Have you ever noticed a cat’s unerring ability to find food and shelter ? We’re currently experiencing that at first hand.
The olive groves, fields and woods around us are home to a small number of cats and back in June, one of these decided that the shrubs outside our kitchen window would be the ideal spot to raise her new litter of three kittens.
They were a sorry little quartet. The mother wasn’t much more than a kitten herself. Tiny and in poor condition, very thin; her coat dull and matted; and clearly struggling with the demands placed on her by three kittens who were also not in perfect health.
So we started feeding her – we couldn’t not – and that helped her considerably – and her kittens too. But while they were safe enough when still tiny and never straying too far from her, as they got older and grew, they became stronger and more adventurous.
But with this new-found mobility and a kitten’s insatiable curiosity, the dangers to them increased. One by one, they simply weren’t there anymore.
The little cat would call for her kittens and try to find them. We didn’t see her for three or four days after the last of them disappeared. Then one morning she was there again in the usual place we left her food and water. And she’s still here. Now sleek, glossy and black. And just a little less wild.
At first, she’d hiss at you and run away if you approached her; waiting until she was sure you’d gone back into the house before she’d risk returning to eat her food.
Eventually, for the sake of convenience, we started to feed her right outside the house, finding a secluded spot for her among the potted plants around our front door.
Every morning now, she’s there, sitting on a large stone waiting for her breakfast.
She doesn’t run away from us anymore – but neither does she let us get too near. Get inside her comfort zone of about a meter and she’ll edge away.
She’ll never be a cat you can pick up and stroke – but she’s discovered she has a voice. Initially she was virtually silent; now she’s quite chatty.
But you have to accept that dealing with a feral cat is always going to be pretty much a one-way relationship. You give. They take. One day, like her kittens, she too might simply not be there anymore.
It’s been easy enough to administer some basic care by grinding up worming tablets and mixing these in with her food. But there’s a reluctance on our part to interfere too much.
I don’t think she’ll ever lose her wariness of us. And I don’t think we’d want her to either. We’d rather she kept the feral cat survival instincts that have served her well so far through her short life.
So our part of the deal is to feed her, (but we know she still hunts); and now the colder, wetter weather’s arrived, we’ve fixed up somewhere under cover for her to sleep; and if she ever got too ill to look after herself, we’d find a way of capturing her and having her treated.
Her part of the deal is letting us do this.
And because she’s now our ‘outdoor cat’; and because we couldn’t go on referring to her as “she”; or “it”; or “the little cat”, she now has a name.
It suits her.