When I show people pictures of the feral colony my husband and I care for, they exclaim with surprise at how beautiful these wild cats really are. Our little colony does have a few advantages. We treat them monthly for three different kinds of worms and give them monthly flea and tick treatments as well. Their diet is a combination of good kibble and canned food. They eat twice a day, once in the morning and again in the late afternoon.
Occasionally I will treat them with chicken parts after I have cleaned a cooked chicken to make a soup or a salad. I don’t give them any bones, but the skin is a good fatty food that makes their fur shine and the cartilage is great as a lubricant for their tiny joints. I will cut up raw fish to give them and sometimes a can or two of tuna fish. If I have leftover beef or pork from dinners we have eaten, I always chop this up and give it to them as a treat.
Diet and care makes for some beautiful kitties.
Not all of them are friendly. Many of them run away when you approach and refuse to be petted or touched in any way at all. I tell my friends that it is so strange to feel a deep love for something that wants absolutely nothing at all to do with you. Ha!
Because they are wild cats and live mostly outdoors, we can’t protect them from many things. They come and go in our garage via a kitty door just big enough for them and many of them will run for this kitty door when danger comes close. But we can’t keep them from being bitten snakes or tangled in briers or chased by dogs, so sometimes they suffer injuries. If they are badly damaged we try to trap them and get them to the vet. It’s rare that we put a feral cat down due to an injury that can be repaired.
While this picture of Bad Kitty might leave you feeling like he’s past being cared for, you’d be wrong. When I look at this lovely face I can remember him as a young kitty with a lion’s mane of fur encircling his head. He was a handsome devil!
In his day, Bad Kitty weighed in at 22 pounds of solid muscle. So named because of his delight in marking and spraying all over the neighborhood and for picking daily fights with Dumbass, Bad Kitty was a neighborhood warrior badass. He even sprayed our neighbor’s car windshield repeatedly. I employed a Hudson sprayer loaded with anti-marking liquid and would go around the perimeter of the house hosing down his obvious spray marks because it smelled so atrocious! I could come back an hour later and he had made the rounds again. It was a never ending battle between the two of us.
It took me two years to finally trap him so I could take him in to have him neutered. The night before taking him in to the vet’s office for his procedure, he rammed his face into the sides of the trap trying to escape so many times that his face was a bloody mess. I had even covered the trap to try to alleviate some of his anxiety, but nothing worked. He growled and spit and hurled himself in my direction so many times that I was scared to pick the trap up to carry it to the car the next morning.
Bad Kitty is living the last stage of his life in our garage these days. He is still alert and spry enough to make it to meal times. We have made sure he’s comfortable and even set up a potty box for him indoors. This has been fun to watch, but not so much fun to clean up. He really does try to make it into the potty box, but if you can imagine, he’s never used one before.
He will come closer to us now than he ever has before. My husband tried to give him a pat on the head when he can. Bad Kitty doesn’t seem to mind us so much anymore and doesn’t growl or spit when we get close to him. I was surprised that he tolerated this photo session though. I wish I had pictures of him when he was younger, but it was hard to catch him sitting still.
When he starts showing us that he feels pain, we will have him humanely dispatched at our vet’s office. He has lived a long and wonderful life for a feral kitty and will be treated with the respect he has earned. His is the true face of the feral and there is much to be learned from witnessing his life in the wild.
The next time you spy a stray kitty lurking on the perimeter of your yard or digging in a dumpster, consider opening your heart enough to buy that baby a can of tuna. Feral cats actually do earn their keep and properly looked after, they can be a welcome addition to any area. Practice TNR, Trap. Neuter and Release so litters of kittens can be reduced. Many vet offices will do this at a reduced price and your local ASPCA or shelter can provide traps and helpful advice on proper trapping methods.
Until next time I leave you with this thought…every one of Earth’s creatures deserve our respect and they need our love.