OUR CAT FAMILY
(former feral cat family)
(Check out new updates, photos and more HERE
If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.
Cloud and Ember
The kittens and Mama Cat before we brought them inside.
Roo in a posing mood.
Sam and Sally posing at bedtime. Sally always looks so peaceful and serene, while Sammy has a slight crazed look!
Sam chasing a fly on the porch.
(click on pictures to see large image - more photos below too).
Since moving to Western North Carolina, my husband, Homer and I have gotten in the habit of putting food out during the cold winter months for animals who need some extra care especially when we have heavy snow. We only do this when the temperatures are extremely cold and when we have already spotted feral cats. So far we've seen mostly raccoons, possum, foxes and feral cats at night and crows and squirrels during the day. Luckily, we've had no coyotes or bears at the food trays, but we keep an eye out since we live in a heavily-wooded rural area. We know that it is dangerous to feed bears as you can read about in our Black Bear Visit page. We try to respect and honor the balance of nature, but when it involves abandoned pets, we must step in. In October of 2010 we began what we called the Great Critter Buffet where we would put warm food and water out during the day and watch who came up on our critter-cam. The cats that I'm going to tell you about are the ones who survived the winter. There were others who we fed for months, but who disappeared and never returned. We can only imagine what happened to them.
We first noticed two gray and white cats who always came to the feeding bowls together - one much bigger than the other and came to the conclusion that this was a mother cat with her baby since the smaller cat was still a baby. They were especially close with the mother cat always watching attentively as her little one ate. As he grew up, we would watch them snuggle together on the porch chairs, (see photo below) play in the yard together and were touched by their devotion to each other. We watched the little one grow up with his Mom's constant protection. But they never let us get anywhere close to them no matter what.
We knew that in order to prevent litters of kittens from being born and in hopes of being able to domesticate these two cats, we had to capture them and get them to the vet. And we knew the longer we waited, the cats would be ones to suffer and it was now late Spring. After much strategic planning, Homer and I were able to humanely trap both cats and take the little male to the vet to be neutered and the female spayed and to have them checked for Feline Leukemia and get their vaccinations. I had gotten my bedroom COMPLETELY cat-proofed with all linens removed from my bed, all breakable objects taken out, litter boxes put in the shower stall, lots of food and water and nice warm nesting places for them to recover from their ordeal when we brought them home from the vet. We were so happy!! We had finally caught these two cuties and maybe we had a chance of giving them a home.
Then the vet called.
"Did you realize these are two MALE cats?" the vet asked. "What?? Um..uh..well, no." I answered thinking..."HAVE I LOST MY MIND???" Of course, cutting myself a break here, it's kinda difficult to spot little cat-balls from the window where we watch the cats and I just thought...well, one was so little and the other so protective that...well, what...are they BROTHERS? About the time I'm stumbling around and making a complete idiot of myself on the phone with the vet, Homer yells while looking out the window..."Honey...there's another cat out here. And it looks just like the two we just trapped." RUH? There are THREE CATS????
We thought we had been feeding two gray and white cats when there were actually three the whole time! (We discovered later after taking pictures of the cats and blowing them up poster size that Ember's tiny black freckle is 1 millionth of a centimeter lower under his left eye than the female's freckle. Hey, I know, we should have noticed that!)
So, after hanging up from the vet and my small but intense nervous breakdown, we put food out on the porch for the third cat who looked EXACTLY like the ones we just trapped and then went into town and picked up the two little boys who were, fortunately, very healthy, neutered, leukemia free and not at all happy to say the least.
We carried in the little males who we had now named Cloud and Ember since we had to have names for the cats for the vet's files and I had to have the vet erase "Samantha" from one of the files to my great embarrassment and the staff's huge amusement.
There followed a long, long, long week of Homer and me making sure Ember and Cloud were recovering from their surgery - or little snips - (males have it so dang easy), giving them quiet time, (I slept in the guest room to give them some quality time to recover) and with the two of us coming in and sitting with them, talking in gentle tones, telling them we loved them and they could live with us and be happy and THEY WERE HAVING NONE OF IT!! It would be easy to really make more of a joke out of this, but in reality, these poor cats were terrified since they had never had any human contact except for possibly being shot at in our rural neighborhood. After a week when we felt sure they were fully recovered, we opened the bedroom window and gave them their freedom. They jumped out the window and took off into the woods.
