When I moved here, it was hard not to notice all the cats in the neighborhood. I’m used to indoor cats, and seeing so many wandering the streets, lounging by sheds or playing in the grass was a bit of a shock. It didn’t take long to realize these weren’t anyone’s pets out for the day – they were all feral.
The ones in our area ate from a metal stewpot across the street filled by an elderly lady. I peeked in once day and saw leftover pinto beans and white bread.
- Cats do not eat pinto beans.
- Little old ladies should keep their leftovers for themselves.
The next day I went over and introduced myself and told her how much I missed my own cats. Would she mind if I helped take care of these? (At least, I hope that’s what I said, and what she understood. Her English is better than my Spanish, and she nodded a lot, but I’m not entirely sure we connected.) The result was that I started feeding them too. First in the metal pot by the shed, then on our porch.
Once I started feeding them it was easier to study them, learn about them as individual cats. Bond would spy on us from the edge of the porch, then eventually came up for pets. Bitsy seems to be always glaring but we realized that was just the shape of her eyes.
And then there were the kittens. We should have thought of it sooner, but we just didn’t. Four roly-poly balls emerged from under the rundown trailer our cats nest in. Two of the four we only saw a few times before they disappeared.
The other two came and played on our porch, rolling and fighting and chasing moths. We plotted about how to trap and socialize them.
They were both killed, probably by stray dogs, in the course of a month. We buried them, cried a lot, and kept trying to care for the rest of the colony.
We found a spay and neuter mobile van that comes to our area when the local rescue group can afford it. We borrowed traps and caught three of the colony in one night. Glaring Bitsy, as well as a big cream and white bruiser of a tom we named James, and one tiny black kitten.
We’d glimpsed the kitten before, never sure if it was one of the missing siblings of the two who had been killed. This one would come to the porch for food, but scamper back across the street the instant the door started to open. We stopped trying to approach for fear of him running into traffic.
None of the three were happy about the trapping and certainly not about their day at the doctor’s. Then snow came and we had to keep them all an extra day or so after surgery. And the little black kitten started to purr at us, and I pleaded with Sean (who’s terribly allergic) that we should keep the kitten and try to socialize him.
And so we did. (The socialization has been mostly successful. Most days.)
And later, after other rounds of trapping, some successes (Bitsy is now at a cat ranch, Moriarty has found a home) and some heart break (Bond disappeared one day and never returned), James decided to be an indoor cat as well, and has finally won Sean completely to the feline cause.
James naps quite a bit these days.
The colony seems to stay at around 10 members. We keep trapping them for neuter and feeing them, and some days think one or another might be able to be socialized.They give me great joy to watch. And they break my heart every time one is sick or injured and I can’t do anything because they just won’t get in the trap.
But because of them over one-hundred other cats and kittens have found homes. We started volunteering at the clinic for spay/neuter, got involved with the non-profit that sponsors it. Then started a push for local cat adoptions and transfers to other cities that don’t have quite the overpopulation problem we do.
This has been an odd kind of adventure. Along the way we’ve met great people, fostered silly puppies, and felt like we’re actually doing something.
It’s been one of the hardest, and best, things I’ve done in my life. And it all came from just looking out the front door.