Feral – Got the Jimmy Legs


When the winter took the tips of my ears

Today is apparently National Feral Cat Day. I haven't kept up the advocacy end of this cat business, so I was unaware that it was today or, indeed, that it existed at all. I guess I don't know if I'd done anything anyway, I'm always busy at work and busy with cats once I get home. I am finishing a couple of new winter shelters for the outdoor crew, I found one of those huge Rubbermaid bins in the neighbor's trash which I am converting into a cat condo, it's pretty common elsewhere, but normally I am limited to the bins half the size, since anything bigger is too hard to carry home (see photo by Lisacat of ECC's PJ with a similar shelter).

I went to Home Depot for supplies and miraculously they had mini bales of hay for $7 apiece. I got 3 of them, which left straw all over the store. I also got some Styrofoam insulation and, of course, more Great Stuff expanding foam. I love that stuff. Of course, our ferals seem to prefer the abandoned house down the street to the storage tub shelters, but perhaps laziness will win out and they'll stay with us, if only so they don't have to walk more than 20 feet for food.

It sounds like a friend will help put together the materials to turn the Empty Cages Collective into a true non-profit group! I have been hoping for this for a long time, as it helps legitimize their activities, plus will save them some dough on taxes. I don't know what sort of grants are out there for cat groups, but they will be able to apply for them. Plus people who donate money can deduct it from their taxes. All this time they've been basically scraping by on their own money and the favors of kindred spirits. Now, how do you explain tax-exempt status to a livery cab driver?

Sunset at the End of the Industrial Age

I usually post during the weekdays here, but I have been stymied in my efforts lately. As you may know, my company was bought out by another company some months back and we are finally being switched over to their network. This has been pretty annoying all around, but everything has been hammered out now and I enjoy full access to the many wonderful opportunities that await me at the new company.

Sidebar: I'm getting so sick of the way office people use the word "opportunities" when they really mean "failure." Instead of saying they screwed something up, they always say they see "areas of opportunity" like they did somebody a favor.

Anyhow, one unfortunate opportunity in this regard is that the new company apparently thinks blogger is dangerous to productivity and has it blocked. This will either have the result of finally, after 5 years at this, to move this operation fully to the server instead of using Blogger's infrastructure. Or maybe I won't bother.

Even worse for me, Flickr is also blocked. I hate that. Half the time I spend during the day is checking to see if anybody has posted new cat photos! Hey, to thine own self be true. So I'm thinking maybe I'll get one of those nifty iPhone things and write it off as a business expense.

In any case, all this upheaval will culminate with me moving offices yet again, a little further downtown. For some reason, nobody is able to tell us when exactly when we will move, but I hope they give us at least a few more days; my cubicle is full of cat food I need to lug home still.

On the home front, I am happy to report the Mugsy (pictured above with perennial worrywart Freddie) is feeling much better and is back to looking like his usual disheveled self. Thanks to Empty Cages Collective, I got some Lysine gel to add to his food, which appears to have helped him fight off the infection. He still could use a good powerwashing but this is about as good as he ever looked.

But they're never gonna see another one like I had with you

Mugsy is not gonna win any Cat Fancy awards, but he's one of our favorite feral cats. He's gotten a lot sweeter since we callously trapped and castrated him, which makes me think we should start doing this to people who bug us as well. It's tough love! Anyway, he usually hangs out in our yard with his boyfriend George. He has his own chair under the gazebo tent, a disheveled patio chair with a hair-matted cushion on it. He comes by every day. Or I should say, he did come by every day.

Last Tuesday he abruptly stopping showing up. George still came by to eat, but he seemed like half a cat without Mugsy. Of course, he's a feral cat and by definition they don't have a home and are therefore sort of entitled to wander wherever they want. But it seemed increasingly strange that this one wasn't showing up. Frankly, where would he go besides our yard?

So I climbed through the fence in the back yard and started looking for him. It was a dumb idea, like a feral cat is gonna just sit there and wait for me to walk up, o hai. But I thought maybe I could get some idea of what had happened to him. A feral's life is hard, often brutal and usually short. I half-expected to find his dead body in the bushes, guarded by George.

Behind our house there is a run-down rectory and a recently-resurrected church (bad economy = holy rollin' weekends). The rectory house appears to be unused and we often joke that the cats live inside it. Beyond the church, the rest of the block is houses in a variety of styles; right next door is a 6-family frame house. I crept behind the church, simultaneously trying not to attract attention and acting like I was supposed to be there.