I was sad and worried they would never come back, that they would be hurt or shot at or had been traumatized into never coming near us again! They didn't come around for a few days, understandably so - we were the horrible people who put them in a cage, had their balls cut off, needles stuck in them and then locked them in a room; but the little female stayed on the porch like she was waiting for them. We had decided to go ahead and trap her when we noticed she was pregnant and far enough along that we felt it may be too traumatic to try to catch her at this stage. Sigh. We had been so involved with the other two cats, we didn't really realize she was so far along. Heck, we didn't even realize she existed!!
But....as the little female who we SO imaginatively and creatively named "Mama-Cat" kept coming to the porch every day, I began sitting with her each evening. This became a very special time for both of us. Homer was out of town for much of the summer caring for his mother and I was going through a hard time myself. Something about the time I spent on the porch with this sweet little pregnant female seemed to soothe us both. I would let myself see the world as she did, notice more of the scents in the air, crickets chirping, the hummingbirds darting overhead. A dog barking in the distance was something to fear. I sent her emotions to tell her that this was her safe place and we would protect her and her kittens. We sat in silence and it seemed that she got a tiny bit closer to me each evening. And one day she let me pet her! It took so long - weeks and weeks, so much patience - so many false starts - but at last - I touched her. Then the next day, I scratched her ears. Every now and then she'd remember she was supposed to be wild and would run away, but she always came back.
As of writing this in November, 2011, she has had her kittens and we are feeding her and getting ready to take her to the vet to be spayed and there just may be a chance of keeping her inside with us. We are also going to trap the kittens and have them spayed and neutered and possibly find homes for them or return them to our little colony.
In the meantime, while all this female bonding was going on, the two little boys were back. I had conceived a little fantasy of them in the days following their "great escape" into the woods. Ember looking at Cloud and saying something like, "You know...I'm feeling pretty good. Kind of, well, not so up-tight all the time." And Ember probably replying, "I don't really want to be fighting or looking for females. Do you think it could have something to do with THAT time in the house of the two-leggeds?" And all of sudden, both boys show up on the porch looking GOOD...I mean strutting around, tails in the air, stretching and prancing and well, happy. (I just didn't have the heart to tell them there was nothing hanging under their tails anymore...they don't really need to know this). And Cloud, who had been the little timid kitten always protected by his big brother was now the BIG MAN! What's so nice is they still cuddle together, play together and seem so much happier and healthier. We've figured out that Cloud and Ember must be Mama-Cat's kittens from two different litters. We've watched them run to her mewing like little kittens and when we feed them, the boys eat, but always step back and let her eat even if they haven't finished. We love our little family. And now all I have to do is call them when I bring the food out and they coming running.
So as of today, we have our feral-cat family sleeping on the porch at night in the wonderful chairs we've put out just for them, a straw-filled winter shelter built by Homer, all the food they can eat and a yard to play in. We have no money left, eat Ramen noodles, and have a third mortgage on the house, but hey...we have our priorities in order!
Update - November 6, 2011 - Mama-Cat has officially introduced us to her four little kittens! (See photos at top of page) We are working to get them all inside and then to the vet. Hopefully, we can find homes for all of them even though I am so in love with them all that if possible, we would like to keep Mama-Cat.
I'll keep you posted on the Mama-Cat capture coming up and what happens with the kittens. And hopefully, this may be the last of the kittens for awhile. I say that, but with the knowledge that people will continue to abandon their pets in neighborhoods, in the forests, and in the fields around here and all over the country without a thought or care as to what will happen to them. The economy is bad, but abandoned animals are epidemic right now and there ARE organizations who will take cats and dogs at no charge, no questions asked. All you have do is make a call.
As of Thanksgiving, 2011, we have all five cats inside the house, happy, playing, using the litter boxes, eating well and taking it easy. It wasn't easy...that's an understatement. From Tuesday morning, November 22 to Thursday evening, I spent almost every waking moment and two sleepless nights with this family. With the wonderful advice of Kelly with one of our local humane organizations, I was able to lure Mama-Cat and two kittens into a carrier where I had placed food and put them in what was once my bedroom and is now referred to as "The Kitty Room." However, one little gray kitten escaped into our guest room and after five hours of coaxing him, he finally walked into the kitty carrier and I was able to place him in the room with his family. Then came the hard part.
