• Jade

Feral and Stray Cats Finale; How Can we Help Them?

At 6:30am, after giving her some breakfast, I went outside onto the porch with her. I remember her looking at me with the those slightly crossed eyes as if to suggest adventures were awaiting; I watched with rattled fear as she ran across what would become, in about an hour, the very busy street. I cannot erase that I clearly recalled saying to myself 'that would solve everything'.

How could I, a lover of slightly crossed-eyed black cats, get to a point of even thinking something like that?

I truly delighted in getting to know the black feral cat; in the same way that a good friendship unfolds, she and I both knew we enjoyed each other's company.

Three times I had invited the once archetypal wild cat to stay overnight in the apartment with Finn and I; the repeat of the 'climbing of the wall', no longer being a likelihood. Alas she had over time, acquired a taste for the indoor thang and like the country-mouse cousin, she would explore the apartment as much as a good cat guest could get away with.

However, to whom she was not a good guest, was Finn.

She had no fear of scaredy-cat Finn.

She was so unconcerned, that one time, she came to where he was pathetically playing 'don't hurt me, I'm passive', and plopped down on top of his extended tail and then... just sat there.

Most often, she chased him; I told myself she was playing with him but Finn knew this was not a game; he ran away hissing and growling, so fearful of her also increasing 'hey, how are you' slaps.

Over the two and a half months of, I'll call the wild cat taming period, Finn interacted less and less with me, sleeping more (if that is possible) as if it was clear to him that she was going to continue to be part of his increasingly miserable life.

It was the end of October; there were cool evenings and so far, Black Kitty was refusing to go into the stray cat box I'd built for her so I invited her inside the apartment. Afraid of night-time cat fights, on the occasions that she stayed overnight, I gathered Finn, his food, water and kitty litter, and locked us both in the bedroom.

This was, I knew, an unsustainable interplay for Finn. Black Kitty, although being a sleek and sparkly jet black necklace in my life, was a torment for my number one cat.

As I led her outside that morning, I felt the overwhelming heaviness of stress. I was directionless in this two-cat conundrum with no good options. The only thought to which I had to commit, was that I could not let her back into the apartment ever again to fulfil the undoing of Finn.
Trying, in some half attempt to extract myself emotionally, I recited I would not go outside to look for her, to engage with her throughout the day as I would have regularly done...

Early the next morning I was surprised to see the food bowl on the porch untouched, and within the half hour the school crossing guard called me and asked me if 'I had a bag.'

Black Kitty was dead. My brain became thick. I couldn't look in the direction where she lay, and I was so very thankful for Barbara's ability to perform that service.

She had been spooked into traffic late in the afternoon the day before, on the same day I had stood on the porch and conjured her demise.

Her death had been witnessed by my neighbour's three year old boy. She would have been running across the street to visit me.

I know.

I know I did not wish her dead but still I cried at the tragedy of my thoughts and the sorrow of the coincidence. I look for her still; I have a very hard time looking at the place of the accident.

And while I continue to imagine her, I have had a sad, horrible thought to keep my other sad and jagged thoughts company;

How did a woman, who was my neighbour at one time, continue to live in the home, out front of which, her toddler son died; the woeful result of a momentary distraction.

How did she shoulder that kind of self blame? Did she remain living there, waiting for a sense of forgiveness, was it a self imposed penance? Did she stay so that his memory was not alone?

The scars from tragic actions, even those of dark thinkings cannot be undone, they are part of a muddled world. The fleeting adventure of a true, black cat-friendship, watching her zeal for everything made me want to have her in my life, even against the impossible choices that it created.

A new cat sized scar in my own bark reminds me that to experience the beauty of a shooting star is worth the risk of it's untamable splinters.

A very real threat for feral and stray cats is traffic.

Ironically, during their search for food, they regularly risk their lives running across streets for the sustenance left for them by well-meaning people.

What can we do to help them? Three things:

One) Make aware, to anyone who cannot afford the costs of neutering and spaying, the vouchers and subsidies available through any city's services by using the search term 'animal' in the city hall directory.

Between London and Kitchener, those people on fixed incomes can access EVAH, a not for profit animal hospital providing low cost spays and neuters for cats and dogs.

Two) Prevent future offspring.

Talk to our neighbours about the strays and ferals we see, to determine their locations and times of sightings. Call your 'Animal Care Centre' who will trap, spay, neuter, provide more healthfully beneficial things, plus return the cats to their area because a familiar home is the appropriate, least stressful first step. Isn't that incredible?

Three) Treat these cats with our kindness and understanding, for without some form of help from us, theirs' are otherwise lives of adversity.

We don't all have to build stray cat houses.

Just respecting their right to exist alongside us is stress relieving...mainly for them.

For us, feeling the effects of generosity in our sometimes, otherwise narrowly focused lives is, well, pretty restorative.

Generalizations are us; but not when it comes to feral cats. They may happen to choose to walk through your back door immediately, or like Black Kitty, need a lot of time to adjust,

The taming can only be on their terms.

Black Kitty's was a tragic and unforeseen end, consequently I left notes up the street and across the busy road, in case the other animal-people who must have also fed her, wondered why they didn't see her.

I was touched to receive a call from a longtime neighbourhood resident who offered her condolences and said she'd watched her occasionally come to her window to visit her indoor cat through the glass.

She lived on the other side of the 'heart stopping' road.

I would never have anticipated, however, the information in the email that waited for me when I got home:

A wonderful animal-person, who also lives on the opposite side of the heart stopping road, had installed back yard cameras to keep track of a very young skunk she were nourishing. In addition to a team of skunks, racoons, and a giant rabbit, the camera picked up two black cats that came to the skunk feeding station in the middle of the night.

When she saw Black Kitty, she did a double take, and had to check to make sure her cat hadn't accidently left the house.

It seemed the feral cat she had taken in six years ago, whom the vet determined had previously given birth was undeniably related to my Black Kitty.

It was like a surprise cat episode of 'Finding Your Roots'

I somehow felt she was still here, in a cat that looked just like her, living her intended life for her. I understand this cat is just as playful, even chasing her own tail on a joyful day...because she can.

The cat on the left is about seven years old. She is almost certainly Black Kitty's grandmother.

By spaying and neutering we are preventing future lives of hardship for feral kittens and cats.

The territorial spraying of our outdoor furniture ends with the 'spaying and neutering', plus the hormonal control means a more genial and safe life for cats living out their lives among us in our outdoor shared spaces.

"Don't you know that you are a shooting star" - Bad Company

If you've enjoyed this blog post, please share this link with your friends.

Thank you for reading my post, I hope it has encouraged some new thoughts regarding compassion toward the animals with whom we share our outdoor spaces.

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