Feral Cat Colony Caretaker: Slice of Life #sol21 26/31

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.

Minka waits for breakfast

There was a summer of this:

Oliver watches Sasha.

And this:

Chipotle and Sasha

And a lot of this face too:

Chipotle doesn’t like ferals on his porch

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.







24 responses to “Feral Cat Colony Caretaker: Slice of Life #sol21 26/31”

  1. Trina Avatar

    It’s probably a really good thing that I don’t live near you…I know I would be so tempted to rescue more cats. Detroit is lucky to have you as a feral cat colony caretaker!!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      There’s a reason my mom has 5 cats, and it’s definitely not because she originally wanted 5 cats lol! It’s so tempting to rescue MORE! We are capped at 6 right now because Chipotle just can’t handle any new cats, though I am soooo tempted by the requests to foster mama cats and their kittens. KITTENS!!!

      1. Trina Avatar

        Ha ha. I am seriously considering adopting two kittens this summer…

  2. Katie Diez Avatar
    Katie Diez

    I have never heard of this before and it sounds so cool. Your love for cats (both your own and ones in need of help and love) is so evident. The photos add a way for someone who does not have pets (that would be me) to connect to this piece.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I always like a photo-heavy slice especially if it’s about cats! But of course I would!!

  3. arjeha Avatar

    I agree with Trina, Detroit is lucky to have you. More importantly, the cats are lucky to have someone so caring. Love all of the puctures.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It will be interesting to see what happens to the colony this summer. I just hope we can get all of the cats spayed and neutered.

  4. terierrol Avatar

    That is not such a bad habit to have acquired from the pandemic. I am sure Detroit thanks you and I thank you for your kindness and all the great stories and pictures.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Cats are endlessly fascinating to me, and Detroit certainly provides plenty of fodder for my curiosity!

  5. Juliana Ellington Avatar
    Juliana Ellington

    This was such a satisfying post to read. I love how you have taken on this mission. Minka and Sasha are two of the most beautiful cats!! And dear Ratty Tabby–I love her story. I have high hopes for Clothilde and her new kittens. I think I have room for one more cat/kitten, LOL.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I am going to get to work on Aubergine and Blueberry, I think. They both have some potential to be tamed and rescued. And now I know where to take any random kittens who show up!

  6. margaretsmn Avatar

    We’ve taken in cats, but nothing like what you share here. Amazing! I love that Detroit has a positive program that is not about killing innocent animals. Where do you get the names from? Maybe you’ve already shared this in another post?

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      My son comes up with a lot of the names. Or he’ll say something like “she looks like a French cat” so we’ll look on the internet for a French name. I thought of Clothilde for the cat who looks French, and then he said Eggplant would be a funny name for a cat. I told him Aubergine is French for eggplant and voila! We had a name for one of her kittens! After he named Blueberry, we thought it would be funny if all the neighborhood black cats have a fruit name, hence Blackberry and Boysenberry. Everyone but me does get a bit confused between Clothilde and Chloe-Elmo, and the berries are also a challenge to keep straight.

  7. amyilene Avatar

    I have a close friend who has been taking in and caring for feral cats throughout our county….she is definitely committed, but the rewards she gets are huge. Thank you for the pictures!!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      So many cats in need! I read an article that said Detroit has as many feral cats as it has human residents, so these TNR programs are so necessary!

  8. jarhartz Avatar

    The city that literally has cats falling into your arms has found the perfect resident. As have the cats and kittens. Love love love the stories and the pictures. There is no end to the variety and charm of these beings.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      They really are so endlessly interesting to me! And there is plenty of scope here in Detroit to do lots of work with cats!

  9. jumpofffindwings Avatar

    Wow, you are a cat-whisperer! I love what you say about, “more curiosity than fear” leading to an ability to find love, a home. There is real insight, not just about cats either, in that realization.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I have to remind myself that not all of the community cats are true ferals; some are strays who have had contact with people before, though that doesn’t always lead to a desire to interact with more people! Poor Ratty Tabby, for instance, was clearly a pet (she was declawed) but it took 6 months of patient work before she finally let me pet her! And then she wanted nonstop petting–trying to make up for all the time of not getting any love. But it’s certainly a process.

  10. Amanda Potts Avatar

    Oh! Of course you are a certified feral cat colony caretaker. And look at these pictures! I love them all! Are all your cats indoor cats? Our two go in and out… Fingers crossed that those kittens come soon & safely – and that you post lots of pictures of them!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Yes, all of ours are indoor cats. After my last indoor-outdoor cat used to regularly terrorize me by refusing to come back home at night (often she was parked right under the deck while I was calling and calling her), I vowed never again. My nerves can’t take it. They are also sooo very murderous, and I think the local bird population is much happier with my six as indoor cats! I am pretty sure Clothilde had her kittens–she is moving around much better now–but she didn’t have them in our garage after all. Boo!

  11. livinglife816287820 Avatar

    Your cats have such exotic names! I love, love, love this post and that you can help out so many cats, they all look so robust and healthy. Love the stories and the care wound around all of them! So much fun to read.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Ha, we love naming cats! We have very vigorous debates around cat names. It’s amazing how much healthier they are now, though I do wish it were easier to get vet treatment. Blueberry has a bad respiratory infection, and Chloe Elmo has something going on with her tail. But they are healthier than they would have been without the food, water, and shelter we provide. Blueberry was napping on her heat pad this morning, very content!

  12. alive and well Avatar

    What wonderful photos! Their personalities show!

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