Hands-on Education of Feral Cats
She showed up at the school during the construction and renovation of the school. She lived under the construction office, which was near the cafeteria. The students and construction workers would throw food to her. She wouldn't let anyone near her -- very feral -- though, I don't think she had always been feral. She was very independent and didn't want anyone touching her. The students sometimes talked about a pretty cat under the trailer. I saw her once in this location.
When the construction ended, she lost her "home". She started living in the storm drain in the parking lot.
I'm not sure when I gave her a name. I named her Callie. She was an absolutely beautiful calico, with. long-hair and short legs. She had a short tail because she lost half of it. One Friday, she showed up dragging half her tail. It was at that point I felt she needed to see a vet but catching her was going to be a problem. In a few days, the dragged part of the tail fell off. She appeared to be healthy.
I started feeding her and kept cat food in my car. I would feed her every morning before anyone else got to school. She knew the sound of my car and most every day, she was waiting for me when I got there in the morning. Other cats challenged her ownership of the cat food, so she would gobbled it up before I could get in my classroom. I often left the school late and she sometimes waited for more food. My friend, Janet, would feed her on the holidays. Sometimes, I would drive to school and feed her myself.
Another teacher, Jane, became interested in her. Jane also trapped, neutered, and returned (TNR) feral cats. We tried to capture this cat for about a month, but were not successful. She was one smart cat. Jane soon became retired and left me to try to continue the capture of Callie. Jane was going to take her to the vet and then release her on her farm if I ever caught her.
It took another two weeks. I gradually placed her food closer and closer to the trap. I put the food in the trap several days without tripping the latch because I wanted her to get use to climbing into the cage. The first day I placed the food in the back, I caught her. When the latch shut, she screamed, yowled, hissed and growled furiously. (It felt bad because I had deceived her and I wondered if she knew me by smell). I didn't want her to know who trapped her, so I approached the cage holding a blanket in front of me. I threw the blanket over the cage and picked it up. I called Jane to tell her I had her. Jane drove to Louisburg to pick her up.
Jane took Callie to the vet, had her spayed, and got her necessary shots. She provided a space in her house for Callie's healing.
And There is Trouble With the Plans
I got an email from Jane in a couple of weeks stating that there was a problem. She asked me if I would be willing to take Callie. She had done some more reading about feral cats and talked to an expert on feral cats. It seems that if they are released in a unfamiliar area, other feral cats will chase them away. Feral cats are very territorial. It is not safe to relocate them unless they are in a dangerous area. There are several other reasons for not relocating feral cats.
I told Jane I would take her but that I needed time to get ready for her. I purchased a very large crate for cats and place it in the small bedroom. At the time, I had two other cats. Callie needed to be isolated from them in the beginning.
Bringing Callie Home
I went to get Callie. If you have seen cartoons of cats flying threw the air with the claws out, you may think they are a jokes. NOPE! Callie could fly through the air with her nails out. She jumped high from wall to the wall and scraped her way down. It was frightening for Callie and us. We had a very difficult time corralling her into a cat travel carrier. Another upsetting experience for her.
I took her home. I lowered the cat carrier to the cat crate; into the crate she went. There was food, water and a a small litter box. (Jane said Callie used the litter box with no problems). I left Callie alone several hours so that she could get used to her surroundings. During the next few days I would visit her, reach my hand to touch her, change the litter box and water and feed her. I also would take a book into the room and read aloud to her.
A few days later, I opened the bedroom door to let the two other cats in to visit. At first she didn't like it and would hiss and spit. It eventually worked because she and Dupont became lasting buddies.
In a week, it was time for the next step. Once she no longer hissed at me and let me touch her, I opened the door of the crate and left the room.
Coming Out of Hiding
She would come out to eat and drink and use the litter box. I always talked to her and always said the phrase, "You come out to see your Mama."After waiting several days, I folded down the mattress of the futon so I could see her. I didn't touch her for a couple days. Then, I started laying across the mattress and touching her and rubbing her. The second day I heard her purr and felt her relaxed. Finally I was getting somewhere. She loved being petted!
In about the third week, I went in and peeped at her from under the futon and said"You come out to see your Mama" and she stretched to touch me. I touched her and she put her head down for me to touch her. It was a long stretch. I sat on the floor by the futon and read to her.
She Comes Out to Greet Me
In another few weeks, she peeked out from under the futon to see me when I entered the room. I sat further from the futon and repeated"You come out to see your Mama". One day, miraculously, she did come out to be petted; from then out she always came to greet me when I repeated the phrase.
From that point in the domestication, she gradually became one of the house cats. I could never leave her out when I left the house because sometimes she wouldn't go upstairs to use her litter box. (I had three litter boxes to clean and didn't want another -- besides, Dupont would use it). Though Dupont was sometimes irritated with Callie's neediness, he would cry for me to to upstairs to let Callie out. Callie never, ever liked to be picked up but she loved to sit in my lap or on my chest if I was lying on the sofa.
Why am I using the Past Tense?
Callie died, this week, of renal failure June 18, 2015. I miss you, baby, and you taught me so much about caring for feral cats. You were so loyal to me and loved being with me. Thanks for being so patient and loving. You always followed me around the house like puppy dog. Though it was irritating at times, I miss it.
If you read one of the articles, you know that it said to return the feral cats to their environment. So why didn't Jane and I put the cat back on the Louisburg campus? Callie's home was a storm drain and a parking lot. We felt it to be a dangerous environment.
"Feral Cat Relocation." Louisiana SPCA, n.d. Web. 19 June 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.la-spca.org%2Fdocument.doc%3Fid%3D22>.
"Relocation." Neighborhood Cats /. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 June 2015. <http://www.neighborhoodcats.org/HOW_TO_RELOCATION>.
"Why Trap-Neuter-Return Feral Cats: The Case for TNR." Why Trap-Neuter-Return Feral Cats? The Case for TNR. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 June 2015. <http://www.alleycat.org/casefortnr>.