I did have an ulterior motive when I vaccinated and neutered little Thomas. For his own good, surely, (and the neighbours' gardens).
But I had a plan.
Yes, it was a very idyllic life outside in the backyard KittyCafe for "Thoms" , sleeping in the catmint in the garden, two square meals a day, no shoo-shoo-ing from angry homeowners. But it was late summer and I dreaded the thought of another winter. He had managed to rid himself of some nasty matts on his back by rubbing them against the big Manitoba maple tree at the back of the yard. It is not kind to be a fluffy, medium-haired cat building up a thick winter coat.
The first part of the plan was a cat flap. Installed in the basement door , the smallest size, just large enough for a cat, too small for raccoons. A nice big pillow inside. This part of the basement was isolated by an inner door to a small apartment, used for storage.
As preparation, occasionally in the heat of the summer I would leave the kitchen door open while I was cooking dinner and Thomas would sneak in, very curious about the house. He would explore for a few minutes and then run out. He was very careful to make sure no one came between himself and the door because being trapped inside is one of the worst fears for a feral cat. I pretended to ignore him at these times but he knew that I knew exactly where he was.
It didn't take long for all my cats to enjoy the cat flap.
As Lilian Jackson Braun wrote, at the beginning of the last century,
" Cats hate a closed door, you know, regardless of which side they're on. If they're out, they want to get in, and if they're in, they want to get out."
But could I get Thomas to use it?
It did take some persuasion and a few basement meals. He was a very curious cat watching the comings and goings of my feline crew. But it was a particularly bad storm that clinched the deal.
I was very relieved that he passed the winter in relative comfort, with us but not with us. He never did use the litter box put down there, going outside instead. In really bad snow and cold, I would put his meals downstairs as well. I don't really know what my other cats thought of this arrangement. They were tolerant and everyone respected everyone else's space.
Another spring and summer rolled around.
Now, it is a well known fact that when you are open to feeding the odd stray cat, word gets around the neighbourhood. Most of the neighbourhood cats at one time or another visited the KittyCafe. Most were not stray. Some were tolerated more than others.
Then came Brian. He is a big smoky grey cat. He didn't look particularly neglected or unfed. He liked the menu and decided to hang around. He appeared to be sleeping in the unfinished upper floor of my neighbour's house addition. Most of the time he and Thomas did not end up in the backyard at the same time, by chance or choice, I'm now not sure.
By the time the weather was cooling in the autumn we decided something had to be done about Brian. I was not that keen to add another cat to the household but apparently Brian had other plans. He was taken to the vets to be neutered and vaccinated. The kids started to let him in because they thought he was cold. I had noticed he didn't tolerate Thomas but that was common with males. Things were fine as long as they stayed out of each other's way.
Now, as surprising as this sounds, I am not privy to everything going on in the cat hierarchy right under my nose. Cats living together make their own rules, as to who is dominant, who eats first etc.
When the weather started getting nasty, Thomas was not not coming "home" regularly. It was clear that Brian did not want him here. There was nothing I could do about it, other than getting rid of Brian. Tell that to your crying children. I was conflicted. I did not see this coming. At the back of my mind was also the worry of what would happen to Thomas when we moved, which we had been planning to do, although no clear plans had been made.
My friend and neighbour V, who lived across the fence started feeding him. She fostered cats for a cat rescue and had animals of her own. One other neighbour also would put out food when she saw him.
We needed another plan.
We decided that since he would not come to me, V was going to trap him (again!) and take him to the cat rescue.
Well, she did trap him. The cat rescue would take feral cats. If they were young enough she would try to tame them. If it was too late she tried to find a farm situation and they would live out their lives as barn cats.
I knew that it was too late for "my Thoms". I did feel sad at this situation. They say ferals will only bond with one person. Tish at the cat rescue had her work cut out for her. We received regular emails of Thomas's progress ( and Tish received donations)
An early one reads in part,
Just thought you would like an update on Thomas.
He is doing very well in the outdoor area, and seems to like the other cats. He is always interested in what they are doing and loves to watch them.
He will now come right up to the cat door when you go to put the food outside for him. A few times he has even sniffed my fingers. He has a tremendous appetite!! He still hisses at people if they move too quickly or startle him, and prefers that nobody comes near him, but he is very happy, I think. He loves to lounge in the sunbeams and doesn't run & hide when he sees us out in the back yard anymore. Some progress, and he is quite settled now. He looks lovely too, as the mats he had when he first arrived fell off and his fur is growing in nicely. He is clean white now, and looks handsome.
And she sent pictures.
After many updates from the cat rescue over the course of several months, this was the last one:
I have some happy, yet bittersweet news.
Thomas is going to his new home tomorrow.
He has been adopted by a friend of one of our volunteers vets. He will be living in their horse barn. They raise thoroughbreds for racing & breeding. It is quite an affluent farm. He will be staying in their tack room, until they are confident that he is comfortable with them, and then they will introduce him to the rest of the barn.
I think he will be happy there.
