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!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Honey, Come Look!

Late Spring 2009

It was a beautiful spring day, when Don came in and said, "Honey, you've got to come look to see what's out back!" He was standing at the window in our living room that looks out over our yard. Of course, I dropped everything and went to look.

Oh, my goodness! There was the sweetest mama cat with four little kittens just lying around in the grass.

I took photos through the window.

They would eat and then play.

I know I have more pictures somewhere. I'll add them later.

And then they finally curled up to sleep.

They were so cute. But when I tried to go out the back door, they were gone! We were pretty sure they scooted under our deck but they were so fast we weren't positive. We even became convinced they were actually born under the deck.

These little babies stayed with us all summer. Probably because I started feeding them. I decided they needed some regular, healthy food. They looked old enough, maybe 6-8 weeks. And they loved it. And I knew it would be good for their nursing mama.

I really didn't think much more about the future. Just that I was taking care of these little cuties for now. They were all tabbys. Two were dark, with lots of black striping. We named them Blackie and Mikey. Mikey had a very predominant "M" on the face. Then the other two were lighter grey tabbys. The darker one we called Smoke and the lighter one, Ash. Mama was Mama. And even though Mama appreciated the food, she would hiss at me every time I came outside to feed them. And the babies wouldn't come out until I went back inside. So I had to be content to just watch from the back door.

Mama would come and go out of our fenced-in backyard and as the babies grew, they would follow her. They found holes in the fence and would crawl under and Mama would jump up and go over. We never got close. They were as wild as squirrels. I kept feeding them and put out clean water and of course, they kept coming back. I think someone told me that they were feral cats but I really didn't do any research to find out any more about them. I still hadn't thought too much about winter or anything else until . . .

Don called me one day, "Honey, you've got to come look. You're not going to believe it!"

Furniture for Cat People

This will be a slight interruption to my ongoing story about my ferals. But this is a good article about the best kind of furniture to have if you are a cat lover.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

Winter - Spring 2008

Mistake No. 1 in socializing Silver was in not bonding with her while we had the chance. I've read since then that it is possible with younger ferals to ease them into the world of domesticity. What I could have done was play with her while she was in the trap and gradually get her used to my voice and touch.

But I didn't know, so poor Silver found what she thought would be her best friend—Cassie!

Oh, my goodness! I tried and tried to tell her that was not a good idea but she refused to listen. She had met Cassie when she began her backyard visitations and Cassie was out roaming around too. This was another indication to us that it would be OK to have Silver inside. Cassie, in her own "I-am-the-queen" way, allowed Silver to stay close but not too close. Silver seemed to not be afraid (another indication that she's not very bright) and made no aggressive attempts either. So basically they ignored each other.

After the Trapping, and as Silver became more comfortable in the house, we watched her make attempts to be Cassie's best friend. Silver would do the head-butt thing, roll over on her back in submission, and otherwise try to rub against Cassie. Of course, those attempts were met with evil looks, hisses, growls, and occasionally, a serious swat. Silver was never phased by Cassie's obvious message, I do not need nor do I want a friend! Cassie makes the Grumpy Cat of recent fame look like Mr. Friendly.

I ask you, does Cassie look happy?

Silver, to this day, has not given up. As Cassie has gotten older and more feeble, she can barely walk and she is partially blind, Silver stays with her constantly. Cassie is 18 now, and I honestly don't know how Silver will take it when she dies.

As you can see, Silver was comfortable in the house, stayed close to us, and she still does. These photos were taken in 2008, six years ago. That's how long Silver has been in the house. She has escaped twice and you'll read more about that later.

But the important thing to note is that we have never touched her. She has tentatively eaten chicken bites out of my hand, but only using her "Get it and run" strategy. When we have company or even overnight guests, they never see Silver. She has her "safe" places where she goes when strangers are in the house. The two times she left us, she came back, looking starved and more scared than before. But she does come back. It's a miracle she survived because she was gone about three weeks both times. I have to show people photos just to prove we actually have her!

We were one happy little family until the summer of 2009 and . . .

The Huge Surprise!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Mistake No. 1

March 2008

After our visit to the vet, I returned Silver back to the "her" bedroom. I set the trap down on the floor and opened the trap door. Silver, who was still slightly sedated, cowered at the back of the trap. She would not come out. So . . . Mistake No. 1 . . . I left the room, turned off the lights and closed the door.

Why was this a mistake? I'm so glad you asked. I now realize, after reading about feral cats (which, you remember, I didn't know that's what she was), that to ever socialize her, I should have left her in the trap and gradually bring her to the point where she would let me pet her. I really think we would have bonded if I had done that. But . . . I didn't know.

Eventually Silver came out and retreated back to her spot under the bed, only coming out to eat, drink and do her business when the door was closed and she felt safe. I knew this could not last forever. But was OK for now.

We also had our house on the market during the Cat Trapping experience. So, when the realtor called to say he wanted to show the house, I had to leave notes, etc. about the cat situation. LOL I never told the truth. I said we had a sick cat in that room, they would never see her, and please close the door after showing that bedroom. We didn't sell the house. Oh, well, no surprise. Weird people leave here!

Then, on top of all that drama, I was hospitalized with double pneumonia for ten days. It was very serious. And the crazy realtor people were still trying to show the house.  

