Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Enclosure

The first night I closed the door on them it was very cold. It was as cold as it usually gets here in northern Colorado in the springtime. Even the barn stays cold. It was a good thing I had placed an upside down dog crate inside the enclosure. It took up about half of the floor space but had plenty of room inside for two young cats. The other half of the floor space was occupied by a cat tower with three levels the top one of which placed them above the wall of the stall just where the wire began. That way they could see over the edge to see what was going on in the barn and who was coming in. It was about 8 feet tall,6 feet wide and 4 feet deep. I had set the enclosure up in a vacant stall where we kept grain, oats, beet pulp and wood shavings in large bundles for the four horses we were caring for. But it was cold that night. I was glad my daughter and I had put the enclosure together a day or two earlier when it looked like spring was really on its way.

I had gathered up an old tarp and several thick horse blankets and tucked them around the crate and underneath it. According to Ally Cat Allies straw was the best insulator in the winter because it stayed dry. Blankets and such often got damp and then did not offer the best insulation. But I had no straw available at the moment. I also read that I could place a layer of empty egg cartons around the structure and that would help. But I wasn't convinced. I needed something more. I found a heating pad made for animals that had a thick wrapped cord that needed to be placed inside a cover. I was able to string it from a plug that also included the cord that heated the water so it wouldn't freeze.

So the two remaining cats I had agreed to keep in my barn were set for this night. This night. Why was I anxious? Why would I give their comfort a second thought? You may wonder if I was going overboard. I couldn't help but think about something I heard in seminary. When you want to be helpful in crisis or dangerous situations or just to help in a conversation with a person who was grieving the words were "Do no harm"

So if these cats were feral shouldn't they get used to cold weather as if they were in the wild? If they were feral weren't they wild? I don't think so, not anymore. I'm in the company of people like Cleveland Amory and others. As humans have evolved we have changed many of the creatures who did live on their own in the wild years ago. But as soon as they were tamed or domesticated, the ones who were able to fit in and provide something for the humans, weather it was food, transportation, safety or companionship they changed from being the self sufficient animals they were in the beginning to something that retains their original integrity but is different from it. So I think we have a responsibility to help them survive, even the feral cats. I think mine were strays or abandoned because after some time they became socialized, at least to me.

But the nagging question is how much do you help them before they are no longer who they are or who they were meant to be. I don't know yet. But what I do know is that in my barn, I will do my best to see they have a chance. I will attempt to do no harm.