It was a difficult decision to let him go. I had hoped that perhaps with time, he would tame down more, but it seems that he is only comfortable in the room with us and that is it. If we get too close, he still bolts for the outdoor run. He is happiest out there....chasing bugs and climbing the wire. When we have people visiting the shelter, he panics if he is caught indoors, and scurries for the cat door in a mad dash to get away from the "intruders". I think this will be the best option for him in the long run, and I hope he will be happy. It is always hard for me to send a cat to a barn life, as I always wish that they could all spend their lives on someones bed, where they are warm and safe. But then I remember that this is our way of life...not always theirs. Some cats just prefer to be out, enjoying their freedom and doing what cats do naturally. It is always an ethical battle in my mind, but I do believe that sometimes we have to allow a cat to live life the way they choose.
I'll keep you posted on his progress there.
So that is the story of Thomas the cat. The old saying of cats having "nine lives" comes to mind when I think of him. I'm glad I shared one of his with him. I still "talk" to him sometimes and my daughter wants to visit. Ironically, he is not living too far from where will be moving to.
And Cats on Tuesday, brought to you by Osibidian Kitten.
I have written about Thomas the feral cat before, but I will offer up the story now and an ending to the tale, of sorts.
Thomas was the reason the Kittycafe got started as a drop-in for stray cats in the first place. The kittycafe at my home (not the blog) began at my back door one bitterly cold winter 3 years ago. I happened to see this very dirty, medium-haired white cat roaming around my street off and on for a few weeks. I knew all the cats in the neighbourhood and this one was new. More importantly, it was -20'C outside. Plus wind chill. No loving pet owner leaves their cat outside in that cold.
My friend and neighbour across the street, also a cat lover (and street busy-body!) had noticed him too. I started putting food and water outside the back door. He was very cautious approaching but he was obviously starving. He would never get near the bowl until I was inside or at the opposite end of the house. Every day I put food out when I saw him but he never came the same time each day or to the same spot. I tried leaving food wherever I saw him until my neighbours' houses all had plastic containers tucked into their hedges and under their porches.
Sometimes he would eat 3 full bowls of food. He never touched the water so I stopped that altogether. I realized later that, as a feral cat, he had never drank from a water bowl before.
I was very worried about the cold, though, as these temperatures had lasted almost two weeks and I could barely tolerate being outside in my long down-filled coat. My heart ached for those bare paws.
I dug out the "baby bed" from when my two cats were kittens. I put it in a tucked away spot out of the wind, where it would stay dry. He was mostly sleeping under porches. When it snowed he never showed up at all; he knew enough about surviving to stay dry at all costs.
Gradually he came to trust that I would feed him every day and at my back door.
Gradually, the weather turned to spring. My own cats barely gave him any attention at all. He knew he had no claim to terrritory here and so always let them eat and pass by first.
By summer I could sit outside and he would eat right beside me if I was very still. I let him sniff my hand. Once I even touched his nose.
He did like to sleep in the baby bed and he knew when breafast and supper was served. He was on a feeding schedule for the first time. He and Seamus's littermate, a beautiful calico named Sophie were great friends.
I also talked to him all the time. When it was particularly cold or rainy out and he hadn't appeared I would ask him to come for some food. When I was most distressed I got the best results. He seemed to sense my worry. Sometime during that first winter I was discussing him on the phone with the other concerned neighbour. We were discussing how beautiful "she" was, with her big green eyes. We were speculating that this cat was a girl.
A few days later, after I had put the food down at the back door and was walking away down the hall, I heard very distinctly, "I AM A BOY!"
I stopped and turned around and looked at him, and he looked at me, chewing all the while. Then he put his head down to the bowl and kept on eating. I starting walking again.
What just happened there?
I had just heard a voice in my head and I knew it wasn't mine and I also knew I was not crazy.
I started reading all about animal communciation.
But back to Thomas. That spring I was volunteering at the local Humane Society bottle feeding orphaned kittens. They had mentioned there that they had a new Feral Program that would vaccinate and neuter/spay feral cats for $30.00. All I had to do was catch him. And release him again. Easier said than done. It was through another animal rescue (where I had found Seamus and Sophie) that I was able to borrow a humane trap, really a raccoon trap. I was really nervous about this. I knew that if I failed to catch him on the first try I would lose his trust. I followed the instructions given to me and luckily, I did catch him. The whole ordeal was very emotional for me, more than I expected. He was "taken care of" and I brought him home the next day, talking to him the whole way home, explaining what happened and why I did it.
I had been warned that feral cats will sometimes run away for a few weeks after being caught, valueing their freedom above all else. I knew better to think I could keep him indoors and "tame" him at this point. I opened the cage at the kittycafe, I put down a bowl of food and went inside . He shot out of the carrier and then stopped and licked his paws. Then he turned back and devoured two large bowls of food in succession and laid down in the grass in the sun. He was staying.
Well, quite long winded of me so far and we are only halfway there. I'll continue this tale next Tuesday, I think.
By the way, I had asked his age at the Humane Society, which they guessed to be three years and as we know by now, he had been neutered. He was indeed a boy.
I named him Thomas.
It's a question of editing.
If I didn't show the fun and frivolous (and fattening!) I would be reduced to telling you my current tale of household woe.
