I'm settled in my study for my morning writing. I hear a little kitty voice, a distinctive one that sounds like a lilting r r r t t t with a question mark at the end. Moonbeam has a whole vocabulary of sounds. She is my best buddy, the most devoted of my four cats. This particular sound asks me a question. "Why havn't I gotten my morning hug?" A black cat with a white chin and tummy, built like a linebacker with short legs and sturdy body lands solidly on my desk, next to my computer.
She leans into my hand, rubbing and purring, checks to see if the coast is clear and launches on to my lap. She shadows me , follows me from room to room. Wherever I am she will be there also. And she is feral. How can that be?
Thanks to Leslie Vogt and Jan Link of the Northern Colorado Friends of Ferals, she has had a chance to bloom, to become the sweet companion that she is. Thankfully she was picked up when she was a kitten, from a hoarding situation in a filthy alley and shed, barely protected from the elements and fighting for her food.
Who knows if she still was with her mother. Along with being hungry she had an infected eye. I found out later it probably was a ocular hernia. Bottom line she couldn't see out of it. I don't know how much pain she was in.
I learned that since she was picked up from an impossible situation she could not go back to it like most other feral cats happily return to their colonies after being spayed or neutered. She had to became a barn cat. And I had a barn. The morning I picked her up after her surgeries and shots (and I didn't know she was a she for a year, that was how long it took to be able to touch her) along with a possible sister and another cat that might have been her mother, I had no idea how I was going to take care of these three cats. I just knew I wanted to help in any way I could.
They were scared, hunched in the back of the live traps they were in. I remember feeling so bad for them. They were stone silent. Eventually I got them into a small room in my barn where they could become acclimated and then, when let out hopefully would stay.
It is pretty easy to assume that feral cats are not socialized enough to become house cats. It does take some special circumstaces. It is hard to tell if a cat was abandoned or born feral but if captured at a young enough age, it is possible for them to be adopted. Of course some are clearly happy to live outside and some are abandoned house cats and once they have been treated, they can go home with a family. You just never know.
I was careful. I didn't know how wild they were, if at all. I learned quickly that they had a ways to go. But I was patient with them. After about 5 weeks I could play with them (toy on a string) and put their food in front of them instead of moving it close to them with a stick. And I always talked to them when I went in to feed them. They won my heart.
Shortly after they had settled into a routine, I let them out into the barn. They played in the hay and cuddled in a warm den I built inside of one of the stalls.. They began to follow me when I went to the barn to feed them, Moonbeam even came up to the house and sat under the kitchen window and meowed. Soon I was even able to pick them up occasionally.
Sadly, because of the fox and coyotes in my area I lost both Lollipop and Polka Dot in their first year. Moonbeam was the only one left in the barn. As it got colder and she was by herself I tried to get her to come in the house. Little by little her curiosity got the best of her and she came in to explore. With hardly any fanfare, it didn't take long for her to blend in with my other 3 cats. She loves it, is not interested in going back to the way it was. She is home.