Ah, hello? I can't clean or straighten the house right now. I'm a bit occupied trying to keep from dying here!

And my husband was going back and forth from his job to the house to the hospital. Fun times. And we had a wild critter in the bedroom. He did a great job taking care of everything. When I was allowed to go home, I was still very weak and I had to promise my doctor that I would rest and not do anything.

Joe Ed brought dinner over during my recuperation time and came upstairs to check on his patient. He said she seemed to be OK. Of course, it's hard to tell when he had to look under the bed to even see her.

Finally, my mother and I decided it was time to let Silver out of her room so she could explore. We decided that she only needed to start with the upstairs first before having the run of the entire house. So I used everything I could find to make barriers so she couldn't go downstairs. Then mother and I went downstairs to eat lunch.

While we were eating, Mother says, Silver is in the living room. What? How on earth did she get past the blockade? Mother, I don't know but she did. So we sat frozen while Silver proceeded to investigate the place and make herself at home.

I left Silver's litter box in the bedroom a while longer but eventually she discovered the box in our bathroom and also the one downstairs in the laundry room. The cats have a two bath house, too. Don't forget, Cassie lives here too.

When I finally went back to work, three weeks later, Silver seemed to be very comfortable in the house. She liked to be close to wherever we were. But would run away if we got up or made any attempt to get closer to her. Definitely a relationship on her terms. And a very strange one, for sure.

We would always get very excited whenever she would play with strings and toys while we were watching.  The more comfortable and safe Silver felt, the more she would play and hang out with us.

Then we discovered that she loved to watch TV. So of course, I got her a cat video. She loved it!

When one of the critters disappeared, Silver would look behind the TV. Too funny!

We felt very good that Silver had a safe home and she actually found a friend.

No, not the squirrel.

She did not choose wisely, however.

Silver bonded with . . . Cassie!

Of all the crazy things.

Silver was definitely—

Looking for love in all the wrong places!

No Escape!

January 2008

Poor Silver! As soon as the door slammed shut, she panicked. She jumped straight up some shelves that were in a corner by the door. Then she started running. Since she had already been in the house before, she wasn't totally lost. But this time, there was no escape.

We had no plan. But fortunately for us, Silver found the upstairs guest bedroom and hid under the bed. Yes! I shut the door, got a litter box ready, food, and water and set up her new home. The weather outside was frigid with snow on the way. Little did she know, but she was one very lucky cat.

I knew if she didn't use the litter box, her indoor days were numbered. But cats are pretty amazing. She knew what to do and evidently felt very comfortable when the door was closed. When I went in to clean the box and feed her, though, she hid under the bed. I talked to her but she didn't have much to say back. She never cried.

Joe Ed is a friend and also a vet. He knew all about our adventures and had lots of advice about catching Silver to bring her in to have her spayed and get her shots. That was another priority.

After many failed attempts, including pills that we thought would sedate her and just trying to flush her out from under the bed so we could grab her, we eventually used a small live trap and caught her. Silver was terrified. I covered it with a towel and took her to see Joe Ed. He has stories about his experience with her when they opened the trap. Once again, she went straight up and almost got behind the ceiling tiles at his clinic. Oh, my! He and the nurse finally caught her and sedated her for the procedures. I came and got her and brought her back home.

So . . . I took Silver back to her private bedroom to recover and that's when I made—

The First Mistake.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Project Trap-a-Cat

Winter, 2008

As the weather got colder, I became more worried about our little Silver. Where would she go to keep warm?

I began setting her food dish just inside the back door. I turned out the lights in the kitchen and would sit in a chair, frozen, where I could see her and she couldn't see me. She crept up to the open door and then would just sit forever. Finally, she carefully would creep up to the door and oh, so gingerly, put her foot inside, then the next foot, until she was standing inside the doorframe, barely. She ate quickly and then bolted away. Any sound inside or outside would make her jump and run.

Sometimes we would turn out the lights and stand in the dining room to watch her. Silver actually would cautiously creep into the kitchen and wander around briefly. But if we tried to close the back door, she was gone with lightning speed.

While visiting during this time, my daughter and son-in-law were very intrigued with Project Trap-a-Cat. Jared had street cats that he took care of before he moved to Chicago but never one that was so afraid of everything. He tried to get her to come in but to no avail. I was ready to give up but Jared said the one thing that's stuck with me all these years. He said, "Her chances of survival are not good at all outdoors. If she doesn't get hit by a car, freeze, or starve, a larger animal will get her." So I knew we had to trap her.

All through November and December, I kept feeding her just inside the door. Finally, on New Year's Day, we had a plan. Granted, we found out too late, not a very well-thought-out plan. It was so very cold and snowy and was going to get worse.

I must interject here that I still had not done any research on feral cats. I had never heard that term. I was just on a mission at this point to save this one little cat who was so scared and had landed in our yard.

On that New Year's Day, with the back door open and me hiding behind it and Don was in the dark dining room where he could see what she was doing, we moved the food dish further into the kitchen. There was just enough room for me to slam the door closed if I got the chance. I couldn't see her so I was depending on Don to give me directions. So once again, very quietly, he told me what she was doing. This probably took at least 30 minutes. We had to be so careful not to startle her in any way.

Finally, Don said, "Now." And I pushed the door closed.

We had her! Now what?