Ivy is about eleven and has spent most of her adventurous life outside with the feral gang. She was the head female cat of the ones in my backyard and the first one I saw when we moved into the old farmhouse in the mountains in spring of 1999.
She was a skinny mother with a litter of babies stashed away in the old shed in my neighbor's yard. My heart broke to see her so painfully thin and trying to find food for herself to nurse her little ones. I really did not want to get involved with this group who I thought belonged to the people who lived behind us but she tugged at my heartstrings and I relented. I began putting dry food out on the back deck for her and soon realized that there were many more other hungry kitties.
I never saw her kittens so I don't know how many survived. She thrived on the food and with winter coming I wanted to provide a shelter. (Turns out another neighbor was putting dry food out too but no one was spaying/neutering or giving medical attention to these poor kitties.) Not wanting to bother my husband with another construction project I bought several bales of straw and made an igloo of sorts that I lined with straw and covered with plastic. I faced the opening to the south to keep the cold north winds out.
Big Guy at the straw shelter.
We lost a few of the group come spring - wild animals, disease or they just wandered off. I felt that I had to do something to stop the litters so I talked to the veterinarian in the neighborhood and she agreed to work with me on a discount basis since she was doing this for the local humane shelter. I learned all I could about TNR (trap, neuter and release)and got started. I caught Ivy first in a wire kennel cage with string tied to the door - I could get closer to them by now and baited the cage with food. She went in and I pulled the door shut. She was wild -banging and slamming herself at the sides and howling so much all the others ran off.
The spaying went well and I released her the next morning. She had rubbed her fur off in spots on her head trying to push her way out through the cage bars. She was one tough and persistent little girl.
Her life went along smoothly as I caught and neutered the rest of the gang over a year or so. She loved to sit in the sun on the deck and look inside to watch our house activities. On hot days Ivy would sleep in the cool dirt under the hostas in the flower beds. She was a great hunter and caught voles, birds, mice, whatever she could find to bring to her feral main mancat Big Guy, a large tom - white with black markings. He was her constant companion. The group was obviously inbred with noticeable deformities like too many teeth, hearing loss, mishaped ears. Ivy had huge fangs and too many teeth - so much so her mouth would not close completely, giving her a constant grimace.
Years passed and all but three of her feral group were either inside or had passed on. One winter outside was a tough one and she got a terrible cold. I usually used homeopathic medicines or antibiotics in the food but she was so sick she would not eat. I was afraid were were going to lose her. I tried unsuccessfully to catch her many times. All I could do was to send healing energy to her in the form of Reiki and hope that it worked. Whenever I could, I would stand in the back window facing the shelter (which had become quite cozy over the years with insulation, windows etc.) and send the Reiki to her for as long as I could. It worked and she soon started to eat again, getting the medication she so needed. Finally she recovered with spring and warmer weather coming.
The newer cozy shelter and Big Guy outside.
I still could not pet her even though I could pet the others at feeding time. She was the most wild and distant feral yet my first so I loved her more. It was a tough life out here and I hoped she would make it.
In 2004 we had three hurricanes a week apart dumping over 20 inches of rain each time. The river in our neighborhood flooded and I was worried sick for the cats. The winds were strong but not as dangerous as the water. With the second hurricane which arrived at night, I kept shining a light out from the back window to see if I could tell if the cat shelter was still safe from the river. Come morning I could see they had spent the night on the upper level under the roof but the water had not reached them. They survived all three storms OK!
Big Guy died that fall - I found him lying in the shelter and not able to get up. I carried him inside, making a soft bed for him in the bathroom and sat next to him for hours. I had noticed in the weeks proceeding this that he seemed tired and was not as active. He passed away in my arms and Ivy lost her dear companion.
With Big Guy gone, another tomcat was trying to take over. Poor Nick was so afraid he hid, only coming out for food. I caught him one night in a Haveaheart trap and brought him inside. Ivy was so hard to catch and I am sure lonely alone. She was not using the shelter but staying on our deck and under the house. I kept telling her I wanted to bring her inside with Nick and one day she finally walked into the cage and let me catch her. I know how much she loved being outside and running free but I feared for her safety.
She has been inside now for four years and is the biggest mushball I could want! That totally surprised me but she loves to sit on my lap and get cuddled. She adjusted quite well to being with us and doesn't even seem to want to go out. She has FIV and thyroid issues but other than that seems to be happy and healthy. She loves the scratch post, her Busy Kitty toy and eating! Like I said she is one tough little girl and we love her so much.
Ivy and Two Spot enjoying life inside.
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