SAGA OF AN OUTDOOR CAT-TRIBE
CAST OF CHARACTERS (SO FAR):
STRIPE: The original male stud, “Daddycat” A big gray and black tabby with the common stripe pattern and a darker streak down the center of his back. A gentle fellow with a nice face. Not tame, but easy going and not fearful of me. I kept dry food out for him and he would peek from under the work bench and wait while I filled his dish.
BLACKIE: Stripe’s first “wife”… she was longer haired with a solid black coat and no markings. Much more fearful of people than Stripe and hung back to wait as he began eating, then would cautiously join him. She became less shy once she had her first litter of three females and one male in spring of 2013. She was a wonderfully patient momma cat and continued to let her kids pile all over her to nurse after they had grown quite big. She came back the second year and shared in a mass breeding with two of her daughters, but she was not a part of the third and current group.
SPOT: Female daughter of Blackie. She has a single faint white spot under her chin on her breast that shows when she raises her head. She became a favorite with me because she was less shy and would climb up on a basket beside the door to look in through the window when I prepared their food. She stayed around my house and has bred two litters as of summer 2015. Her first breeding was with a male from elsewhere and she produced five kittens__ two females and three males, all of whom were then live-trapped and neutered and spayed in fall of 2014. Spot is the mother of my all-time favorites: the twin bi-color girls, Bootsie and Soxy. The three boys (all solid black but with quite long coats) have stayed here making the carport their home through the winter with the girls, but they left soon after the current litters were born and had moved in. Spot later chased out the twin girls too, which broke my heart, but they have now come back and Spot seems to have moved on for a while. (She is currently being courted by the Gentleman Caller)
NOTSPOT: A solid black cat, not nearly as trusting as her sister, Spot. She was one of the three who gave birth to kittens in the mass-breeding of 13+ kittens under the house in 2014: I believe Stripe was still the daddy of these kittens as I saw him sitting watch by them a few times.
FOXY: A reddish-eared brown tabby with a pretty face. Very shy. She was the third of the mothers in the alcove group. When the kittens were all around 8-9 weeks old these mother led the entire group of them away into the woods. Some still come around and are among the group of about a dozen cats feeding at my door in the winter months. Most have gone off to find other homes or to become feral woods’ cats. I believe one of her daughters is the pretty red-eared momma cat who lives in the carport this summer of 2015.
MS GRAY: A sleek solid gray female with a handsome pointed head and longish ears. I believe she and Foxy Two were the two kittens who were left alone in the carport and sat waiting for the others to come home. I caught a picture of them and felt sad to see them looking abandoned. But then I also happened to observe as two females returned for them and led them away to the woods to join the others. Now both of them are back and have their litters of kittens growing up in the carport now along with Spot and her slightly older ones. I do not know who the studs are as, Stripe, the old daddy cat left in November 2014 and has never come back. (see story below) Now this May Ms. Gray was caught and spayed. She came back much tamer and is very gentle with her kittens, one of whom is gray like her.
FOXY TWO: She is the other “left behind” girl who returned with Gray. She also has kittens, although I do not know which kittens are whose now for they all hang together. I believe Spot’s were all black and they may be wandering away now on their own since Spot seems to have gone away for a while. It is getting much harder for me to keep track of these kittens and I have chosen no favorites, except that the single gray one seems smaller and picked on a bit,, so I watch for her. But all of the kittens are very shy with me and run to hide whenever I go out. I am considering trying to trap some of them and take them to shelter If possible.
BOOTSIE AND SOXY: Twin bi-color females, daughters of Spot. These are my favorites. They were live-trapped in fall of 2014 and had settled gently with their three all-black brothers (also neutered) in the carport. These girls are unusually tame and sweet. I believe their trips to the vet for the surgery may have helped them trust humans a bit, for they never run from me. Bootsie is particularly brave about coming right up to me. She has a slight white blaze on the bridge of her nose which is the only real noticeable difference between them physically.
