Feral Cats Foil Sensible Plans, Part 1

Franklin: settled, suave, and smug

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.

Jack the Feral

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.

Groucho arrives

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 lounges

Jack in repose

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.

Feral cuties about 4 – 5 weeks of age

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.

Sasquatch the splendid beast

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.

Bluto or Brutus

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 at about a month and a half

Boss is the bright-eyed kitten who will really look at you and try to engage with you.

Lynx at around 5 or 6 months

(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 still won’t look at my Catwoods page on Borgo Publishing

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 . . .

About Leah

I'm Leah T. Alford, a writer fascinated by the natural world and animals, especially cats.
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70 Responses to Feral Cats Foil Sensible Plans, Part 1

  1. Two word. Proper Sweeties! Paws Up! Ashraf

  2. DS Levy says:

    OMG, these kitties are adorable! Of course, so is Franklin 😽🤗

  3. How lucky those kittens are to have been caught and pet-ified. And spaying Groucho was a huge favor to her too! Sasquatch is beautiful and I love the name.

    • Catwoods says:

      Thanks Indulgedfurries, I appreciate your kind and encouraging words! I think Sasquatch is an impressive cat too! We had a Yeti in the past, so we went with another version this time.

  4. pdlyons says:

    as cats are so much heart i find them to be impossible to resist no matter what.. Thank you for sharing your experiences and for your kindness to them all!

  5. What a lovely story of all the kitties, Leah and Franklin. We had to MOL about the kitty who walked up on the trousers to the lap, it reminded Granny on her Gismo, who did that too. It’s wonderful to have them all around, we don’t have ferals around, but sure would love to😺Clean Pawkisses for a Happy Sunday. Stay Safe Healthy and Yourselfie🙏🐾😽💞

    • Catwoods says:

      I’m so happy you enjoyed the stories of ferals and kittens, Little Binky and Granny! I bet Gismo was a cutie! I do enjoy seeing the ferals around, and I hope they will stay with us where they are safe and well-fed. Hugs, purrs, and head bonks for safe and happy days ahead!

  6. Charlee: “That’s how we cats do it.”
    Chaplin: “Yep, bending the human world to our agendas is our specialty!”

  7. Candace says:

    Oh, gosh, Leah. Thank you for all you do for those kitties in your area. I know the feeling of one after the other after the other showing up until you feel overwhelmed. We only have 6 outdoor kitties and one indoor kitty right now, the lowest we’ve been in decades but I hope that continues…although it’s kitten season now and I see a lot of cats in the ‘hood. Fortunately, there are a few other people around here who feed and neuter them, too, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time. We’ve tried to get a couple of our outdoor kitties to want to be indoor kitties but they just like to drop in for a quick visit and get back outside to the 100+ degree temps, for some reason. All your kitties are cute, good luck with all of them.

    • Catwoods says:

      Thanks so much Candace, we are going to need some luck for sure! Good for you taking care of so many kitties! I am really hoping we don’t get an increase of cats and/or kittens this spring because it would be hard to take care of even more. There may be others in the immediate area who feed and TNR ferals, although one feeder did move away last summer. In the future we might try to see if any of the outside ones will come in, but they are all pretty shy.

  8. davidstone1313 says:

    The most fascinating creatures to watch. In some ways that’s because they live so close to us and are less likely to be follow the leader conformists like dogs are. The develop highly individual characteristic without much interference. If they get a kick out of something, they just keep doing it and are eager as all smart animals are to have stimulating experiences.

    • Catwoods says:

      Wow David, that is such a great description of cat nature, so true! I have your book and am looking forward to reading it, I’ve just been too tired at night lately to read like I used to and have read no books for several months. Must re-arrange schedule.

  9. Pam Lazos says:

    My two cats who came from a farm when we went to buy a Christmas tree we think are from the same mother, but two different litters. Where would we be without our babies, Leah? xo

  10. Brian says:

    I sure enjoyed reading about your ferals, they are all so very special. We have a family of 11 ferals we take care of here and they really are family to us.

    • Catwoods says:

      Thank you so much, I’m happy you enjoyed the story. Good for you for taking care of the feral kitties! They are really great cats and I love ’em too and I hope the ones we have will stay with us.

    • Lauren says:

      My Paladin was feral until we had him neutered. My Effie welcomed him into our home and into Effieland, an 1800 square foot fenced and gated garden.

