Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Feral Family Out Front

People are always asking how many cats we have... We sometimes don't know how to answer that question. We've got 9 inside the house - I had seven before our wedding last June, and added Melinda's two from Illinois. They've been documented here before, and though there were some tough times last summer when I brought up two from Arizona to intrude into the Illinois territory, they are all getting along surprisingly well here in Arizona.

The reason we sometimes don't know how to handle what seems a simple question is that there are three feral cats out in front of the house (outside our "catproof" fence), that we feed on a daily basis. Part of pet ownership responsibility is that once you start feeding animals, you can't arbitrarily stop, and that extends to our regular "wild" cats. Almost all of my 7 cats started out as walkups to the front of the house, so the ferals have the potential of moving inside at some point. In fact, I've got several calls in to my vet to find out the next dates they will spay/neuter ferals. Before exposing our inside cats to any new ones, they need to be neutered and assured disease-free. Here are the current regulars:

This is Scruffy. He first showed up about a year ago before the summer move to Illinois. He was in such poor shape - barely more than skin and bones. I put off taking him to the vet thinking he would likely get put out of his misery! He was very shy and untouchable, but he came around for regular feedings (which continue with the cat/house sitter when we're not here), and while he has filled out some, he is covered with matted fur and walks like he is old and arthritic. I'm pretty sure it is just so painful to move with the mats, so the vet has agreed to a shave as well as a neuter job when the time comes. He has such pretty green eyes, and after regular food and water, tolerates petting at feeding time, away from the mats, anyway. He is an insatiable eater and I suspect he likely has parasites and a skin condition, as well as the coat issues. I'm always careful to wash my hands after handling him, but I have high hopes for his integration.

Yellow Cat is our "newest" feral. While he has been a regular through the Winter and Spring, he was only seen rarely before then. He appears pretty healthy, though always seems to have a mournful or worried look on his face. Like Scruffy he started out extremely shy, but with regular feeding he better tolerates human contact - with a bowl of food in your hand, he allows his head to be scratched, but that is about the extent he permits at the moment.

We call this black cat "Hootie2". He appears a virtual clone of our inside cat Hootie. He has been around for a long time - in fact, I'm pretty sure he is a feral that Vicki and I trapped and had neutered about 7 years ago. He may well be a close relative of Hootie - besides their exact appearance (color and size), many of their mannerisms are also the same. While far from being tame, he also allows his head to be scratched, and also rolls on his back as illustrated here - showing (I believe) that he trusts us. He is healthy as a horse, so far as I can see, and like Hootie is one muscular little dude.

So that is our "outdoor" family. So do we have 12 cats or 9? It makes little difference - we accepted them a long time ago by feeding them. Taking the next step by moving them inside will certainly extend their life span (regular vet care) and make them safer (from traffic and roaming dogs and coyotes). We've never had 12 cats here before, but perhaps we already do!

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