Feral cats come to us in a number of ways. Most frequently someone will report a cat or several cats hanging around, and one of our staff or volunteers will go out and set traps. Occasionally it turns out that the stray does indeed have a home, but often it is a cat that has lived wild for some time.
One colony of cats that is well-established (at least, to the cats’ satisfaction) is at a nearby composting plant. The staff there had noticed regular patterns of feline comings and goings, and were able to recognize some of the cats. Stephanie, one of our volunteers, has made it a personal mission to identify and trap as many cats there as she can, knowing that this is not the safest of sites for them – coyotes, hawks, eagles and other predators hang around.
Any fully adult feral cat may simply be spayed/neutered and returned to the area to take its chance, but when we know of female cats having litters of kittens, trapping them and trying to socialize them becomes a priority.
Stephanie has observed that many of the cats around the site are black and white, in a variety of patterns (sometimes called “cow cats” from their pattern similarities to Holstein cows), and she has identified the older males who have probably sired most of the kittens. Peony and Della were from a spring trapping at a nearby site, and in May Stephanie managed to trap three black and white girls. Phaedra was with her when Mya was trapped, and chose the name; Teagan and Kirstie were names chosen by Stephanie for the other two. The three are likely siblings.
Phaedra says that Mya was the wildest kitten she’d ever encountered – she made the trap rock and bounce all over the place. For the first part of her stay she was angry and unapproachable, and Phaedra feared that she might never tame up – but then Leslie made breakthrough, much to Phaedra’s delight.
Kirsty was fostered for a while and then came to join her sisters. There was a lot of initial hissing, but it proved to be mostly bluff. Teagan bonded with another kitten, Yorkie, who was very handleable, and she took her cues from her buddy.
When we have really small kittens, they are fostered out for maximum handling, and then go straight to No 5 Road for adoption. But with half-grown kittens, there’s no way of knowing if they will tame, and the med staff at the Sanctuary have taken to a two-step pattern. In the Moore House, where most of the senior cats live, is a separate room with its own patio; we’ve been keeping the kittens there, apart from the general population, but where they can have some of the Kitty Comforters working with them.
For some time we would look into the Kitten Patio and find black-and-white bodies crammed into corners or having climbed up over the windows; being socialized was NOT in their agenda. But gentle determination and regular visits have worked their magic, and the no-longer-kittens were recently transferred to stage two: a transfer to the single-wide trailer.
There they are together in one of the large, walk-in cages, and are discovering that humans are to be welcomed; all three happily accept petting, and even belly-rubs (not welcomed by every cat!).
Like Perry and Perkins and Della and Peony, they will soon be released into the general population of the single-wide. They will probably not go to No 5 Rd for adoption; cats from such a feral background are likely not to be great adoption prospects, though if they develop a close relationship with a volunteer, sometimes exceptions are made. In any case, any potential adopter would need to be very experienced in dealing with a semi-feral cat.
Big thanks to Stephanie and her team for rescuing these sweeties (and many more!). Quoting Phaedra: “These girls have been a joint effort of love by volunteers, kitty comforters and staff. I’m delighted at how happy they seem and proud to be a part of a team that can work magic like this.”