In previous posts I have written about feeding dry cat food to the Scrub Jays that live around my yard. It started when I observed one momma Jay flying into my kitchen and stealing dry cat food to feed her two squawking fledglings. It is my habit to leave the backdoor open in warm weather to enjoy the cross breeze and it allows my cat, Smoke, to come and go at will.
I decided to facilitate the momma Jay’s efforts and nailed an old tin chicken feeder to the five-foot tall cottonwood stump outside my kitchen window. With a steady food supply, the Scrub Jays not only hung around, they perched on the fence, demanding to be fed. Eventually they broke the bird feeder, but kept coming back so I scattered dried cat food on the ground for them. Not a good idea.
Recently, a scrawny looking calico showed up on my property. I tried to shoo her off but she was persistent. She was sneaking in the house through the open backdoor and licking my cat’s dish clean. Then, a week ago, while taking litter to the trash bin, I spotted a kitten. It immediately ran away. I followed it and spied two more kittens which also scurried off. The kittens explained the persistence of the calico cat and were most likely born under my house. The poor momma cat’s sides were concave in her efforts to feed her small brood. Of course the first thing I did was to put out a dish of food and a bowl of milk.
To my dismay, four more adult feral cats emerged from under my house—an orange tabby, an evil looking almost entirely black calico with a few touches of orange and white, a mostly gray calico with a smidgen of orange, and smallish gray tiger cat that I assumed was a juvenile or young female. I called animal control and was told they don’t pick up healthy animals. The best policy, they said, is to ignore the feral cats and they will probably go away. Too late. Anyway, how does one ignore three little kittens?
That was the first and last time I let the three adult strays have a turn at the feeding dishes. Using a plastic bottle, I sprayed water at them to keep them at bay while the momma and kitties ate. I would make the juvenile wait until they were almost finished before s/he got a taste. My plan was to develop their trust until I could capture the momma, three kittens and the juvenile and take them to a shelter, as they were the most adoptable. Once that was done, I would make other three adult strays very unwelcome with the spray nozzle on the garden hose.
By the end of the week the kittens were climbing up and playing games on that same cottonwood stump. They were just too cute but my own feral cat was not speaking to me, would not even stay in the same room with me.
Smokey is a spoiled feral cat I adopted as a kitten 13 plus years ago primarily to cut down the gopher population that infested my yard. She has been an outstanding hunter but is not a fighter and has been bloodied more than once in altercations with strays. She refuses to go outside while this herd of feral cats is prowling the property.
During the week I have been putting a dish of canned cat food and a bowl of milk into a plastic storage tub that lay on its side on the ground outside my backdoor. Friday morning when the momma, three kittens and small tiger each had all four paws into the storage bin I slapped on the lid and carried them to my truck. I had drilled holes in the top of the bin and all was quiet as we started off down the highway. About three miles down the road, the calico decided she wanted out.
I thought the lid would stay on by itself but the calico popped it and I pulled over and got her shoved back in before she could escape entirely. There was no way I could drive with five cats loose in my cab. I held the lid on with one arm and continued driving but the calico persisted. I turned down a rural road that I knew ended in a cul de sac while acknowledging to myself that these cats would be terrified and traumatized at being housed at a dog pound, that chances of them being adopted were pretty much nil in that they were feral, that the pound charges a hefty fee for adoptions, and that there are plenty of domesticated cats available for no fees whatsoever.
So, I confess, I dumped the momma calico, the three kittens and the tiger cat by a bank of mailboxes at the end of the country road. I knew the momma was a hunter because I had seen her eating a mouse even while I was feeding her morning and evening. I hope someone adopts them, maybe as a Halloween treat for a child. Yes, I feel guilty, but Smokey is obviously pleased. And I have a bit more empathy for people who dump cats out in the country, but I am not feeding any more strays. There would simply be no end to it. I am putting a big board across the access hole to stop critters from getting under my house.