THE TALE UNWINDS:
First there was Stripe, a handsome gray tabby Tomcat who found himself a cozy home beneath a neat cabin nestled on a wooded lot that bordered the northwest shore of a lovely lake in central Minnesota.
Here he settled quietly and live peacefully alone for several years. In summer and winter he could be seen perched on the front deck watching the sun rise and meditating on the meaning of life.
Then, later, he would be seen strolling down the driveway into the woods to hunt. Of course the nice old woman who lived in the cabin kept dry food in a dish for him, so he didn’t put too much effort into catching prey. He preferred to watch the small creatures and birds hop and scamper and fly free around the woods and fields.
Then late one fall day, along came Blackie. The pretty long-haired black cat appeared alone at the back of the lot. It sat statue-still and watched Stripe eat his breakfast of dry food at the back door of the cabin.
She didn’t make a sound, but Stripe sensed her presence. He twitched his left ear to acknowledge her. Then he turned and looked directly at her. She blinked and twitched an ear in timid greeting. Then both casually began moving toward the other, stopping nonchalantly to examine scents along the path as if it was no big deal.
They came nose to nose, circled and sniffed each others back ends and, having decided there was no threat, Blackie followed Stripe back to the food dish. Stripe sat back and watched her set in hungrily. When she had emptied the dish they both sat and groomed themselves in a patch of sunlight and then fell asleep. They became buddies, sharing the cozy home under the house through the winter.
The following spring Blackie presented Stripe with four baby kittens. Soon there were: Spot, Notspot, Foxy, and Fuzzer, coming out from the wood pile where their mom kept them safe until they were big enough to be left on their own. Stripe helped raise the little ones when they moved under the carport and sat watching them as they explored about the yard. Blackie was a great mom, always ready and willing to let them climb on her to nurse even after they were almost fully grown.
But by the end of the summer, Stripe began to take long trips away and Blackie also left to hunt and roam on her own. They would each come back frequently to check things out. And then, as leaves began to turn and fall arrived, Stripe sent Fuzzer away to find his own territory. Spot and Notspot and Foxy stayed with their parents in the cozy place under the house. But Stripe continued to travel more often. The winter passed peacefully.
The next spring there was a sudden population explosion. In an alcove where the entrance was under the house, three cats nursed an assorted group of thirteen babies between them. Notspot, Foxy, and Blackie each took turns hunting, nursing, and watching the babies play in the weeds and learn to climb trees. Sometimes Stripe would come and lounge on a bench nearby to keep watch and snooze. But they never brought any of these kittens around to the carport where I put out food every day.
After a couple of months, without warning, all of these kittens disappeared within a few days! The moms led them away from their safe haven in the alcove and out into the woods and fields nearby. There they taught the kids to hunt and fight and to avoid dogs and people. They became feral cats, homeless scavengers and woods-cats. Some of the more courageous of them found other homes where people allowed them to settle and gave them food. And a few found their way back to the cottage later, full grown.
Yet one late spring day, when the alcove group was preparing to depart, Spot, the third daughter of Blackie and Stripe reappeared leading five young kittens under the carport. They came from a neighbor’s woodpile, where she had raised them separately from the big alcove group.
They came in single file following their mother right into the carport while I watched from a window. These were handsome kittens. Three all black like their mom, and two with striking white markings… exactly alike… all four paws were white, and their chest-fur and tummy, plus one had a faint white blaze-line on the middle of her nose. I named these two Bootsie and Soxie. Their brothers remain nameless for there was no way to tell them apart from each other.
This family of kittens stayed and learned to eat at the food dishes by the door. And later that fall, when they were full grown, my friend and I set out a live trap and caught them one by one by one by two, plus another stripe one from the alcove bunch. By winter there were two spayed females (the bi-colored twins) and four neutered males (the three black brothers plus a tabby) all of whom now settled into the carport.
