How could I help the stray cat? It was 2am on a cold winter night when I first noticed her but it would be spring before I saw her again.
In my heart I'd felt sure she wouldn’t have been out in the cold if she had had a home. I knew she’d found the bowls of cat food and water I had daily set out for her under evergreen bushes. I did glimpse her, but she was protectively elusive, sprinting away when she heard, possibly felt, my footfalls coming toward her feeding spot.
Stray cats have often previously lived indoors with people; their homelessness tied to their people's personal losses, or unfortunate choices.
I had a plan. Momentum and strategies go hand in hand, and after coming to the aid of other homeless cats, I was sure I could help.
In my early twenties, I met homeless cat number one, a philosophic white cat. After his relocating-owner gave him to a friend, he chose to reject this new house, instead he found his way back across the four blocks to that first home, the place next to us. i was unaware of his story but I realized mid winter he was on his own, the tops of his ears were blackened from frost bite.
Mostly, things in life things are lots of work; by virtue of a disagreement around the tending to the needs of an stray animal, I build an outdoor cat-house similar to one that my dad had built for our family's night-prowling cats.
With a straw bedroom and an enemy watch window, the white cat by then named Tom was fed and kept warm.
A juxtaposition of Tom photos; in a mound of tulle fabric,
and wearing the results of a horrible fight with another cat. Note the frost bite effects on his ears.
By spring, with the acceptance that homeless cat number one was here to stay, my husband acquiesced and Tom became part of our family until his death at age 22 - 24 (who knows how old he was that first winter?) He learned easily and was a great animal friend who loved spending time with me in the garden.
Tom is being painted now along with four more cats that have touched my life. Two of them have been strays.
Here's a link to the portrait page for you to view a few painting sizes for the animals that have made a difference in your life.
If the number references are continuing, homeless cat number two and current number four, shared two coincidental, distinctive traits. One was being black in colour.
The other was they were both completely feral.
When Tom had been with us for about a year, I noticed a young black cat spending time around the house, or rather around Tom.
We all learn from mimicking the behaviours of others, becoming more kind, understanding, funny, and in the case of Black Kitty 'Number One', how to be a cool cat that trusts people. While he was indeed a feral young cat, he became Tom’s shadow from the very beginning. When I let him into the house he behaved just as Tom did, never jumping on a counter or even scratching at the furniture.
Once, a large dog came into our driveway chasing after Tom. While he watched Tom climb the tree behind him, Black Kitty with his street cred, stood his ground against the dog. I fully interpreted his bravery as protecting his mentor.
Just two weeks after knowing him, when I took him to be neutered, I was told he had a disease that was rapidly bringing his life to an end; it was a melancholy goodbye to a lone animal who had espoused the trust and love of another friend so openly.
I have given myself until winter to accustom homeless cat number four to me and the warmth of the indoors. With her survival to date relying on trusting no one and nothing, she has been award-winningly adept at not being noticed.
I had wholly lost hope by mid summer.
I’d never had to work so hard to even spot an animal in need, let alone, in the span of a few short months imagine it cuddling one of my.... (shopping plug here) Kneadies, a luxurious animal blanket, in my living room beside the eleven year old, 'I will be the only cat here,' Finn.
When one meets a stray cat with an oddly snipped ear, how does one ever discover the mystery behind it?
One does...in an equally curious way... which you'll discover in the next 'Feral and Stray Cats, Part 2; How Can we Help Them?'
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The photo below, taken this summer, and it's painting, shows a quizzical cat with an anomaly for an ear.
This portrait will become one of a grouping of five 5X7's of cats that have held a place in my heart.
Have you been touched by a 'found' or "Stray" animal? Please add your story in the comments below or tell me via email.
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