If you feed them, they will come
Last November I wrote about buying a discounted Rubbermaid doghouse, which I keep on our front porch as a haven for stray cats. I put a blanket inside, and on the “doorstep” of the house I keep a bowl of kibble and water. I’ve had many cats wander through to eat the kibble, although none seem to hang around for very long, and lately I’ve been sure that most of the kibble is being eaten by birds. I don’t begrudge the birds a snack (there are so many birds nesting in our roof tiles that I’m sure they love the convenience of take-out), but they do tend to make a mess. Every morning I have to go out on the porch to sweep up the stray kibble so I don’t attract ants or my despised cockroaches.
This morning I was casually just shifting the kibble dish and sweeping up under it when I glanced into the doghouse and something looked back at me :bug: Kitten! Cowering in the very back, partially hidden by the blanket, was a tiny grey kitten. I reached it to pick it up and it hissed at me but didn’t lash out, so I was able to scruff it and brought it inside. Flippy brought a crate down from upstairs, and I popped the kitten inside for a better look. It was fairly long-haired grey kitten with white feet and a white tail tip, and it was very dirty and full of dried bits of leaves. It was scared, but would allow me to pick it up, and eventually it started purring. I couldn’t decide if it was feral or not, because it obviously wasn’t drawn to people, yet it was fairly complacent. I figure it’s about six weeks old.
Not knowing what else to do, we quarantined it in our downstairs bathroom for a few hours, then took it to the vet for the FIV/FeLV test, a fecal test, and a general checkup. It turns out that it’s in good health but with a mild upper-respiratory infection, so it’s still in our downstairs bathroom and is taking amoxicillin. Our money is really, really tight since Flippy’s surgery (we got some of those bills yesterday, and she’s had $40000 in surgical procedures since January), but I wanted to make sure the kitten had the minimum amount of care necessary to allow it to integrate into our household while we try to find it a home. It obviously needs some more handling to get it used to being touched, and I think it would do it good to be around some other cats as soon as the URI clears up. I absolutely don’t want to keep it at all—I feel close to overwhelmed as it is, and if I can’t find a home for it quickly I’ll contact a local rescue group to see if they can find a home for the cat while we foster it. Having had our “kitten experience” this year, I really see how much it benefits kittens to be adopted in pairs, so it would be great if I could find a companion for our little stray. We’ve temporarily named her “Rory”, after “Rory Gilmore”. She almost ended up being “Veronica” after “Veronica Mars”, but it was such a big name that it didn’t feel right.
Anyway, here’s what you want—a photo:
I have a question about feral kittens—if the kitten I found today was truly feral, would she be more aggressive to me than she is? She doesn’t mind being picked up and held (she purred so loudly for the vet that he had to turn on water to startle her so he could listen to her heartbeat), but she doesn’t actively seek out human attention. I’ll sit downstairs with her and she’ll play with some toys near me, but doesn’t really acknowledge me unless I make the first move. When I first enter the room, she always runs and hides. This is very unlike the kittens we bottle-raised, who weren’t happy unless they were climbing all over us, constantly. I’m trying to gauge her background a bit, and to figure out if she’s possibly a runaway or if she was perhaps born in our neighbour’s backyard in one of his abandoned cars.
In a fascinating twist of irony, while writing this blog entry I went to look for the old entry where I wrote about the Rubbermaid doghouse to see if I should link to it. I found it was just a few lines embedded in another entry about my friend Celine in the Philippines, whose cat had passed away that same morning. Today, while I was finding a kitten in my doghouse, Celine in the Philippines was finding a stray cat at her house as well, and she’s adopted it. It’s such an odd coincidence, because my doghouse was put into use the day her original kitten died, and today was the first day my doghouse was really used, and she found another kitten to adopt. Freaky, man.
I’m wondering if someone in the neighborhood didn’t just drop off this kitten at your feeding station, knowing full well you would see to her. Six week old kittens aren’t generally out there in the world on their own. And if she was born nearby, then her mother is nearby and wouldn’t let her stray.
Just a thought.Posted by Nurse Ann on 05/13 at 10:48 AM
Awww! I have a brother named Rory so it always looks a bit odd to see it used as a female name, though I know it’s interchangable.
I’ve had a little experience with feral cats & kittens, I think if she was truly feral, your hand would have been shredded when you picked her up. It’s been my experience anyway - wild kittens are terrified and can be quite vicious!
