Because we are getting older and we both have some health problems, since 2014 we’ve had one indoor cat at a time in our home in the woods. When Editor Bud passed in 2017 we took in Ultraviolet, and when she too departed for the Rainbow Bridge the next year, our plan was to take in another sweet older kitty. But a friend found 10-month old, semi-feral Franklin on the streets, couldn’t keep him, and thought of us. He’s now about 2 years old.
We were also feeding one ear-tipped feral at my late Mom’s house in town, Jack, who had been there since about 2014. I think this husky fellow is a different Jack actually, with shorter fur, but the hubs thinks he’s the same cat. I’m happier when he stays in the back yard. One day I saw Jack climb the back fence and leap down on the other side. Jack, I said inwardly, don’t go out there. They may not love you like we do. Jack is unfriendly but tolerates our presence somewhat. Any ferals around can go also under the house, or use a shelter the hubs built for them.
A lot goes on cat-wise that we don’t see. And last year a black-and-white cat began showing up occasionally. I named this kitty Groucho.
Groucho took to dining with Jack and hanging out with him in the same sunny, grassy spots, but wanted nothing to do with us. We saw this new kitty off and on until one day in September, when we saw that Groucho’s sides were bulging. We knew then the name should have been Groucha, but I wasn’t inclined to change it by that time. We began to see her more often. She soon slimmed down again and we knew she had kittens somewhere.
We planned to tame the kittens and place them in good homes. According to my reading you really need to start handling kittens between the ages of two to six weeks to socialize them. That would have meant crawling under the house to find them (not really appealing, or possible), and maybe spooking Groucho into moving them somewhere else. Other nearby houses were even closer to roads, so they’d be in more danger from traffic, and we wouldn’t be able to interact with them. Even if Mom G. kept the family with us, this standoffish feral cat might not tolerate us daring to pet and scritch her kittens in the yard. The best chance we had for friendly kittens was to catch them fairly early and raise them in the rooms of the house we retain as a work and storage area. Even though current advice says it’s ideal to leave the kittens with the mom for 8 to 12 weeks, if we did that the kittens would likely be feral and unadoptable.
About mid-October when the kittens were about 4 or 5 weeks, the hubs caught the first two. I visited after the annual arts festival and took this cell phone picture.
Both were boys. The black one was the boldest and friendliest. The other one was fluffier and shyer; I named him Lynx. We’d come around to the idea that we might keep one of the kittens, and that would likely be the black one since we so love black cats. But seeing the two together, on that day we thought we’d keep both of these first two. Lynx needs his brother, I said. A friend caught the 3rd kitten about a week later, and after another week or so, the hubs caught the other two, for a total of 5 kittens. All the kittens would climb up towards his lap and that first black one he’d caught would slap at the other kittens to keep them away, taking charge of all ascending siblings. So he named that kitten Boss.
Groucho was later spayed with the help of a local Spay-Neuter program and our great vets. We’d been feeding her in the unset trap and the first time we set it, she walked right in.
This magnificent feral fellow showed himself after a few months. We assumed he was male due to his general stockiness. No telling how long he’d been lurking around. We declared him the father of the kittens, and I named him Sasquatch. He looks like he has Maine Coon, Norwegian Forest Cat, and/or Siberian Forest Cat ancestry. Groucho hangs out with him and he gets along fine with Jack, too. But he scampers away when we humans approach. If I can catch him snoozing in the sun, I can get a picture.
Then recently, this ragged guy appeared in the yard, missing some fur from tomcat fights, no doubt. Again we figure he’s a boy since he’s built like a tank. At first I called him Bruiser, and the hubs later came up with Brutus and then Bluto. He’s actually not such a tough guy – he blinked at me one day – though he’s mostly avoids us and is a definite feral. And, since I’ve read that kittens in the same litter can have different fathers, he’s also a possible dad cat candidate. Notice the shape of his face as that may be important in a later post when I discuss paternity. Some of his fur is growing back in and he’s quite handsome. He gets along well with the other ferals.
Boss is the bright-eyed kitten who will really look at you and try to engage with you.
(This is a work and storage room that has been thoroughly churned up by kittens.)
Hmmm, whatever made me name him Lynx? LOL)
I’m pretty sure Lynx is the son of Sasquatch. Unless there’s a . . . lynx out there on the city streets . . . um, no. But it’s fascinating to me to try to figure out if these widely varied kittens all have the same dad, or not – more kitten pictures to follow in a later post.
Franklin’s still not pleased with the Othercat, our late Minx, on the cover of my book Catwoods, Stories and Studies of Our Feline Companions.
Now we have four ferals in the yard to feed, and five growing kittens to support, and Franklin. So, if you’d like, please send for a copy of my book!
I’ll be back as soon as I can with more pictures. Still having to dance around getting photo editing done in spurts while we coddle finicky computer programs that don’t get along . . .