For example, The Eavestrouph Debacle.
It started back in February, I believe. The house next door which was being renovated. The second house next door to be reno-ed. Luckily, there can be only two, but still. This is one thing I will not miss about city life: living three feet from your neighbour.
It was stucco time at Renovation Central, because all renovations in this neighbourhood seem to require various shades of beige stucco. It seems that the scaffolding required did not fit between the houses and required the removal of our eavestrouphes. I was asked politely if they could remove them and was assured they would be replaced. Since then I have politey and patiently reminded my neighbour about the missing eavestrouph. There were moments perhaps when I had to be less polite and patient, such as during the mother of all rainstorms, which had water leaking into my basement behind the newly installed drywall. The workman that day were chatting on said neighbour's porch and I screamed at them to DO SOMETHING NOW! I didn't even feel sheepish or remorseful about my outburst when I was informed that they were "just the indoor crew" there to install the kitchen. One of them rigged up plastic sheeting and saved the day.
I eventually had to call the contractor myself. I may have channelled my inner..erm..witch a little again and they came the same day.
HOWEVER. At the same time I had a roofing estimater come by and we were inside deep in discussion when the eavestrouph crew left.
It seems they have forgotten to replace the downspout. Ponder that stupidity for a moment, goodness knows I have.
You see why I don't do this to you?
If you have stayed with me this long, here - have another kitten.
( I won't go into the Data Recovery misery required on this computer to find the certain still missing finally calendar-perfect kitten pictures. You really don't want to know)
The Two Blurs
How predictable am I?
You know those cute kitten calendars favoured by 10 year old girls? Kittens in a basket, kittens wearing a beret, kittens hanging from ledges?
How do they do it?
I have been trying to post this all week.
Rule No. 1: kittens do not co-operate.
I have deleted more blurry photos than I have ever taken. So now you get the blurry ones. I'm mentioning this in case you might think you need a new monitor or a new prescription.
and Tink ( I lost the battle for that name, I was going for Jem or Pippa)
Min is calm and smaller than Tink.
Tink is a scaredy cat, at least to be picked up. She is a tabby but with pure white hind paws and belly. When she stretches out in what we call the "Marilyn pose" with white belly and some tabby spots showing, she looks like a trout.
They both sleep and play together constantly and they play rough. They bite until they squeal but they don't stop.
Like most girls, they like go to the bathroom (litterbox) together.
I took them to the vet today. Tink was a little reluctant to get into the cat carrier.
They weigh 2 pounds each. ( Insert sweet photo of kitten on kitchen scale here. We tried with Min ( the gentle calm one) but she tipped the scale over and ran across the counter, into the sink across the drain board full of dishes, across another counter, knocking many heavy noisy pots to the floor in the process. Then she hid under the couch. Surprisingly, I didn't try this photo op a second time)
The most interesting thing about this adoption is Brian.
Brian is the big grey cat we took in almost a year ago. I reminded Brian to take care of the new babies and show them the ropes, so to speak. And Brian has taken this job very seriously indeed.
The babies adore Brian, especially Tink and they follow him around . He cleans them and they sleep with him. He will even play with them which scares me a little because he is so big and they are so tiny. He's very patient when they pounce and try to bite any moving parts. Which is all the time.
They like to nibble toes.
They like toys.
They fall asleep almost anywhere.
Life is never dull with kittens in the house.
A cautionary tale with pictures.
This is what happen when you drive 1 1/2 hours out of the city to a farm on a cold, wet and windy long weekend and start doing this:
You end up with this:
At least we didn't end up with any of these:
but probably because there was no room in the car!
We are a weak and helpless family in the presense of small defenseless animals. I thought one would be okay but really when you have five people holding seven kittens, well...nature takes it's course.
Even Tanya I only want a ginger tabby Biker Chick did not leave empty handed. Black and white is the new ginger.
Things I have learned so far about living with 7 week old kittens:
They are so cute they make your head explode.
They are extremely hungry.
They can run extremely fast. This makes them almost impossible to photograph with the delay of a digital camera.
They sleep alot. The only picture opportunities so far.
They are a lot louder than you'd think possible , especially when they are exploring and have lost their sibling.
They only need to be shown once how the litter box works.
It is incredibly difficult for 4 people to choose 2 names.
It is harder than you think to tell the sex of a kitten.
They are fearless and yet seem to scare the adult felines in the house, who are avoiding them. (This could also be because they still smell a little funky from the barn)
They learn routines fast and stick to them. The first night we brought them home we put them in the carrier and took them up to Littlest's room for the night to give the other cats some space. The carrier was open. We heard a
pitter patterstaccato of little feet across the floorboards at about 5 o'clock and Littlest shouting, " They are into EVERYTHING".
So last night about 9 o'clock they headed upstairs to go to sleep and went into the carrier just like the first night. In the morning, when they heard me get up they came down stairs and waited side by side at the spot I had fed them yesterday, their little mouths opening in silent meows.
They are currently sleeping in a pileup in a tangle of legs, head over head.
Needless to say, we did not unpack one box this weekend.