herding cats

Post a bunch of my summer photos in the gallery – check. Find a way out of my funk – working on it. Write on the blog more regularly – ugh. Return calls and emails from the past 2+ months – waaaaay waaaay waaaaaaay behind.

Become a foster dad for a family of 5 cats – check.

Yes, it’s official … I either love cats too much for my own good, or I’ve lost my mind. But in any case, the half-bathroom on the first floor just off the kitchen at Casa Ron-Marlin is now a foster home for a family (colony?) of five cats.

Last summer on several occasions we noticed a cat with a couple of kittens hanging out in our backyard – not surprising given the fact all our immediate neighbors (left, right, and behind our house) as well as many other houses on our block have dogs. As one of the few dog-free backyards in the neighborhood, I didn’t think a few random cat sightings were particularly out of the ordinary.

But this year it has become clear that we didn’t have a few stray cats passing through – we have a stray cat problem. And after more careful observation through the summer, it was obvious we had a close-knit family of five cats living under a neighbor’s garage. We have a young mama cat, two kittens no more than 4-5 months old, and two cats perhaps around a year old (Mama’s kittens from last year, perhaps?).

And the stray cat population doesn’t stop at those five, as I found out when I started putting food outside. There are at least four others, possibly including a daddy for my new foster pride. And other than the obvious fact the two young kittens belong with the mama, we’re not even sure if they are related. But they eat, sleep and play together, groom each other, and were all very protective of the kittens when some of the other strays were around.

I began feeding them regularly a bit over a month ago and contacted a local no-kill shelter. The shelter was full, but they told me if I wanted to rescue the cats, house them, socialize them, and work with the shelter to find adoptive homes, the folks at the shelter would offer the advice and support I needed as well as arrange for the shelter’s cost for veterinary services.

So I started moving the food closer to the house and then, eventually, just inside the back door, with the storm door propped open. The plan was to get all 5 of them inside eating, and then quickly close the storm door. But you’ve heard the saying about herding cats. It soon became clear I wasn’t going to get all 5 at once. I felt it important to get the mama and kittens at the same time, so the first serious attempt at capture involved those three. What I didn’t realize is that the tiny fraction-of-a-second pause when the plunger pulls the storm door closed would be enough to allow all 3 to come screaming out of the house. The first attempt was failure.

Next I tied a rope around the door handle, thinking I could slowly close it without them noticing. No dice. I couldn’t steadily hold the door open with the rope. The door would squeak and move every so slightly, and these cats knew something was up. Marlin came up with the winning idea – prop the storm door open with a short board with a rope tied around it. This allowed me to stand out in the yard, the door was held open steadily, and the cats went inside to eat.

Following nearly 10 days where it rained every day, my feline five were pretty much living on the porch where I had cleared the two lower decks of our garden utility shelves and set up towels and blankets. And a week ago last Friday evening, we caught the two older kittens – Snowball and Tux. Snowball had made friends with me outside and was comfortable enough jumping into my lap. Tux, on the other hand, was incredibly shy and before I got them inside the house, Tux was the only one I had been unable to pet. The day after capturing Snowball and Tux, the two kittens were more shy than usual and would not come inside the back door. But a day later, things were back to normal and a week ago this past Sunday we got the final 3 cats inside.

After talking with folks at the shelter and reading some stories on various web sites, I was expecting all hell to break loose when capturing 5 semi-feral cats. But to this point, we’ve had no problems. All five of them have become fond of me, and Tux has done a complete 180 and has become the warmest, friendliest, and most tactile of the bunch (pet me more!). The kittens have possibly the loudest purr motors I’ve ever heard. And starting this past weekend, we have ventured beyond the confines of the tiny bathroom and the cats get to explore the kitchen and pantry each morning and evening while I’m getting their food ready. All 5 are still a bit skittish with Marlin, but with his allergies he’s not able to spend much time with them.

And after spending a week+ indoors under my care, they were finally comfortable enough with me for a little belly rubbing, offering me the opportunity to check the furry nether regions. From all appearances, both young kittens are boys, the older kittens are girls, and Mama cat didn’t require a genital inspection to determine her sex, but she liked the belly rub nonetheless.

Next in the cat series: help Ron pick names for a couple of the cats.

3 thoughts on “herding cats

  1. Careful Ying – you are well on your way to becoming one of those “Crazy Cat People”! Its a good thing Marlin is there to temper the effects of this incipient and insidious mental illness!

  2. I couldn’t live without cats. These are the names of all I’ve been lucky enough to have living with me through the years:

    Sun Grumble, Cornface, Antigone, Sugar, Bertie, Isis, Musette, Starr. All had something to do with their individual personalities except Starr who came with that name.

  3. My friend found a black hat saying “the leather egg” on it in the Cathouse (Glasgow) and I thought I’d see what it was about. I’m a photographer too and I must say some of your shots are very inspiring!

    Lauren
    x

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