The smallest kitten, a precious little black and white girl, was the one I could not catch. All day Tuesday and Tuesday night I tried to get her into the carrier, succeeded twice only to have her leap out before I could shut the door. Then she howled and cried, this tiny little kitten, and would not come near me. A horrible thunderstorm hit so I finally went into the house around 2:00 am so she would at least come up on the porch. Kelly met me in Brevard to give me a kitten-trap Wednesday morning but after baiting it with tuna and staying up most of Wednesday night hoping to lure little one into the trap, she wouldn't go near it. However, two raccoons and a possum were very interested until I finally put food out for the kitten and put the trap inside for the night. We tried again Thursday morning with no luck. Thursday night I saw she had eaten, but she was under my bedroom window trying to climb the bricks to get to her Mama who was in the window. I ran and told Homer who immediately got an old shower door, put cloth on it and braced it against the window so she could climb up. He removed the screen and I closed the window just enough so I could hear her if she came back. I had no idea if she would come back since she was so scared. But I decided to just wait. About 45 minutes later, I was sitting on a chair across the window when I saw a tiny face appear and Mama-Cat jumped on the sill. Slowly and gently, I approached the window, moved Mama-Cat out of the way, opened the window and stepped back. AND SHE CAME IN!!!!! I closed the window and felt the biggest relief I have felt in years. She looked at me and I looked at her and I said, "You see, sweetheart, this is where I wanted you to be, inside with your family where it is safe." And I swear we had that magical second of understanding between us. For two days and two nights I had felt a golden thread that was attached between my heart and this little kitten and when she was finally inside, safe with her family, I felt WONDERFUL.
Now, during this entire ordeal, Homer was AMAZING, keeping Dottie away and quiet, picking up tons of cat litter and more litter boxes, cat food and giving me support when I burst into tears from exhaustion and lack of sleep. It was his ingenious idea that got her inside. I know some people might think that we are crazy, but I'm going to tell you, there is no greater joy than the bond between human beings and animals.
An interesting side-note. On Wednesday evening I heard the kitten crying in the woods and saw Cloud investigating. Do you that this sweet cat stayed with her until the kitten calmed down? These feral cats have brought so much joy to our lives. I can't imagine our lives without them.
Update as of December 14, 2011 - We are a happy family! On December 1, we were able to capture all the cats and take them to the vet (wonderful Brevard Animal Hospital) where they were checked for feline leukemia (negative), spayed and neutered. Mama-Cat was also given her rabies shot. We brought Mama-Cat home the next day to give her some quiet time to recover before bringing the kittens home and I ended up spending the night with her because she cried and howled so much. It was a magical time though. I had the windows open and we listened to owls hooting outside in the tree branches above and I comforted her all through the night - as she did me. The next day we got all the kittens and there was a joyous reunion. Over the next two weeks, all five cats recovered extremely well and seem very happy. Lots of progress is being made with all the cats, but the kittens are getting especially close. I play with them every day and can hold little Jack and Sam and have been able to pet Sally and Roo. Here are the kittens belo w:
Jack, Sally, Roo, and a group shot with Sam, Roo and Jack - Dec., 2011
Jack is definitely the most adoptable, very sweet, loving and friendly. We can hold him and pick him up anytime. He's a sweetie. Roo, Sally, and Sam all need more time to get used to people, but we are able to pet all of them every day. I first thought that we would release Mama-Cat at some point, but she is happy, very affectionate, playing like she's a kitten herself and purring happily whenever I go into her room. Through January, February and March, we had our routine of clean the room, scoop the poop, meal-time, play-time, nap-time. We played "Red Bug" every night (laser pointer) and I loved spending time with our cat-family.
