Hi! I'm Janis and I am a retired elementary music teacher. But this blog is not about music and it is not about children. This is a blog about cats — feral cats.

The story begins with my first post—Cassie!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Summer 2007

"The fish are disappearing!" We have a pond in the backyard and it has koi and goldfish in it. We have lost fish for various reasons—didn't make it through exceptionally cold winters, the extreme fall of leaves covering the pond smothered them once, chlorinating them when I forgot to turn off the water, etc. I know, I'm a bad fish mother. But this was early summer and we could see no reason for them to be disappearing.

Then one day, I saw this small, grey and white cat come over our fence. She crept up to the pond and was watching the fish. "Ah ha!" There's the culprit! So I determined that if she's so hungry, I would provide her with food and then she would quit eating my fish.

As soon as I walked out the back door, she bolted and was up and over the fence. Gone! But I still put out some tuna fish on a small plate. Sure enough, the next day, the plate was clean. I watched to see if I could catch her at the pond again but no luck.

We love our backyard and since back then, Don and I were both teachers, we liked to sit outside, eat breakfast and read the paper. One morning, not too long after the "Kitty Sighting," we were outside, drinking coffee and reading the paper, when I noticed some movement along the fence behind some greenery. There she was again, watching us. I very slowly got up and went inside to put some tuna on a plate. I brought it out, set it down slowly and carefully in an area far away from us because she was still watching (she thought we couldn't see her, LOL), and went back to my chair. We sat, frozen, waiting.

And waiting . . . until finally, the little cat started creeping toward the plate. We didn't move. She gobbled up the food and bolted over the fence. I was amazed. She was so pretty but so afraid. But evidently more hungry than afraid.

I named her Silver because of her beautiful pale grey coat. Every living thing must have a name, I think. Even my fish have names. Another story about that some day.

Oh, and speaking of fish, Silver was falsely accused. We found out it was a blue heron eating our koi, our expensive koi! So I got a statue of a blue heron, put it by the pond, and that took care of that! Blue herons are very terratorial, it seems, and must not be very bright.

I continued feeding Silver at random times during the days, weeks, and months, through the summer and fall. I gradually moved the plate closer to where we were sitting if we were outside. We very patiently began making small, slow movements while she was around, like slowly and quietly turning the pages of the newspaper.

Then we began talking softly to each other and pretended to ignore her, just talking out of the sides of our mouths. "Do you see her?" "Yes." "Is she coming?" "Yes, but not very fast." "What else is she doing?" "Nothing." And so on. We lead a very exciting life.

At first, she would jump and run but eventually she became used to our presence. We could talk, turn newspaper pages, open mail, eat a meal but if we made a move to get up, gone with the wind!

Toward the end of the fall as it began to get cooler, I started moving the feeding dish closer and closer to the back door. I'm not sure what I thought I was doing but it just seemed the right thing to do. And she continued to come and eat. She also would just hang out in the backyard, play with things, and stretch out on the grass. Our yard is fenced so I was hoping she felt safe.

But it was getting colder. And I was worried about her. I had figured her to be about 8 months old so she had probably not been outside over a winter. But there was no catching her, that was sure.

What to do?

Monday, August 25, 2014


Cassie is a beautiful Himalayan. Cassie is not a feral cat. She is a pure breed, registered cat. Born 1996. Big blue eyes, sweet face. And mean as a snake. She was our daughter's 18th birthday present, two months after our sweet Yorkie died.

My daughter moved to Chicago over 15 years ago and Cassie is still with us. That should tell you something.

After just 8 weeks of being in this world and a few days of being in our house, she got very sick and lost half her weight. When I took her to the vet, they called the person who sold her to us and was told that one kitten from that litter had already died. So the vet says, "Take her home, watch her, and if she dies, put her in a plastic bag and put her in the freezer so we can test her and see what's wrong with that litter." Oh, my! We had already bonded. So we followed all directions except the freezer part because she didn't die. She lived and, 18 years later, is still with us.

My husband calls Cassie the Million Dollar Cat because he figures that's about how much we've paid in vet bills to save her little life several times. We should've known after the first time but what do you do? After her first illness, she started out like all kittens, sweet, cute, a bundle of fur and energy. Very playful and fun.

We're not sure when she became mean but it happened. Because she is a long-haired cat, I decided to have her shaved periodically. The first groomer I took her to called me after a couple of hours. "You've got to come get this cat," he told me. "We can't do anything with her." When I entered the building, the man at the front desk yelled back to someone in the back, "The lady is here for that cat from hell!" Well, I thought that was pretty rude but fairly accurate as time would tell. In order to have her shaved, Cassie had to be sedated.

We've been through four vets with her. They all think I'm kidding when I explain that she's "difficult." When I go back to get her, they acknowledge that "difficult" was an understatement. They put big red marks on her file saying things like, "Caution!" "Dangerous," "Use heavy gloves!" Not sure about that last one but they always tell me that her behavior has been notated, whatever that means. I do know she bites, scratches, and makes sounds like she's demon-possessed. Not very pleasant.

Why do we put up with her? Well, because she's family. She loves us in her own special way and definitely on her own terms. She's a cat, after all. Her terms are just much more intense than most cats!

She has almost died several times for a variety of reasons. Don has hinted that it would be much cheaper to just have her put to sleep, but he doesn't really mean that. I don't think.

Cassie has been and always will be queen of the house. She solidified that position one Christmas Eve when my entire family was here and we were all sitting in the living room. Cassie evidently thought they had stayed long enough. She jumped up on the arm of the sofa, climbed to the back, and began to walk very slowly behind the heads of my mother, sister, and niece while the rest of us stared in horror. Everyone froze. My family knows to absolutely stay as far away from Cassie as possible and whatever you do, you do not pet her or try to pick her up. And there she was, prowling and sniffing at their heads. They carefully eased off the sofa and left soon after. Cassie curled up on "her" sofa and went to sleep. "Thought they would never leave!"

For a very long time Cassie was the only pet we had. Life was good. One cat was enough. And then along came . . .