The most interesting part of tending our feral cat colony was observing its social structure. Like the meerkats in Meerkat Manor, our cats settled into social roles and places in the hierarchy. Some cats were only marginally attached to the colony, some were leaders, and others were good, solid citizens. They were the strands in the net that held it all together. Duff was one of those strands.
Duff’s mother, Stranger, lived in the semi-abandoned stable on a neighbor’s property. She brought Duff and his littermates to our colony when they were quite young. Stranger was a loner, too feral and skittish to live close to humans or in a colony of cats. She brought her kittens to our deck and left after they began to eat. This is Duff on his first day on our property, halfway between our house and the stable.
We had seen Stranger eating at the feeder in the back yard but had never seen her on our deck until she brought the kittens. All indications were that she wanted her kittens to stay with the colony. It was like she knew they had a better chance if they could be more social than she was. Stranger continued to live in the stable and only visited our back yard, but the kittens stayed.
Duff got his name by default. One member of the litter was a fluffy white kitten that we immediately named Fluff. Duff rhymed, so Duff it was. The third kitten was named Stanley because Fluff, Duff, and Stanley had a certain ring to it. Despite Stranger’s skittish personality, all three of her kittens were among the most friendly members of the colony.
Duff quickly found his place and became a friend to many of the cats. He was a non-dominant, easy-going guy and spent his time on little expeditions with his friends and hanging out with the most domesticated colony members. His flat-tipped left ear in the photo below shows that he had been neutered when the photo was taken.
He was such good friends with Robin and Scamper, two cats about his age, that I came to think of them as The Three Musketeers. My regular evening ritual was (and still is) refilling and freshening the water tubs in the yard. It was a rare evening that I did not see the Musketeers wandering the yard together or just lazing away a pleasant evening in each other’s company, like they are doing in the photo below. That’s Duff with his back to the camera on the right. Robin is on the pillar and Scamper is on the left.
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