Quote of the day...er...week...umm...hey, look, a quote!!

"...besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Cats, Part Three (the last and longest)(with pictures)

Before our story continues, we bring you this special announcement: Unless you intend to be a breeder, please be responsible and spay or neuter your animal housemates. Even if they are indoor only, spay or neuter - you never know when someone will leave a door open a moment too long. If you have indoor/outdoor animals, or outdoor ones, and you don't spay or neuter...what the Hell are you thinking??? Do the world a favor and keep your pet from adding to the feral population...unless you like the idea of half-wild animals tearing up other people's pets, carrying disease from home to home, starving to death on your lawn, being hit by cars on the road, and being caught and killed by animal control. Not that I feel strongly about this...
And now for the conclusion of our story:
We had another gap in feeding - our budget got tight, and I had an obligation first to my family, then to the strays. I'd put a handful of food out from time to time, but not with any regularity. I prayed that they would find food elsewhere, and they seemed to be doing well enough through the fall that I didn't worry too much.

I also prayed that they would come here if something was wrong, if they were hurt or being chased. I know it's silly, but I hoped that some part of them would know that this house, these humans, are safe. I was constantly telling them that it was alright, that I wouldn't hurt them. I could not bear the thought that I might find one of them dead, hit by a car or torn by dogs or hunting birds. It worried me. As the days grew noticeably shorter, T and I began to debate what we should do...we're a pair of softies, and we worry that they'll be cold, get wet, starve.

I decided that we would feed them again, and this time there would be no gaps. We can do without a few boxes of Cheez-Its to feed our little family.

Now, their bowl is on the front stoop. I go out and fill it, making a purling sort of call, and they come running. One day last week, they were so hungry they ran right up despite the fact that I wasn't back in the house yet. Less than a foot from me, they ate...and ate...and ate. These little kitties can put away as much in a day as our three cats eat in a week!

Sometimes Little Mother comes first, shy and sweet, telling me about her night or how hungry she is but never getting too close. She waits, halfway up the front stairs, until I retreat into the house, behind the glass door, then she comes up. If she is first, the three children wait their turn. She will put them in their place if they try to share, but she always leaves them plenty.

If the kittens come first, they all three eat together, although once in a while they'll growl at each other.

I sit on the bottom step in the foyer and watch them through the glass door, usually talking to them. Peach (as I've taken to calling the grayish one) is the most wary - she (I think) will jump and run if I move to quickly. Doppelganger (the tuxedo, so called because it looks exactly like Little Mother) is less frightened, usually taking only a step or two before returning to the food. Little Bit (the mostly black runt of the litter) pays me no mind, letting me get within inches. If I get too close or try to touch her, though, she will run away. Like her mother, she will come sit in the driveway and chat with me - we meow back and forth and I'm certain the neighbors think me barmy.

I have named them. Oh, dear. Well, I knew it was inevitable. We're thinking about investing in have-a-heart traps and finding a vet who will spay or neuter for free. It would be nice if Neighbor would neuter his Ginger Tom...he chuckles when I bring it up, a sort of "boys will be boys" laugh. He's not a bad man, just not as concerned about Ginger Tom's wild ways as I am.

We wouldn't try to tame them or make them pets - that ship has sailed - but it would help control the feral population and probably give them a slightly better life.

I'm worried about a couple of other large, obviously domestic cats that are lurking in the yard - they've treed Little Mother several times and are not afraid of me when I try to chase them off. I don't mind feeding them, too, but only after Little mother and her kittens have eaten, and the big cats keep them away. I told one I would turn the hose on him and he stared down his nose at me as if to dare me to try! I showed him who was boss, though - for a big woman, I can move fast, and I scared the crap out of him when he was prowling my stoop one day. War whoops are still useful, it seems.

We're talking about buying one of those dog igloos and placing it at the top of the back steps for the family. I have some scrap fleece we could line it with. On the top step, they wouldn't have to fear being chased off by other cats or wild things - too close to the house, and they already know we won't hurt them. They trust us, in their own fashion.

I thought I had some photographs from when we first found them, but Bob the Wonder Computer begs to differ. Oh, well. here are some from the last few weeks. They're blurry and grainy because I had to shoot through the glass door or living room window, but they'll do for now.

Little Bit and Little mother aren't sure what they think of the flash.

Little Bit and Little Mother look on while Doppelganger has breakfast.

Peach keeps his/her distance, but sits still long enough for a rare photo.

Maya wants to be friends, but the wild kitties aren't sure how they feel about that.

Another day, and Maya is still trying...

The kittens have taken to climbing the Pink Popcorn Tree (Ornamental Cherry) and trying to catch the birds that wait there for a turn at the suet cages or the feeder. The birds find this amusing, as do we in the house. Here, Little Bit has just caught herself before falling - she has continued to try and walk on twigs, because if the birds can do it, so can she!


chris said...

I usually find that people who are kind to animals especially stray animals are also very kind to people. ;)

Your cats look beautiful.

RachelW said...

Lovely photos!

If you google "feral cats" plus the name of the state you live in, you will come up with a number of organisations that trap, spay/neuter and release feral cats back in their home environment. Then you can continue to act as their guardian, without having the population explode because you're helping them survive.

Best of luck! I'd be out there in my boots and gloves helping you catch and neuter them, in a flash, if I lived nearer.

There are some good plans on the net for building feral cat houses, too-- I remember looking at one a few years ago that was sort of dormitory style.