April 29, 2012
So much has happened since my last entry! First of all, Jack was adopted into a wonderful home! I get periodic emails and photos from his new family showing how happy he is. Yay!! During our early Spring here in the South, Mama-Cat and the kittens seemed to live in the windows watching the birds, butterflies and bees. I knew we had to wait until the last freeze to let them out since the kittens didn't have their winter coats. Homer built a ramp and platform for the kitties to use when entering and exiting my bedroom with the Sure-Flap - an ingenious invention that allows only the micro-chipped cats to come in. In early April we took all the cats to the vet for their final check-ups, vaccinations and micro-chipping.
On April 19 we released Mama-Cat through the Sure-Flap and waited for the kittens to join her. We waited and waited, but they decided to take a nap. Mama-Cat wanted to come back in so we opened the front door to let her in, then opened the bedroom door and all the kittens came running out the bedroom door and through the front door. Oh, well. So much for the best laid plans...I think they had planned this in advance.
Homer had to go out of town that weekend so I boarded Dottie so I could concentrate on the cats. They all stayed out a full day and night. By the next day, Sam came to the front door crying, hissing and acting like a toddler who had missed his nap. I let him into the bedroom so he could have some quiet time. Four hours later I tip-toed back to check on him and he was sitting in the middle of the bed looking perky and mewing like a tiny, baby kitten. I picked him up and he purred and let me hold him. Then Sally came in for her nap and the two of them seemed perfectly content to stay inside.
Later that night, little Roo came crying so I let her in also. OMIGOD!!! When she saw Sam and Sally, she made sounds like a mountain lion gone berserk!! I actually looked out the window in case a mountain lion had decided to break in at just that moment. I had to give Roo a calming treat and left them all alone for the night. The next morning all three joined Mama-Cat on the porch, but after an hour, both Sam and Sally returned and went to their room. It was really interesting to see how each reacted to being outside. Roo eventually refused to come in and loved everything from chasing flies to the excitement of thunderstorms. Sam and Sally preferred staying inside with little forays out into the living room to play. (Note from the future: If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't have released them at all. That was a mistake. I think we were still seeing them as "feral" cats to be released back outside, rather than what they already knew themselves to be - our family.)
But we had to have our house back!! Poor Homer and Dottie were starting to look haunted and I began having auditory hallucinations in places like the grocery store when I thought I heard kittens mewing in the produce department!!
During this entire experience I was fortunate to meet Shannon Parris, Cat-Coordinator with the Transylvania Animal Alliance Group here in Brevard. For months Shannon helped in every way possible with encouragement, advice, working with us to place Jack at PetsMart, sending emails, etc. Homer and I call Shannon "The Cat Whisperer." I contacted Shannon about our situation and asked her for help in finding a home for Sam and Sally. Bless Shannon!! I believe she understood that we were starting to feel very stressed out! She went out of her way to allow space in her own home so she could foster Sam and Sally herself! And she had been fostering a mama-cat and kittens for months. But she made room and on April 28, I delivered Sam and Sally to their foster home!!! Shannon handled everything so beautifully - with compassion and professionalism. When I got home there was a sign on the door that Homer had made saying "Three Cheers for Super-Mom aka Cat-Mama." Whew!
The icing on the cake was on the morning of April 29th when little Roo - always the most feral of the litter - jumped in my lap, lay down and started purring as Mama-Cat sat at my feet. Wow.
Mama-Cat and Roo now have a wonderful kitty-porch complete with a huge kitty condo, shelters, sleep areas, a feeding area and lots of love from us.
***UPDATE - May 16, 2012
Shannon worked so very hard to get Sam and Sally adoptable, but they became so wild in their constant crying and howling that Shannon asked to return them to us. This is mainly because she was unable to do her job with all the noise. She works from home and Sam and Sally felt they should have 100% of her attention 24 hours a day! I was out of town when Shannon brought them back and have just reunited with these sweeties. Shannon made incredible progress with them and they are settled back in my room (which I'm keeping and sleeping in) for the next few days. We'll work with them to use the Sure-Flap to come in and out of the bedroom, but for now, I'm thoroughly enjoying cuddling, petting, and playing with them both. I did miss them!
This entire experience began with Ember and Cloud almost a year ago. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. This cat-family has taught me patience and perseverance, but most of all they have given me the gift of love and trust.