At this point, old Stripe took his last nap on the bench in the carport, said farewell to the old lady by coming to eat while she watched, and then calmly strolled down the driveway to seek other adventures. He did not come back and the old lady misses him and feels sad. But she understands. The tribe had grown too big for him to feel at ease as the Top Cat. There were several other males around the neighborhood who would compete to take his place as King of this tribe.
Another winter passed. Stripe was gone. Blackie was gone. Six neutered and spayed cats lounged peacefully in the carport, and meanwhile Spot, Notspot, and Foxy got acquainted elsewhere with the some local toms.
Now this is the third spring and there are new kittens. Assorted blacks and tabby stripes are playing under the carport among the piles of boxes and junk.
The oldest group of five are Spot’s babies who are already very busy climbing and running around. Then there are five or six others who are a few weeks younger, still a bit wobbly and just beginning to explore out of their nest in the tool closet. They are nursed by a tabby with red ears and a gray. These both were among the youngest and last to leave the alcove with the large group last year. I have no idea who the daddy cats are but we have issues to deal with soon before they are old enough to start breeding.
A few weeks ago, when the new batches of babies were exploring more openly and wandering out of their nests, all the neutered male cats left. They may just have felt it was getting too crowded, or the mom cats may have sent them away.
At first Bootsie and Soxie stayed around and even appeared to baby sit at times, but then Soxie disappeared and didn’t come back. Bootsie was still there, eating with the others every morning. Then suddenly she disappeared too. I was heartbroken because I really liked Bootsie who was most tame around me.
And then one day, a week later, Bootsie reappeared in the driveway and came up to me. Winding around my legs, she even let me pet her. She gobbled a whole dish of food as her human friend stood by. But when the mom cat, Spot (her own mother!) came around, Bootsie quickly ran away. She was scared of Spot! I was shocked to see that and scolded Spot.
But Bootsie has continued to return each day when she sees me at the kitchen door. She comes to greet her friend and winds around her legs, eats, and again quickly turns back down the driveway. It gives me hope that eventually, when the latest bunch of kittens have dispersed, my favorite cat will come back and stay.
Now, this spring, we have begun to set traps again. So far two more males, one black female, and Gray (who is one of the moms) have been ‘altered’. That makes ten so far. I hope to be able to catch most of these young kittens soon and get them to the animal shelter for adoption before they become too feral to be pets.
But we can imagine there may never be an end to this tale!
To be continued… ?
UPDATE JUNE, 29, 2015:
For the last week, I have had Foxy Two, Ms. Gray, and Soxy coming to feed every morning, along with assorted kittens.
Bootsie stays away, but she comes to me if I come out later in the afternoon and others are napping. And on nights when I come home from work around 11 o’clock, both twins have come to meet me at the door and I give them a special treat. Bootsie winds around my legs and purrs and stands on her hind legs to sniff my hand.
She is so tame that I have a suspicion someone else is also watching over her. She has a healed wound on one side that shows she has been hurt by something. Perhaps the other kind person helped with that as it looks totally healed and Bootsie is very clean. She eats voraciously however, and still acts very wary of any of the other cats except her sister.
This afternoon when I returned from a shopping trip, Soxy came to greet me. I said “where is your sister? Go bring Bootsie here too.” She turned back toward my neighbor’s, and before long she came back, Bootsie following her! Are these little girls smart or what? This time Bootsie stayed and continued to eat even when other cats came around.
A GENTLEMAN CALLER:
Later today I was working on the garden and a new cat appeared in the driveway. It is a handsome and very big black and gray tabby male with striking “classic” swirl markings along his sides. He has a large head and pleasant face with one ear flattened from some old wound. He seems quite tame as he does not run when I come around.
He is courting a black cat who I believe is Spot. So Here we go again!