Poor wee thing, though. Such a dilemma…I hope you can get her placed when while she is still little and cute.Posted by Carina on 05/13 at 12:26 PM
We live in a pretty isolated area, all things considered, so I’m not sure who even knows that I feed stray cats. We have no neighbours on either side of us and there are no houses across the street from us, so the only people who’ve ever seen my feeding station are the mailman and UPS man. I assume anyone seeing it would think it was for a dog, as it is a doghouse, and there’s a “beware of dog” sign in our window. That’s how to avoid solicitations ;-)
We do live within half a mile of a large bird sanctuary/farm, and numerous other farms, which is why I wondered if it was just a stray which wandered away from its mother. I know there are cats living in the yard of the house next door (the owner lives in Chicago and the house is empty for most of the year), so perhaps a cat gave birth back there a few weeks ago? There’s definitely at least one cat who comes to my feeding station and eats a tremendous amount of food—certainly enough to sustain a litter. I thought that maybe Mom brought the kittens to our porch to eat, but I interrupted them and one got left behind—I’m not sure. The kitten was very dirty and covered in dried leaves and twigs, so it doesn’t seem to have ever been a housepet.
As for whether or not it’s “feral”, I assumed it couldn’t be as it didn’t try to attack me. The vet said it was too young to have developed those aggressive tendencies, but that’s not what I’ve read other places. I guess it could be the kitten of a domesticated cat which gave birth outside, so the mother may not be afraid of people. The kitten is still too afraid to approach me voluntarily, but doesn’t mind being picked up.
I sure wish the kitten had some siblings, as I’d like it to have some company. I looked in the doghouse again this morning, hoping to find another visitor, but no such luck.Posted by Leigh-Ann on 05/13 at 04:40 PM
A couple of years ago the owner of my regular paint store (I’m a painting contractor) told me he had some sort of “wild animal” in his store. He’d found poop, and some things knocked over. I had one of the dogs in my truck & brought him in….he “tracked” around, wound up in a back store room pointing at a pile of boxes.
There in a box, was a tiny little boy kitten, looked exactly like your Rory!
Complete mystery how he got there, this was on a busy commercial street. I couldn’t keep him, a friend had a co-worker whose elderly father had just lost his cat, he took the kitten. So it worked out.
I was bitten once by a tiny 5-6 week old wild kitten. Right through a fingernail, lost the nail, too! (It grew back.) A neighbor & I were doing TNR (trap-neuter-release) with a local feral cat colony and found a litter of kittens. Vicious little things! I kept one but she was wild her whole life, couldn’t ever touch her.
Alley Cat Allies has a web page about feral/stray cats, lots of cat resources there.Posted by Carina on 05/14 at 02:53 AM
I don’t know if this is a feral kitten.. but I can say that it is one very lucky kitten to have somehow ended up in your Rubbermaid doghouse. Bless your very kind hearts.Posted by Simply Coll on 05/14 at 07:35 AM
So cute. It will be tough to give her away. I hope you find a nice home for her.Posted by Von Krankipantzen on 05/14 at 10:02 PM
Face it, Mudpuppy….you have Hobokittymagnatitis. It’s not fatal; your pet food bill with just make you wish that it was. ;) Cute kitten. You’re one up on me now.Posted by Callie on 05/15 at 10:09 AM
Awww I love happy endings. I hope you will let this kitty live with you.Posted by Maggie on 05/15 at 06:59 PM
“Hobokittymagnatitis”, eh? That explains a lot… I may travel to Mexico to see if they’ve got any experimental cures. It truly is amazing how cats manage to find their way to my feeding dishes—I guess their sense of smell is pretty spectacular.
Maggie, we just can’t keep this kitten—we’ve kept every other cat which shows up on our doorstep and we are a full house! I didn’t know if I even wanted to own one cat, but in the last year we’ve acquired seven. I hope that she’ll be easy to place because she’s a kitten and so cute. Btw, you’re the reason I’ve had the song “Maggie May” running through my head all day :)Posted by Leigh-Ann on 05/15 at 11:42 PM
i have quite a bit of experience rescuing feral cats and kittens, and it seems that even “true” feral kittens learn their aggressive tendencies either from their mother or on their own, given enough time. If you find them during their socialization window (4-12 weeks or so), they generally bond quite quickly with whatever is caring for them, and they grow up to be happy, well-socialized cats!Posted by anna on 05/18 at 07:09 AM
Thanks for taking time to comment, Anna :) I’m surprised at how the kitten is settling down so quickly—every day we see positive changes in her personality. I think it was good that we brought her upstairs so our other kittens could teach her some manners—she was noticeably less bitey today.Posted by Leigh-Ann on 05/19 at 03:44 AM