I went past the church to the 6-family house. It's in a pretty sorry state, the best thing about it is the relatively new plywood panels boarding up all the windows (still I'm not entirely sure that people aren't living there). Just as I rounded the corner, I saw what appeared to be George's distinctive tail disappearing under the corner of the house. I knelt down and could see a hole just below the aluminum siding, just big enough for a cat to fit through. All joking aside, these feral cats have their own damn house!

I didn't have a flashlight so I couldn't see much more. But I figured if George was in there, then Mugsy was probably also there, if at all. There wasn't anything I could do but hope he would show up again. Just over a week later, Mugsy did return, his eyes crusted mostly shut from an upper respiratory infection, but otherwise unharmed. I can't figure out how he survived all that time, but there's probably water in the house, and who knows, maybe he was catching mice.

God help the local cats if the economy recovers enough that somebody fixes up this neighborhood, where will all the cats live? Don't answer that.

I read in the paper about their escape

We're full up with cats, even some kittens again. But sadly, these kittens were only recently revealed to us, so by the time we captured them they were super feral and showing no signs of wanting to be tamed. We got them fixed and eartipped (though they did an especially good job this time of making the eartips barely noticeable). We were prepared to release them, since time is short to socialize them and again, we already have way too many cats. What we didn't count on is the kittens not wanting to leave.

After recovering from their surgery for several days, the kittens seemed back to normal and ready to reintroduce to the back yard. I figured if we opened the door to their room and opened the back door they'd just scamper out and, I dunno, frolic in the ivy, or something. Instead one ran under our bed and the other went outside. But then she came back inside. The female (Black Betty) is brave and curious, she explores the house and occasionally looks out the window. The male kitten (no name yet, we keep calling him Small Fry) is far less trusting and keeps out of sight until the fall of night, when he comes out to knock things off of other things. Neither is showing any interest in going outside.

This is not to imply that they love us and want to spent time gentling cuddling in our arms; they get wide-eyed and bolt when we hove into sight. Thus the issue: they're too feral to adopt but they don't wanna move out. I guess we'll have to give them the boot, but I wonder if they won't just dash back in the house. They might be thinking, with so many cats around who'd notice a couple more? And they'd probably be right. But I'm not telling them.

The animals I've trapped have all become my pets

BailiffUPDATE: So I come home last night in anticipation of taking in these 3 cats only to find Baliff's room empty and a big hole in the window screen. I had opened the window to diffuse the scent of cat spray and the damn cat poked a hole in the screen and bolted! What an ingrate. I put the trap back out but he didn't go for it. As soon as I find him, I'm a neuter him myself!

– – – – – –

I took a break from the TNR work for a while, but in the last couple of weeks a new batch revealed itself unto us, and we were again moved to strike. Also we met some like-minded individuals who live a couple blocks away, and have been providing them with hardware and advice, leading to the incarceration of 3 cats. Meanwhile we captured 3 of our own, although this group differs from the usuals. While one seems to be a real feral, the other two appear to be tame housecat types, though somewhat worse for the wear being on the streets.

The Bishop!The latter are Baliff and Bishop, two black cats who look like brothers and may be related to the little black female I caught a little while ago (they all seemed to show up around the same time). In a fit of optimism I brought in these guys and stored them in adjoining rooms of the house. They immediately sprayed all over the place, rendering the house a vile and inhospitable place. Thanks, guys!

high lonesomeBut it's all in a day's work, I thought. Then I remembered, I've got a big damn cage in the back yard that could have held at least one of them. Oh well, I have a gallon of Nature's Miracle, whose motto is, I believe, "60% of the time, it works ALL the time." Lucky for me, my allergies have been acting up so I can't smell anything anyway. But it's making the other cats act funny. And speaking of the other cats, here's who's left to adopt out:

Adopt meAs you may know, we've taken Merc inside since he's proven himself to be friendly. We've been calling him "Truffle" mostly because we just watched 2 entire seasons of Top Chef and apparently adding truffle oil to anything makes it better. And so it goes with this guy, he's a hoot. He'll be ready for adoption any day now, just hoping to get him a little less skittish. And get him to stop chewing on my fingers (???)

Bring it back easy, Charlie!And then there's Annabelle, the sad-eyed Decatur clone. She has really come out of her shell, but she has yet to make that real transition into lapcatdom. I think she has it in her, she chases me down to get petted, she's just very flinchy. Hmm, "Flinchy," that's a good cat name!

Curlytail MarblesFinally, Marbles seems to enjoy pounding on the other cats. She will sit at the bottom of the stairs and bop them each on the head as they run down. I bought a clicker at Petco and per the Salon article about The Cat Whisperer, I've been giving her treats and clicking when she does something good, which already has had an amazing effect. She's been docile and limiting her quarreling with the other cats! It's probably too soon to tell, but this training crap might actually work!