Feral Cat Fridays: Harley Lovers Are Loyal
If you doubt that feral cat colonies are matriarchal, I present Harley, the model matriarch. Harley emerged from the woods one day and surveyed our property. The available food and water passed her test, so she made 5 return trips the next day, each with a kitten dangling from her mouth. She quickly claimed the east side of our clearing as Harley Land.
She was a beautiful cat, with features resembling a Maine Coon. Although primarily a gray tabby she also had touches of calico. The color combination brought the word harlequin to our minds, so she became Harley for short and her family became the Davidsons.
It was not unusual for litters in our colony to stick together, but the Davidsons were unique in their degree of cohesiveness. Not only did Harley’s first litter stay close to her and to each other, her second (and final) litter stayed just as close. After they matured it was impossible to tell who came from which litter by behavioral observation. You had to know who was born when.
Harley allowed a few other cats to come near but she kept most cats (and us) at a distance. You can see from the photos that the most consistent feature is her alert, focused expression, as if she is saying, “I have my eyes on you, buster!”
Her family was exceptionally loyal, even after Harley was spayed. When Harley finally was gone her clan was at loose ends for several weeks, looking for a new way to organize their lives. They eventually mixed with other cats in the colony, but their primary allegiance always stayed with family. If there was a pile of cats resting in the shade, it was a good bet that the Davidsons were enjoying a nap together.
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Harley was beautiful. In the last photo, she seems just as stout and immovable as that tree. It’s a great photo; I like the contrast between the texture of the bark and her smooth, long coat of fur.
Did any of them enjoy being brushed, or was that just a little too much for outdoor kitties? Being brushed morning and night was Dixie Rose’s delight. If I wasn’t sufficiently attentive, she’d pick up her brush and carry it over to me, as if to say, “No matter what you’re doing, it’s not as important as brushing me.”
I think Harley was the prettiest cat in the colony, although several others were competitive. She would have been a great pet if she hadn’t had so much feral in her. She would never let us get close enough for brushing but we did have a few cats that gradually adapted to us and enjoyed a good brush now and then. Streak enjoyed a good brushing and really needed it with his long fur. He was typically brushed while he got his morning urinary blockage medication in a dab of wet food and he came to look forward to it. Starsky, one of 2 the senior citizen survivors we’re still caring for, also likes a good brushing and a little scratch behind the ears. MiniMo, the other survivor, is more skittish and we have to stay alert or we’ll mistakenly give her a scratch or pat. She startles and sometimes lets us know to keep our hands off with a gentle swat, but she doesn’t use her claws, thankfully.