Right around the time we made the decision to move to Detroit, a Detroit dog rescue I’ve followed for many years posted a story about rescuing a cat. A kitten, stuck in the tree, had become so cold and dehydrated it had passed out and fallen–landing on the street right in front of a car. The driver, unsure what to do, called the dog rescue, and even though they don’t rescue cats, they couldn’t resist kittens falling out of trees any more than I could. They retrieved the kitten and took her to the vet (she was fine).
I couldn’t get that image out of my mind: Detroit, a city where kittens might literally fall out of trees into my arms.
There’s been nothing that dramatic (thankfully), but my image of Detroit as a city with a lot of cats wasn’t wrong. Of course our neighborhood cats found me out right away and knew exactly what to do: stare at the window until the person comes out with food.
There was a summer of this:
And a lot of this face too:
An Internet rabbit hole about feral cats in Detroit turned up a Humane Society program where a couple of hours of online training leads to official certification as a feral cat colony caretaker. I had my certification in hand the day I found out about the training! Mostly what that means is that you commit to trapping, neutering, and releasing your community cats and providing food, water, and shelter for them. The Humane Society offers free TNR for its certified caretakers.
We’ve rescued and found homes for five cats in our colony as well.
The cats with more curiosity than fear turn out to be tamable.
Sasha and Minka were soon officially our fosters, living inside, becoming indoor cats. It took several months to find the right home for them, but this bonded pair has now been adopted together.
Zeke was my favorite, a very territorial male who was a terror to other cats but the sweetest, gentlest lovebug with people.
He knew exactly what humans were for.
And also providing comfy beds:
He went to the shelter for medical attention after a cat bite abscessed. After testing positive for FIV, he was placed in a foster for FIV cats to await adoption.
My mother took a chance on silly Inky Pinky:
Who is far more stable and calm now that she’s an indoor cat with plenty of cat friends to keep her busy.
A couple of days after I wrote about Ratty Tabby, this photo came across my Facebook feed for a fundraiser for the cat cafe/shelter where she briefly stayed, and I nearly cried to see her looking so pretty and happy and very nearly adopted.
We now have just six ferals that we care for. Here is Clothilde, so skittish that she runs if she sees a person looking at her from the window. She began bringing her kittens, Blueberry and Aubergine, shortly after she discovered the porch feeding station. She would park them on a chair while she hunted in the evening and then come to fetch them when she was done. The kittens are now nearly grown, and because we weren’t able to trap her yet, Clothilde is about to have more kittens–possibly in our garage, possibly last night.
We also have Chloe-Elmo, who seems to be related to Clothilde (they are both long-haired, which is apparently rare in ferals), and Blackberry and Boysenberry, a mother-kitten pair who are absolutely terrified of people but who play so delightfully together when they think no one is watching. One of my favorite memories from this winter was watching them outside during a snowstorm, ambushing, chasing, and pouncing on each other over and around and behind snowdrifts.
Our next task is to get all of the females trapped and spayed so that we can stop the cycle of kittens, and then perhaps I will start working with Blueberry and Aubergine, who, probably to Clothilde’s extreme disappointment, both have slightly more curiosity than fear and may be able to be tamed and rescued.
I guess feral cat caretaking is also a pandemic hobby that I will keep long after the pandemic is over.
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