By Kamran Nayeri, October 14, 2014When I discovered the feral cat colony on Darby Road in late August 2011, it was because two small orange cats ran towards my car due to their state of starvation. I related their stories in Part 1. They turned out to be sisters about 9-11 years old. The first one I trapped and took to the veterinarian hospital was treatable and I brought her home and named her Sayda (more on her in Part 3). Her sister was not as lucky. She suffered from advanced Feline Immune-deficiency Virus (FIV) infection and terminal skin cancer and had to be euthanized. I also noted two other cats that lived in the colony: “ As I was feeding the two starving orange cats …I noticed that a black cat has also appeared, and in the distance, a calico cat. The black cat came closer and let me pat him. I had to get more food.”
Lulu is a beautiful black cat with a touch of white in his chest who must have been someone’s lap cat and then dumped on Darby Road. He absolutely loves human interaction and will easily bond to any friendly person. He is long, skinny with yellow/green eyes. Of all my cats here, Lulu and Sunny (read about her below) probably rank as the ones showing most affection. Everyday, I spend a fair amount of time brushing, holding, hugging, and kissing Lulu on the sliver of land owned by a neighbor before he eats, during his eating (he takes a break for love and then eats some more) and after he is done eating. He likes to be brushed, to be picked up and put on my lap as I squat on the ground (no chairs there) and being held in my arms as I stand up and walk around.
|Lulu eating food inside the trap I set up for him|
I trapped Lulu after a couple weeks of training. To trap him, I carried the trap with me in the back of the car and placed it where I fed Lulu at each meal. At first, I placed his bowl of food near the opening of the trap and over time it more and more inside. One morning when Lulu was inside the trap eating his breakfast which as deliberately small I simply closed the trap door on him, covered the trap in a blanket so he feels less stressed (cats prefer enclosed spaces when in stress) and took him to Analy Veterinarian Hospital. Dr. Baldwin examined Lulu who was well-behaved, found him to be in generally good health on physical exam and I took him home waiting for the lab results.
The local lure has it that Calico is an older matriarch who gave birth a number of times before she was spayed. No one know where her kittens went. I have seen no sign of them in the neighborhood. Presumably they have all died or taken away by someone. Calico is really Calimanco or Clouded Tiger type of cat by fur color. That is, her basic color is black covered by spots and strips of orange and dark orange. Calico is very protective of herself. Even Lulu does not get too close to her or there will be a paw fight. She spends a lot of time in her “den” and comes out for sunshine or fresh air or to hunt gophers and watch birds only when it is quiet in her neighborhood. She likes to go across the way to the property where a Costco butcher lives. A gentle giant of a man with a big truck and a huge boat that I have seen him tow to the sea only once in three years. His yard is overgrown with blackberries and other volunteers, a perfect place for cats and wildlife (but a disgrace by human standards that prefer manicured gardens).
|Calico eating on top of the flatbed truck that was her home|
Given Calico’s disposition, I never tried to trap her and take her to the veterinarian hospital. I argued to myself that even if they find aliments I cannot treat a cat like her. Thankfully, she has been keeping steady. There are periods of a day or two and rarely longer when she does not show much appetite or does not even show up to eat. I know she is not feeling well. May be a stomach virus. But she bounces back each time and resume her routine. Calico is not a big eater but she has more heft to her than Lulu. Although I could not give Calico Frontline for flea treatment, I gave her deworming medication when I I dewormed Lulu too. Cats can get parasites from rodents they eat or from fleas that feed on them. Early on, I noticed a twice or so worms coming out of Lulu’s behind. The deworming pill can be placed on top of their dried food and the cat easily eat them. My current plan is to keep Lulu at his current location as long as Calico who I assume is older is alive.
A little after I established a feeding routine for Lulu and Calico occasionally another cat showed up for food. He was a small grey-blue male cat that was not neutered who had small ears, very short fur, fast moving and pushy. He stayed away from me but he was not shy like Calico was. He tended to rush toward either Lulu or Calico while eating and push them away to eat from their bowl even when he had his own bowl of the same food.
|Smokey in an early photo when he first showed up for food|
When I inquired from neighbors about this cat, Jennie, an one older woman who lived in a smaller of two houses in a vineyard, exclaimed: “Oh, this is Smokey!” She said Smokey has been around for many years (the years added up to 11-13) and that her late husband used to feed him from time to time in the garage. Jennie still gives Smokey a saucer of milk from time to time. Obviously, they liked Smokey but never adopted him.
It was about Christmas 2011 that one morning I saw a very small orange cat running under the blackberry bushes when I stopped to pick up my New York Times from the mail box. Because I live in the country, mail boxes of an entire group of homes are placed in one location, typically walking distance from each home.
|Sunny in her early months in the house where she spent time behind the books|
The next time I saw the orange kitty, I called her and she stopped just under the first row of blackberry bushes. I opened a can of cat food and put in a bowl near her. She quickly walked to the bowl and started eating. In no time, she ate all that I had for her. I gave her the rest of the can and it was gone in no time. Meanwhile, I realized she does not mind me getting closer serving more food. I began gently rubbing her back while she was eating. She ate three big cans of food before she was satisfied. Then she walked under the bushes and disappeared.
Friday nights is the night when I devote time to relax myself. I spent some time laying on the sofa listing to jazz sometimes with Sunny laying on my belly or legs facing away from me. I often feel a deep sense of gratitude for finding such wonderful companion behind the blackberry bushes.
Essay: The Feral Cat Colony on Darby Road: Part 1