Catman Page - a lifetime with cats
- "The Mob" by Walter Chandoha, 1963 -
Read the stories below or some more cat tales on the Daily Dadio Blog Category, " Daily Dadio - Cats ."
Momma Kittie - the feral among us
In 1996 Heide and I moved to an old farm house in rural Green County, Wisconsin. Many cats, some friendly, some feral, passed by from time to time to check out our potential for a tid-bit of food. After a couple years, a small calico became a frequent flyer on our porch. She was a feral and could not be approached, but of course she was relentless in her persistence to pester us for food. It soon became evident for her reason - she was a prolific baby-machine. We suspect she even rounded up neighborhood orphans to join her liters. I've read about that phenomena of a mother cat taking on orphan kittens. As you can guess, once she became comfortable that we were a decent couple, she soon brought her latest kitties with her. It became a nightly ritual to see her and her latest babies around the back porch.
One cold winter, she brought a late batch of kitties to the front door. They all huddled around some empty flower pots to protect themselves from the sleet and cold December rain. To my surprise, she marched her three kitties (one male, two females) in the door.
I've heard of this feral compromise before. To save her kitties, she risked capture. We let her have an extra bathroom in the large old house. The whole winter we were not allowed to touch her or her kitties. Yet, they all obediently used the liter box I provided for them.
In the spring, I rounded up the three kitties and got them fixed. The boy kittie later died of an allergy. But the two girls (one a miniature calico version of the mamma, the other an orange tiger) eventually became marvelous additions to our family.
Becoming fatigued by caring for all her kitties, taking advantage of her being in the extra bathroom, I tricked her into a carry case and marched her down to the vet to be spayed. When they asked for a name, we just said, "well, call her Momma Kittie." She just about ripped the vet clinic to pieces I guess.
After she (and the vet) recovered, I opened the door to the old house and offered her her freedom. She hesitated, but slowly walked out and headed up the hill to the old shed a quarter mile away we suspected she called home. I watcher her with the binoculars as she stopped and looked back and then disappeared into the old shed.
As the weeks passed she never came to the porch for food. In the mean time we noticed a greater wave of coyote howling that year. Heide and I never said it, but we both knew the perils of a feral cat up against a pack of coyotes. One night the howling and presence was particularly loud and close. At the time there was an old male cat that we let live in our barn. He was not a feral - he was a friendly old guy that lost his house privileges because in his old age, just like some old people he became incontinent. I always checked the door on the barn before I went to bed to make sure he was all safe and sound inside. When I opened the back door of the house to go out to the barn, the coyotes howling just down the hill sent a chill up my spine. When I went to step out, there stood Momma Kittie. She hesitated only a second and hopped in the doorway. She went to the extra bathroom and jumped up on the old dresser and took her old station back.
As long as she was alive she never let us touch her. But, she never hovered around the door to get out. When we moved to another town and a different house to be city dwellers, she seemed to understand the commotion of the move and allowed me to put her in the carry box (just that once) so we could get her to the new house. Sometimes she slept on the end of the bed just out of reach. At supper time she would sit on the chair at the end of the table just out of reach. She bid us good bye when we would leave and she waited at the door for us to return. But, we were never been able to touch her. She was truly the feral among us.
- by Bob Keith, July 13, 2006 -
Read about some more cat tales on the Daily Dadio Blog Category, "Cats."
Daily Dadio - Cats