When we moved to Dry Creek Hill, we had no experience with feral cats. We certainly were not looking for any. Trap, neuter, and release were unfamiliar terms and we had never used “TNR” as a time-saving acronym. When the former property owners said “You’ll have some cats up there,” we didn’t think much about it. So how did we end up naming and caring for 78 cats?
We’d had pets, both dogs and cats, for very nearly all our married lives. When we moved here we had Taylor, our 11 year old calico cat who had lived with us in Florida and Texas and traveled with us in our RV for a few years. Taylor learned to walk on a lead during our RV years and expected an afternoon walk. Otherwise, she was happy indoors.
We saw a few cats wandering the clearing and the surrounding woods but it wasn’t until the weather turned cold and rainy that we took pity on a gray/brown tabby hanging out under a bush. She wouldn’t let us come close but we put some food out for her and put plywood on sawhorses for a rudimentary shelter. She hung out with the other ferals in the woods and nature took its course, so we named her Mama and witnessed the wonders of cat multiplication.
After a few math lessons we figured we had to do something. We took a class in TNR and began trapping. Mama, her family and her friends stopped reproducing but other cats kept emerging from the woods, often with kittens in tow. More rounds of TNR followed.
We’ve been up here 18 years or so now and we haven’t seen a new cat in 5 years. There are 2 old-timers left from the feral colony – they’re nearing 12 years old now. Taylor died at the age of 20 after a long and happy life. The last cats to arrive ( 5 and 6 years ago) were 3 kittens who showed up without a mother and with a love for people. We adopted them into our house and Sofia, Swiffer, and Turk now live happily indoors with us.
Our years of colony management and TNR were challenging at times. They were also rewarding. As you can see from the character sketches I’ve been doing on Feral Cat Fridays, we became fond of our colony members and got to know each one as much as he or she would allow. There are many more cats to cover, but I’ll sprinkle in posts about how we conducted our TNR program as I continue this Friday series. TNR really did work for us.
- Feral Cat Fridays: Guildenstern the Golden Star
- Sunday Photos: Roadrunner, With And Without Cat