|Sweetpea was the first to come inside since she was so tiny.
It is National Feral Cat Day and I cannot say enough good things about Alley Cat Allies. I could not have done what I did for all my ferals without their help. I told this story several years ago when I first started blogging and have brought up parts of it since. For my newer readers, I would like to explain how we ended up with so many feral cats in an indoor shelter. Here is their story.
|Darby was rescued as a kitten, living alone under a house in another neighborhood
Many of you already know that all but our oldest two cats (Chica and Yoko) are feral cats that lived in our old neighborhood in a rural mountain community. When my husband and I purchased the 1920's farmhouse 14 years ago, we inherited a large feral colony living in the woods behind the house. I asked around and no one knew anything about the cats. An older couple living in the nearby trailer was putting dry food out for them but they could barely afford that let alone medical care for the cats so litter after litter had been born.
|Ivy on left, Nick on right and Big Guy in rear next to their first straw igloo shelter.
I wanted to do something to help them, especially after a blind kitten wandered into the yard suffering from a severe URI. Being new and not knowing any veterinarians in the area, my husband took her to the local shelter and they promptly put her down. ( I later learned that this shelter always euthanized feral cats when brought in. They were considered unadoptable.) I was horrified that she didn't even get any veterinary care and vowed to do better with the rest of the cats.
|Mamacita on left, daughter Rosa on right.
I looked online and found Alley Cat Allies and contacted them. They gave me all the information I needed about trapping the cats, working with a vet to get them neutered, vaccinated and then releasing them back into the area. With the help of a compassionate vet nearby who offered me a considerable discount, I TNR'd about 18 cats over a period of a year.
|Young litter mates Minnie in rear, Joey in front - now 13 years old.
The feral cats were fed twice a day. My husband built an insulated multi-level shelter for them. And when they needed medical care, they were trapped again and taken to a vet. We lost a few to wild animals, cars, illnesses - living outdoors is a hard life. When some of the cats developed health issues, we began to bring them inside to live. Several years later when I found the main male Big Guy laying on the upper level of the shelter unable to move, I knew this was the end for him. I rushed him to a vet but there was nothing I could do - he died in my arms, knowing he was loved very much.
|Albert, our deaf cat, found as a kitten along a busy highway in 2004.
That changed the dynamics of the group and other male cats began to try to move in, chasing off the remaining ferals. I brought the few left inside in 2005. If you know anything about feral colonies - when there is a good place to live, if you remove the cats from the area, another group will come in and that is what happened.
Neighbors told me about seeing a white mother cat and tiny white kitten that had been fed by a shop nearby that closed in November for the winter. There had been four kittens in the litter - three black and one white. I don't know what happened to the black ones. It was January now and the two remaining cats were without food during a cold and snowy winter. Of course, I put a bowl of food out on our deck with a basic shelter for them to use. Lily and Snowball found it soon enough. They were starving. It was pitiful watching them both shove each other out of the way to get at the food. At last they had a safe place to get out of the cold and plenty of food. I even put toys out for Snowball to play with on warm days on the deck.
|Snowball that first winter.
Lily went on to have two more litters in spite of my best efrots to catch her. I tried humane traps, dog kennel cages - anything and everyhting but she was very smart and out witted me every time. She was a great mother and with food and shelter provided, both litters survived. Again, I began TNR on the kittens as they became old eough to spay and neuter. Including Lily, we had ten more cats.
|Two Spot on left and Only on right. Now you see how they got their names.
We knew at this point we were moving out of the area and began to solicit neighbors to feed and care for the cats with our financial support. No one wanted to make the commitment and I could not leave them behind. We started trapping them to bring them indoors to move them with us. I finally caught Lily and the last of the kittens by leaving the enclosed porch door open and letting them wander inside at their leisure. Once they became used to this, I started to set the door as a trap door, pulling the string from inside the house when they were in the porch, safely away from the door.
|Lily - mother of all the white cats.
So yes, we do have a lot of cats but I love each and every one of them. I can't imagine life without silly Lily (who is now a love bug), Snowball, Only, Two Spot and all the rest of them. The white cats have a separate cat shelter on our land with an insulated heated indoor room and a big screen porch to play in. The older cats are in the house with us so we can monitor and medicate them if needed.
|Tabitha, one of two of Lily's tabby cats.
I am so grateful for organizations like Alley Cat Allies and other groups and individuals that have stepped up in the past 10 years to care for feral cats and educate people about them. With love, time, effort and patience, feral cats can become a part of our community, our lives and our homes.