Update: October, 2012
Since the last update, our family and friends have had many serious issues to deal with, but throughout it all, the constant source of joy have been our cat family. How can a person feel bad when greeted at the door by seven amazing cats!! And so much progress has been made. Ember...yes...EMBER, Mr. Feral himself is now a fuzzy ball of cuddly cat wanting to be petted at every opportunity, even coming into the house to sit with us on occasion. His brother, Cloud, the most feral of our group, is now living on the porch with his family and getting closer and closer every day to letting me pet him. Even Papa-Cat is coming onto the porch and we now have one area for all the cats. Sam and Sally are adorable, sweet, loving and a total part of the family with Roo coming in the window some nights to spend the night in the bed with me. Sally, in particular, is one of the most special, loving, sweet and wise cats I've ever met. There's just something about her...she seems wiser than a little cat should be and is my little guide.
Who would have believed that I would wake up in the morning with Ember, Mama-Cat, Sam and Sally all snuggled in the covers with me?? And little Roo who prefers who own space, loves to sleep close with me when I sleep in the guest room sometimes. So much progress - it's hard to imagine that a year ago I couldn't even touch Ember! Little Cloud wants to come in, but hasn't been able to overcome his fears yet. However, one day I held my hand out to him and he leaned over and tapped my hand with his paw. Cool! We love our cat family and even Dottie is wanting to play with the cats, who haven't yet become "dog friendly." I love walking through the house with a line of cats following me. They are such a joy!
So much more progress has been made in the last year. We love this cat family more than ever, if that is possible. Cloud lets me pet him every day, especially after I faced down a coyote who was getting to close to his spot the porch! Ember, Mama-Cat, Roo, Sam and Sally are inside every night and everyone is healthy and happy!
GO HERE TO SEE LOTS MORE PHOTOS, INCLUDING THE GREAT CATIO INVENTION!
Unfortunately, we were very sad to find out that both the feral cats we trapped during the summer of 2015, Papa Cat and a black and white cat we had named Checkers had to be euthanized since they were infected with FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus). I put off trapping them too long and feel that Checkers probably infected Papa Cat even though it could have been another unneutered male cat. We will not make that mistake again. Two more unneutered male cats have shown up in the yard we are trapping them, taking them to the vet to be checked, vaccinated and neutered and then will release them. It's a tiny act that may help, at least, prevent disease and more kittens in our neighborhood. Update: The two male stray cats also tested positive for FIV and had to be euthanized. Since then we haven't seen any more strays, but I'm sure more will show up. If there had been any chance of finding homes for these cats, we would have done whatever we could to make that happen. However, all four of these strays were too feral to be domesticated.
Here's a list below of some great organizations here in Western North Carolina and Nationally who can help. And, please, if you read this and want to help, call your local humane organizations who are all overworked and need all the help, donations and volunteers possible. Or make a donation. Or, take a moment to make a call if you see an abandoned animal in your neighborhood or on the side of the road. I believe that when a person or animal in need crosses our path, it is our responsibility and obligation to help them. That is why we are here. Why else?
Rose Furney - Certified Animal Communicator www.facebook.com/AnimalCommunicatorRose or www.rosefurney.com Rose helps to open the line of communication between you and your animal companion in a way you can both understand, with love, mutual respect and understanding.
Western Carolina Regional Animal Hospital http://www.wcrah.com - - This is an incredible animal hospital and one that we have alot of experience with. They go above and beyond in professionalism, compassion and great care of their patients. We are fortunate to have them in our area.
Brevard Animal Hospital - http://www.brevardanimalhospital.com - Our wonderful veterinarians and their amazing staff!! We never could have rescued as many animals as we have without these compassionate people. Thank you!
http://www.taagwags.org/ - Transylvania County Animal Alliance - Wonderful humane organization!
http://www.wncanimalrescue.org - Charlie's Angels Animal Rescue - They do an incredible job helping animals throughout our area.
http://www.bwar.org - Brother Wolf Animal Rescue - Great organization. They worked tirelessly to save animals affected by the South Carolina flooding in October of 2015.
http://www.hsus.org - The Humane Society of the United States.
http://www.aspca.org - The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
http://www.expertise.com/home-and-garden/pet-safety-guide - Excellent guide for pet safety by Expertise.com.