      • Catwoods says:

        That’s a really great arrangement for Effie and Paladin, Lauren. We’ve had some ferals become real sweeties and others who stayed aloof. That’s ok, I’ll still take care of ’em on their terms.

  11. chattykerry says:

    I love your dedication to the kitties, Leah! Since Toffee passed away I have only seen one cat in our yard who was a perfectly healthy visitor. We are having fun with the baby squirrels and wood rats. I found a black vulture in my front yard this week…

    • Catwoods says:

      Thanks Kerry, I appreciate it! I know you must miss Toffee. Having baby squirrels and wood rats around must be enjoyable too. I haven’t seen any vultures at ground level recently, but I do see them soaring occasionally.

      • chattykerry says:

        We do miss Toffee, Leah, but my anxiety would have been unbearable looking after a sick cat in a pandemic so we are glad she died before this. All our kitties had a lovely, long life although rescued. K x

        • Catwoods says:

          I understand Kerry, I have lots of anxiety trying to get everything done in this pandemic. I’m much busier than I was before. Just getting enough supplies to run the household is at times a challenge.

          • Lauren says:

            My Paladin began life as a feral, and he would not come in the house. Having him neutered made all the difference. He loves us and we love him, and he is a homebody. He spends time in our home and in Effieland, the fenced 1,800 square foot garden. They both love it, and it keeps them from roaming. Sometimes they are there together and sometimes one is in Effieland and the other is in the house.

            • Catwoods says:

              I remember reading about Paladin and Effie! That sounds ideal Lauren, and I hope one day we’ll have an arrangement like that for our ferals. I have seen some ferals that really sweetened up, and others that never did. I still love ’em, even when they stay completely unapproachable.

  12. niasunset says:

    They are so lovely and you are so nice. Thank you, Love, nia

    • Catwoods says:

      I’m happy you enjoyed them, Nia! I find them to be so much fun to be around, myself. All the best and much love to you from Franklin and me!

  13. cat9984 says:

    What you’re doing is very impressive. Will Franklin meet te kittens eventually?

    • Catwoods says:

      Thanks so much cat9.984! Franklin will meet the kittens in the future. It will take some re-arranging and we might need to add another room on the house, lol. Frankie’s very territorial so it will be a long, slow introduction. In the long run I think it will be good for him to have other young cats to run around with.

  14. Lavinia Ross says:

    That is quite the cast of characters, Leah! They are all precious!

  15. iamthesunking says:

    Lovely photos! Sasquatch looks MASSIVE. How much does he weigh, if it’s not too rude to ask?

    • Catwoods says:

      Thanks iamthesunking, I’m glad you liked the photos. LOL Sasquatch may not mind revealing his weight but so far we haven’t gotten close enough to dream of weighing him. You can tell he must be a big cat (although some of his bulk is fluff), but you can see how huge his paws are in the picture.

  16. Mee-yow WOW!! So many hansum furabuluss catss there Miss Leah an Franklin!
    Yore goin have yore pawss full with 4 adultss an 5 wee kitss! Wee wish you lots off Guud Luck an may $moneyss$ fall from THE Sky to help you all.
    Deer Brutus wee wishess wee cuud bring you here….hee needss sum Tee El Cee…
    An Franklin do not wurry ’bout who’se face is on THE book….YORE Numero Uno (#1) inn Miss Leah’ss ❤ heart ❤
    **purrss** BellaDharma

    • Catwoods says:

      The kitties and I thank you BellaDharma, we appreciate your kind words! We do have a lot of kitties here, but it really makes me happy to have them. I’m sure Brutus/Bluto appreciates your TLC from afar, we have to deliver TLC from a distance too. He does look better now, that was his first picture I posted above. I don’t have many of him since he is shy about showing himself. His fur is growing back, although slowly, and regular chow has made his whole coat look better. Franklin is really territorial and so always sends hisses to other cats. He’s full of his handsome self and you are right, he does have my heart. Purrs and Meows! ❤

  17. pollymorse says:

    I think they are all stunning kitties. God bless you for taking such good care of them!