THE TALE GROWS LONGER…December 13, 2015
Sadly, and ironically, the last entry on June 29 was to be almost the last visit from my two favorite girls, Bootsie and Soxy. Four days later, on the night before the Fourth of July both girls were waiting when I came home from work and I fed them. But the next morning, on the 4th, they did not come and I never saw them again!
I agonized over it, and waited for several months, hoping they would reappear, but they never have. I want to believe that some nice family adopted them… and these were “summer people” who were visiting at the lake and took them home with them. I really cannot imagine how both of them would disappear except that they were so tame.
The fact that they became so very tame seems that there must have been other folks who gave them attention, for I did not think they learned to rub against my legs and look to get petted simply by eating at my door. So I will not let myself think worse, but simply picture them contentedly living with a loving family somewhere too far away for them to wander back here for visits.
Meanwhile, as I mentioned earlier, the Gentleman Caller and Spot got together and created a new batch of kittens. I know they are his, as two of the kittens have his dark classic stripe pattern and one other has very dark ordinary stripes. Others are simply black, like spot. They are now grown up but this spring they kept us busy.
My friend, Karla, and I now began a live-trapping program in earnest, and over the rest of the summer and early fall we caught and neutered and spayed a total of 24 cats. At one point we began euthanizing some of the young cats, but after three or four I felt so guilty I wouldn’t let Karla do anymore of that, so then we ‘fixed’ another half dozen.
Among those I “saved” were the three dark striped ones who have now become very tame! They wind around my legs and let me pet them and are every present when I go out. Again I wonder… is there another kindly cat person out there also spending time with them? If so, I bless that person and thank them.
At this point I have up to 12 grown cats visiting my door every morning…usually there are 8 regulars (three dark stripes, Spot, Gray, Orange, and two other blacks) of these only Spot and Orange do not have “clipped ears”. But with colder weather there are now several others… (a tabby male, two more blacks, and the old Gentleman Caller with his two beat-up ears)
And then late this fall, at the end of October, there were suddenly a new batch of kittens. (All six of these are ordinary blacks and tabbies.)
But before I met them all, Spot ABANDONED ONE AT MY DOOR.
The little black kitten cried so loud I could hear it with the door closed! The older cats stood around watching it but they backed away whenever it tried to go to one of them for comfort. And Spot, the mom, walked away without looking back. She made no effort to protect it. After hesitating briefly I went out and brought it into my three-season porch. It is warm in there, but closed off from the main house by a screen door.
I bottle fed the baby for several days and fell in love with it. She was very sweet. Not afraid of me or even of Obie and Titi when they came and watched from the other side of the screen door. The most amazing thing was that three days later, my favorite beautiful cat, Jezabel, died suddenly and taking care of this little kitten provided me much needed comfort in my grief.
But after about 10 days I realized I could not keep her, as she would not fit into my household very likely and would need to be out in the carport until old enough to be spayed at any rate even if I dared bring her in without disturbing the peace. So when my friend Karla came to see her she arranged to bring the kitten to a woman who specializes in adopting abandoned baby kittens!
AS if on que, that very day Spot brought the rest of the litter out to eat. Then for a couple days I watched them and gradually was able to pick up one and bring it into the porch. Then a second one. These two explored openly and Karla came to pick them up later that evening. Another day went by and I had an opportunity to catch two more! These went right into a carrier cage as they were quite wild and likely to hide.
That left one kitten alone with its mom.
I decided not to try to get that one yet as it always ran to hide when it saw me. I simply fed it special whenever I put food out for the big cats and watched to see how it was doing. Then I noticed how the little kitten was being pushed out when the big cats crowded around to eat.
It happened that I got a chance when the baby was squeezed into the midst of the crowd Saturday morning, and I simply picked it up and carried it into the porch. It made no complaint but immediately ran to hide when I put it down. It came out to eat in the night, but was too scared to come to me. I called Karla.
We had quite a struggle to finally corner it and get it into the cage Sunday morning. But now it is on its way to join its litter-mates in a good home!