Sunday, November 15, 2009


We have two cats, possibly three.

Back in the summer Julie responded to an advertisement about two female cats. The pair had been trapped on the university campus on a snowy morning in February. The lady who trapped the young cats took them to a vet to be neutered and discovered they were already pregnant with their first litters. She kept them until the kittens were weaned, had them neutered and sought homes for them.

When Julie brought them home I took one cat, Lexi, out of the carrier and put her in a large cage. She was frightened but not aggressive. The second cat, Streudel, clearly communicated I would lose blood if I attempted to touch her.

After a couple days in the cage we turned the cats loose in one room and kept the door shut for a few days. Julie would go into the room and sit on the floor and read a magazine out loud without making extended eye contact with them. She worked diligently to socialize them. I installed the cage outside the window with a cat door so they had access to the outside and could experience the sights, sounds and smells of the area. After another period of time we opened the door to the hallway and gave them access to the house.

They remained hidden whenever we were home, either behind a futon or under our bed. That was an interesting problem for them. When we got ready for bed they had to wait until the lights were turned out or risk slinking out of the room as we read.

After another period of time I installed a cat door and shelf in the utility room 5 feet above the ground and moved the cage to that location. Julie began feeding and watering them in the utility room. Finally, the night arrived. We opened the outside door on the cage. Streudel left immediately but Lexi waited two more nights before leaving.

Two weeks passed before we saw them again. Food in the utility room was being eaten each night so we knew they were coming in regularly. Occasionally we would see one of them in the yard. But, if they knew we saw them they would flee and hide.

Feral Cat.

Then a strange thing happened about a month ago. Streudel came in one evening while we were fixing supper. She came into the center of the room where we could see her and began meowing. Julie began taking back to her without approaching her and she continued to meow while looking at us. She appeared to need something.

Two nights later it happened again. Then in became fairly regular. About three weeks ago Streudel came in and Lexi was behind her but Lexi immediately turned and fled when she saw us. We haven't seen Lexi since that evening.

Now Streudel comes in every evening. Over time she has became more relaxed. She hides under one chair when afraid but more and more she lets us walk by within a few feet. One night last week I was preparing to feed her and decided to to offer food on my hand. She came within two inches of my finger tips, sniffed my hand then retreated to the safety of her chair.

Tonight she's sleeping on the futon. We walk through the room and she opens her eyes and watches us but doesn't raise her head.

I've never touched this cat and may never touch her because she has to take the lead. She will have to touch one of us first, in fact several times, before we'll reach out to her.

This is exciting! No need to watch animal programs on TV. We have Streudel to watch, her growing acceptance, her interaction with Maggie, her discovery of the basket of cat toys.

We're not certain what caused her to some in. It appears she needs Maggie and they are bonding. But, often she will come to one or both of us and begin to meow as if she needs to socialize, to interact, to connect.

I've been tempted to set up a web cam in the utility room to see if Lexi is still about. We can't tell from the quantity of food being eaten. Is she still alive? Is she coming out only at night? Has she left?

Last Friday morning we saw a coyote pass just outside the fence. He was looking toward the house but didn't appear to be especially interested other than being cautious. In the late summer we took Maggie to the garden and set her down inside the fence. I saw a rattlesnake but she was oblivious and was rolling in the grass three feet from it. I watched hoping she would notice it to see her reaction but she never saw it. There's always danger but we have three safe places for the cats when outside. They may not live into their teens but, hopefully, they will have good lives living free the way they were born.

(Footnote: Prior to releasing Streudel and Lexi we stopped feeding birds. That has been an interesting experience. I'll have to write about that sometime.)


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