The Great Cat Caper, Shelter Edition
Getting the Cats and Building the Shelter:
We have a big feral cat population here in our neighborhood, or I should say more accurately we DID have a problem number of cats last year. Originally there were three kittens dropped off by some inconsiderate person in our front yards. They disappeared for a year or so, then all came back. A year ago there were a lot of kittens here, but the APL (Animal Protective League) came and collected all of the adult cats and took them away to be spayed or neutered. The option to have them return, or to have the APL find homes for them, was ours. Many of the kittens were put up for adoption, but most of the adult cats came back here to “the compound” to live in their original colonies.
Now I have between eight and twelve cats that live outside, and in the winter we create a warm and safe shelter for them located on my back deck. The neighbors also maintain a home for a dozen or so cats…although I believe that the actual population is approximatel 12-15 cats that live here between us. We count them at feeding time, and some of the cats are known double-dippers when it comes to having meals…they dine at either or both places. I have between four and 13 cats here every day.
In the summer months the cats more or less hang out in the yards, on swings, lawn furniture, or here and there in the wooded and the grassy areas. Sometimes they camp out and I don’t see certain ones for days. Other times there are “extras” or visiting cats, who live elsewhere.
The shelter consists (this year) of a picnic table, some plywood sheets, and several tarps. Under the table are the three tub-shelters which the APL woman made, and are lined with Styrofoam and straw…they have a round pipe entrance to each. Right now the large tarps are in temporary position, needing tying-down and otherwise attaching to the railings. The tarps will soon be fixed in such a way as to create a tent apparatus tied to some umbrella stands. Then we will bring up some un-cut bales of straw to place around the perimeter, and provide warmth and protection from the wind.
I have a big contraption that serves as a feeding-station, which I can reach from the sliding door leading into the house. There is a feeding pan, and a water dish…which has to have the ice removed a few times a day when the weather gets colder.
Technically I had planned to build (or have built) a proper roof for the deck, but we ran out of money for such projects again, and the ceiling is open.
Part Two of the Great Cat Caper:
Now here is where I say that I have six cats that live inside my house. No one has to tell me that is TOO MANY, but right now it is a necessary number. Tinkerbell, the crotchety old lady cat is the oldest and the original survivor of our first cat population. I call her Mrs. Tinky, because it is a more appropriate name for her in my opinion. Tink originally lived with my granddaughter, who moved to California briefly about ten years ago and left the cat here with me. Tink has never forgotten that outrage, and she has been my cat ever since.
There is a huge Maine Coon, long-haired black male cat who I saved from a bad end when I adopted him from the barn. Moby had been abandoned, a scraggly looking skinny creature, and I agreed to my family that if he responded when I visited the barn the following morning I would take him to the veterinarian. True to form, in answer to my call Moby came out from the back of th barn looking like something from the Black Lagoon, with spider webs and straw and leaves hanging from his fur. He went to the vet for his shots and exam, and she predicted that “the other cats might want to be nice to him, because he’s going to be a Big Boy.” Moby is now about fourteen years old.
A few years later, about nine years, my grand-daughter (the same one) brought an Easter basket with four kittens in it…each one cuter than the other…and of course I fell in love with two of them. Those kittens hardly looked like they were the same litter, although they did have the same mother. We named “the kittens” Toby and Pearl. Toby a nice tabby, Pearl a small all-black short-haired cat.
Two winters ago, when it was sub-zero temperatures, a beautiful calico cat which I had named Sister, came into the house when I opened the door to put out food for the outside cats…and refused to leave. Sister is four or five.
Early this year, when it was warn enough to dismantle one of the two shelters on my deck, I had it partly unwrapped when I discovered two very tiny kittens in the straw. Their mother is Peggy, a black and white short-haired cat, very small. She had had kittens the year before, and they had died before they could walk. The little kittens in the straw remained in their nest until Peggy brought them out, and only then I continued with the demolition of the shelter.
One of the kittens, a Calico, had the disorder known as “wobbling kitten” which affects young cats to varying degrees.
The Calico could barely walk, and I had been toying with the idea of taking her in. Her sister…who I named Baby…was able to climb off of the deck and run around in the flower beds, but able to climb back up into the protected deck area. The Calico could “swim” its way to getting off the deck, but could not get up again. Baby could walk upright, with a strange gait, but was obviously not able-bodied. The Calico disappeared one night, and I brought Baby into the house.
So, Baby makes six cats. Baby can walk and run, but frequently falls over and since she can’t control her movements from her brain, she often crashes into things. She is adorable, very friendly and happy, and even the other cats like her or at least tolerate her. Baby leaps up onto the furniture and plops down on Mrs. Tinky…who would scream bloody murder if it was one of the other cats. Mrs. Tinky hates kittens, but makes an exception for Baby.