  18. I am so glad to know that you make your best endeavor to help these cats around your mother’s house that they utilize as resting and lounging place. They all are proper sweeties and my heart goes for each of them. I just hope they can stay there without issues and you can continue to feed them so that they remain healthy. Surrounding with many cats is something that to me is sheer joy and immense happiness. Not many people can connect to that and I am pleased that you have such a gifted heart to connect to wildlife in general and cats in particular. Finally I am blessed to have friend like you. Meow Meow! Ashraf

    • Catwoods says:

      Thanks Ashraf, we do enjoy being around the kitties, which is good since they are here! If anything should change in our circumstances we will try to get assistance from other local feral colony care-takers and/or move the ferals to our other location. I am pleased also to have a friend like you as you too take good care of your kitties and you advocate for wildlife world-wide. Many Meows to you! Leah

  19. No matter how hard you try to keep it down to one, the universe just keeps sending kitties ❤

    • Catwoods says:

      Is that ever true, Rosie! Lots of spaying and neutering and feral colony care-taking goes on around here but there are always a few they missed! Meows! ❤

  20. Lynx is adorable (they all are, but particularly him). 🙂

  21. cathyhumphries@comcast.net says:

    I loved this post Leah. As always, thanks for sharing.I have to say, the photo of Sasquatch is impressive. He is one handsome guy! Hope all is well with y’all

    • Catwoods says:

      Thanks so much Cat, I’m happy you enjoyed the post! I was kind of stunned when I first saw Sasquatch myself! We’re getting along fairly okay, with occasional setbacks. Hoping everything’s going good for y’all too!

  22. Awww, such beauties all of them!

    Our very first cat when we got married was adopted at about age seven…so he came with a name: Groucho! First time ever I have heard another cat with the same name. Likely he got called that on account of his birthday was Oct 2. He lived with us for about another 11 years, and was a good ‘grand-daddy-cat’ to three kittens over the years.

    • Catwoods says:

      That is so cool that you also had a kitty named Groucho! He sounds like a sweet kitty too! The cats and I thank you for your kind words about them!

  23. Ive four at home and i feel the ferals at work. I cant imagine my life without them. 🤗

  24. Timothy Price says:

    What a great post. All those memories of cool cats. Franklin knows how to play it cool.

    • Catwoods says:

      Thank you Tim I am happy you like it! Lots of cool cats in our past and future for sure. Franklin is indeed the coolest of them all!

  25. 15andmeowing says:

    My heart breaks for all these homeless cats. God bless you and your husband for taking care of them.I will buy your book right now, I have been meaning to for a while. XO

    • Catwoods says:

      Ellen thank you so much for your kind words and for caring about the little feral and stray kitties. And for getting my book! Lots of people are TNRing feral kitties around town, homing any friendlies they can and feeding the feral colonies. But somehow more kitties keep turning up in need of food and care.

  26. Wonderful work you are doing with the ferals! The photos are great, your words are heart-warming.

  27. Bernadette says:

    What a beautiful feral colony! There is a way to foster kittens with a feral mom, but it’s complicated. They seem to have turned out fine, and mom is spayed, what could be better? Yes, often each kitten in the litter has a different father–nature plans it that way for future breeding because cats tend to live in colonies, if too many cats have the same parents and interbreed it gets messy, so they try to mix up the genetics intentionally. Bluto may have been a socialized cat who was never neutered and is under control of his testosterone. Neutering and a little time to let go of the wild life often proves these guys to be really sweet socialized cats. If the house is unoccupied and someone feeds there, I’m sure the ferals think it’s like kitty heaven!

    • Catwoods says:

      The kitties all thank you Bernadette! I think they are all so beautiful too! That certainly makes sense about different fathers for the kittens to ensure a variety of genes in a colony. Bluto may well be a formerly socialized cat, though he’s still fairly shy. Over the years both our household and my late Mom’s brought various ferals inside to live, some became snuggly and some remained aloof. A friend lives in the front of the house with Shelley the cat, but the back rooms where the kittens live are the hubs’ work rooms. He goes every day to work on the house, socialize kittens, and make sure all cats are fed. (Our state’s shut-down specs allow travel to take food to humans and/or animals.) I go frequently. The ferals have a large back yard and it has cover for them, so if we don’t see them all we usually find they emerge from various hidden spots. Good hiding places may be one reason we are the popular spot for the local ferals to settle in.

  28. Tanya says:

    I enjoy all the wonderful cat stories. Have a great week! 🙂

  29. John says:

    Wonderful cat photography! Groucho really does have a grouchy look! 🥰😻

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