Shy” – The Pointer Sisters

UPDATE 8.22.17: He is now officially part of the Shed Clique along with my new boy, Domino. He and Trouble sometimes greet each other nose to nose. 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. He still swats when I put my hand in front of him with treats, but I’m noticing that sometimes his claws aren’t even out when he swats me.

UPDATE 2.3.18: For a while last Fall, Orange would head butt my hand while I was feeding him. Something must have spooked him one day and he wouldn’t go near my hand for months until yesterday! When I put his wet food down in front of him yesterday morning, not only did he bump my hand, but he pressed his cheek against it so I could pet him! I’m hoping this time we can progress to “full on petting”. I think this is because he is using a new heated house that a friend donated and it’s easier for me to put treats in front of him. He swatted at me the first few days, but most of the time I can now put treats right under his nose and he doesn’t swat. He must be finally creating a positive association with my hands.

Also, when I go outside to feed them, he has taken to head butting Trouble in greeting. At first, Trouble would swat at him, but for the past few days Trouble actually head butt him back. I tell Orange that I have NO idea WHY he likes Trouble so much after all Trouble put him through.

Orange also likes walk with me to the two other feeding stations at the back of my yard to see what everybody is eating! He often greets Shadow when he comes by and has taken to visiting Charlie with me at the other end of my yard. I’m hoping this is the beginning of a friendship between the two!

And, last month I saw something I never thought I would see. We had a very cold and windy day with below-zero wind chills and he was hanging out with the Shed Crew and using one of the heated shelters INSIDE the shed for a full 24 hours! Now he’s using a new heated house I set up, but it’s nice to know that he will go into the shed when he feels like he needs to!

Orange in the shed with Trouble and Domino
The night Orange got the nerve up to hand in the shed with the Shed Crew!!

The more I know this little guy, the more I see his little personality sparkle through and the more I ADORE him! It has been SUCH a joy to watch him come out of his shell, both with me and with the other Yard Cats!

Meet Oreo – “Fake Feral” Cat Numero Uno

From hardened feral cat to lovable mush!

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 ferals 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.

Oreo, Summer 2015 with my kit Spunky just before I rescued her.

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

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Oreo, Summer 2016, hoping to grab a free treat or pet from me!

April, 2018 Update-Oreo Crossed the Bridge
March, 2019 – A Letter to Oreo on the One Year Anniversary of his Crossing
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Any treatments, food and supplements I mention in this post are the result of my own research and experience. Please consult with your vet as necessary.

Meet the (Former Feral) Kits!

 

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Mischief (L) & Rascal (R)-4 months old just after I rescued them.

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 Nicknames: Captain Friendly, Captain Freckles, Moochie, Rascally Rascal

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

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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.

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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!

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Patchy (L) & Spunky (R) at 4 months old the day after I decided they were not returning outside!

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Our Cats Took Over The Bench

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Dad and Mom on The Bench in 2012 waiting for me to come home from work so we could go adopt Penny & Weeny.

I’m owned by cats.

I started this blog to let others who naively believed that they adopted cats and are ‘cat parents’, and later figured out that their cats, in fact, own THEM, know that they are not alone.

The cats get my food budget, my clothing budget, my free time, my dating life, and now, apparently, my outdoor patio furniture.

#catsrulehere

Let me tell you about The Bench…

When Mom retired a few years ago, she purchased this bench so she could sit outside and watch the grass grow, which is what we do here in the NJ Pine Barrens in the Summer. And the bench SAT and SAT and SAT in this box for MONTHS while she waited for my dad to assemble it.

But he never got around to it.

So I decided to take a stab at my handyman skills and I was THRILLED when I got it to together, the folks sat on it, and nobody got hurt!

The Bench has very sentimental value. My folks were sitting on this bench waiting for me to come home from work on May 2, 2012, so we could all go adopt Penny and Weeny from a rescue. My folks spent many a summer night on The Bench listening to cicadas and tree frogs in the last years of Dad’s life. The Bench served as Dad’s link to the outside world in the Summer of 2014 when he was mostly bedridden and dying from cancer.

Now, the feral cat and the neighbor’s outdoor cat have claimed it as their own…

This week, we are enjoying some May-like weather here in South Jersey with temps in the 70s. I did some yard clean-up the other day and figured I would set up the cushions so that Mom could enjoy the warm, sunny weather.

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Trouble-within minutes of me setting up the cushions.

Mom has NOT had a chance to enjoy it because not ONE hour after I set up those cushions, Trouble claimed it as his napping area every morning after breakfast. He worked out a deal with Blacky, the neighbor’s cat, so that Blacky could have it in the afternoons!

Where does that leave Mom? Sitting INSIDE on this beautiful day watching HGTV.

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Neighbor’s cat, Blacky, taking the ‘afternoon’ shift on The Bench.

And so it goes when you are owned by cats… Even feral cats and neighbors’ cats!

I have a lot of experiences and stories to share about my five indoor cats, my eight or so feral cats (YES THEY ARE NEUTERED AND VACCINATED), and my ‘late’ cats and others who have passed through in my life.

They have ALL been lessons and blessings! I hope to entertain you, share what I have learned from Penny’s complex medical issues, caring for feral cats and the challenge of cat behavior, and connect with you along the way!

Stay tuned!

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