Every so often when I write about feral cats someone will tell me about their experience. And sometimes it seems that cats will deliberately go home hunting. Jaye, for example, commented on one of my posts and told me how a feral male came around before he had his female pet fixed.
“I began feeding him, and he looked horrible. Entire chunks of hide were missing, and skinny with breathing problems. After about a year, he now rubs against me, follows me everywhere i go like a dog, but doesn’t like to be in long, he get’s scared. So I keep her inside, and he has a place in my heat vent to stay warm. I love this once wild cat!”
As I have said before, I see feral cats as one end of a continuum with tame cats at the other end. And depending on the circumstances those cats had to deal with, they may be anywhere along that continuum.
I contacted Jaye again for permission to quote him and he told me more.
“This cat is still around, and now he is coming inside the house and staying for periods of time. He still prefers to go out, so I have him a place setup under the house.
He has now gotten a little over weight, and he is so old, he doesn’t even try to fight with the neighbor’s Tomcat anymore. He has been a great joy to me, and I am glad I could bring quality to his life. If you had seen what he looked like when he first wandered up, he looked like he was going to die.
His breathing is still bad, must be something he’s had all his life. You can hear him breathing like he is stopped up with snot, and he always sneezes and coughs. But his health is really improved. His fur is now full, and shiny, vs chunks of hide ripped off and patches of hair missing. he is also thick now, vs skin and bones.
He still follows me everywhere I go, and when he is around me, he wants to lay at my feet always! he always stays at my feet, and he gets a little nervous if I pick him up. But we are good friends now and he will live to die an old cat without suffering. Glad I could help him.”
I didn’t think too much of a male cat coming round a female in heat. But then when I started advertising my ebook “Sharing Your Home with Feral Cats” Curtiss wrote to tell me about his feral cat.
“Great Information, Mori. I can relate. It came in through the doggy door. It was just a streak in the night looking for a bit of food from the doggy bowl. Soon it gave up going back outside in favor of one of the many hiding places in my workroom. I gave up and put out a bowl of food and a box. I had a new roommate. It was months before I was allowed to pet her. Your book would have been a big help.
Ours has been a relationship that was slow to develop but rich on returns. Once Berrrrty figured out the real purpose for hands, besides opening the food box, things have gone well. She still won’t tolerate the presence of anyone else in the room but we have developed a friendship that I hope will last for years.
We are getting along fine. It was funny to watch her pet me when I wasn’t allowed to use my hands. She lets me move her across the bed but I don’t think she is ready to be picked up. I worry because there is a house move in our future… As for ignoring her, I don’t think I ever had a chance.”
In this instance the cat definitely made her choice, possibly because she was pregnant and wanted a safe place to give birth. Unfortunately, Curtiss advised that the litter was stillborn. But his story started me thinking and remembering what some friends had told me.
A cat showed up one night outside the house of Gary and Judy. One of them opened the door and invited her in. She didn’t budge. Then the other opened the door and invited her in. Still no go. But when both came to the door and invited her, she accepted the invitation. By the time I met her Bea the cat was part of the family, often traveling in the car with Gary and Judy.
There was a less happy incident too. My friend Daphne had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. She had six cats and lived in a trailer park. One of those cats, Scout, had just arrived one day deciding apparently that he preferred her place to his old one. The owner didn’t care so Scout stayed with Daphne.
As her illness progressed Daphne noted that the head butts and physical contacts with the cats were becoming less frequent. Like dogs, the cats could smell the cancer. She also said that Scout was on the move again, looking for a new home. (Of course he didn’t know that Daphne had arranged for someone to take over care of the cats).
What strikes me about all of these incidents is that it appears that the cats made some deliberate decisions about where they wanted to live. We humans tend to see homeless cats as lost and abandoned and no doubt a lot of them are. But I think we need to recognize as well that they will sometimes make their own choices and go hunting for a home that suits them.
This post has been illustrated with feral cats I have known and rescued.