Bob and Kathy's Adventures with Feral Cats
The Next Generation>
Notes from Bob and Kathy:
A feral cat is a domestic cat or the off spring of a domestic cat that has been abandoned or
dumped. Left to fend for itself, the cat will often become wild. Often these cats will band
together to try to eek out a life in a colony. If the colony is lucky, a group of people will provide
food and some kind of shelter for these cats. However, many are not. Unfortunately, many feral
cats die slow, painful deaths due to starvation, poison, cars and preditors. Additionally, many of
the cats living in these colonies are not neutered, meaning that many kittens will be born in the
colony. (Many times an unexpected litter of kittens is the reason why a cat ends up being
dumped.) Unfortunately many of these kittens never live to be more than a few weeks old. In
order to prevent this needless suffering on behalf of the cats, many animal welfare and rescue
groups advocate a Trap/Test/Vaccinate/Neuter approach to managing a feral colony. For more
information about such a program, go here.
For the last few years, Bob, Kathy and family have been feeding a few feral cats that are living
on some property that belongs to Bob's sister and her husband. During the last two years we
have been trying to neuter and spay the adult cats, while catching the kittens, taming them and
finding homes for them. Three of Bob and Kathy's cats, Ghost,
Maggie and Mama started their lives
as kittens in this colony. What follows is a diary of sorts (written from Kathy's viewpoint) that
was sent out to several friends who were monitoring the progress of our endeavors.
October 20, 1998
Just thought you'd like an update on what has happened at the Rude Ranch since September.
As you all know, the kittens (Grey, Hissor, Hissetta, Pumpkin and Brownie) that we
tamed/fostered this summer have all been adopted. Goldie, the remaining kitten has taken on
duties as standby mascot at the Save A Life Animal shelter in Linthicum, Md. He shares his
duties with Bones, the original shelter mascot.
Here's what has transpired since then:
Bob and I are both still working at Uncle Nicky's restuarant in Crofton. We are also still signed
on as volunteers at the Save A Life shelter. The cats in residence, Tia, Billie Jo, Ashley, Ghost,
and Maggie were adjusting to each other. Even Mama was beginning to settle down and become
a really nice cat. Life was becoming normal. Our lives were becoming stable. Too quiet. Which
only meant one thing: we got a call, there were a bunch of kittens living on a McDonalds
parking lot. They were considered wild, and were begging for food from people, running and
playing in the road amongst the cars. Something bad was going to happen to the kittens.
Someone had to do something. Could Bob and I help?
We got lucky in one respect, someone else was willing to trap the cats, but she couldn't keep
them and work with them. That's where Bob and I came in. Ok, we could take 1 maybe 2, well,
there were 4 kittens, could we take them? Could we say no?
The next day we took custody of two kittens, one smokey grey, and a black and white tuxedo.
(Code named Blue and Blackie) The good news, they weren't totally wild. The bad news, they
were at least 6 months old, meaning they would be harder to tame, and harder to find homes for.
Just the same, they both were pretty good at hissing and hiding. The Rude cats took the latest
additions in stride, copping a "just give us the kitten food or the couch is the new scratching
post" type of attitude.
A couple of days later, we took custody of another tuxedo kitty and one calico. They were
promptly deposited in the second bedroom with the first two kittens. Now the fun begins.
The first problem we had with these kittens was that they were good at hiding. We spent the first
few days "plugging" holes where the kittens were hiding. This included the sewing machine,
under the bureau and the all impressive "in the box spring". Well we really wanted to take the
bed apart anyway, and shaking a few kittens out of the box spring seemed a good enough reason.
After that, the kittens went vertical. That's right, they decided to sleep in the curtains. I'm sure it
was a rude awakening (no pun intended) to the kitten that was sleeping in the curtains when they
pulled off of the wall.
It was also at this point that we started to hit a run of bad luck with infections. All along I
had always commented on how lucky Bob and I were that we had healthy low maintenance cats.
All that started to change. Ashley started sneezing. Ok, one upper respiratory infection (a feline
version of a cold). Normally a vet wouldn't prescribe anything for it and let it pass, however,
because we had so many cats, we would start Ashley on antibiotics just to be safe. At least the
pink medicine showed up really well on Ashley's tabby striping. Not to be outdone, Mama also
got an infection in both ears. This would be a problem, as Mama's last visit to a vet was in a wire
Have a Heart trap, right after we caught her. From her view point, it was a less than pleasant
experience. We were sure she would be less than willing to go to another vet. We were also sure
she would be less than cooperative when the vet asked the vet tech to flush her ears. Fortunately,
both Mama and the vet tech survived and we were sent home with more antibiotics. Which
would come in handy, as Ashley was generous enough to give her cold to Maggie. Maggie
announced this at about 3 in the morning, sneezing and hacking on Bob, myself, and several
At this point, the new set of foster kittens had been with us for about ten days. They were still
hiding, but not hissing and growling at us. I also noticed that the little calico (Cali) had thrown
up and didn't seem to feel well. I attributed it to having just puked up most of her dinner. The
next night, I found out otherwise. When I went to check on the kittens, the tuxedos, and the blue
kitten were hiding in their normal spots, but the calico wasn't. I finally found her, comatose
under the bed. At that point, all quaranteen rules were thrown aside as she was quickly thrown
into a kitty carrier and hustled off to the emergency vet.
The emergency vet was able to minimally revive her. After drawing blood and doing the kitty
leukemia test, it was determined that she had a massive viral infection, that yes she could be
cured, if she survived the night. We left the emergency vet with instructions to try to save her,
and we were to call back at 4 am for an update.
At 4 am (yes we did actually wake up at 4 am for this) she was still alive and in an oxygen tent.
She was going to survive the night!!! Just come in at 6 am to pick her up and leave a major credit
card behind. We also had a more immediate problem -- what to you do with a very sick
contagious cat at 6 in the morning? Our regular vet wasn't open yet, the emergency vet was
closing down and had to get all the over nite patients out. So, being the decisive, ready for action
types that we are, we had Cali's IV's capped off, called into work late with a "family" emergency,
and drove around trying to figure out how to take care of her.
When we finally arrived at our regular vet's office, the emergency vet's diagnosis was confirmed
-- She was a very sick kitty, and she still wasn't out of the woods yet. She was immediately
taken into intensive care for more intensive antibiotics and IV's. There was one problem. The
vet's night person who usually monitored the intensive care area just quit. Could we come back
at closing time (5 pm) pick Cali up and take her back to the emergency vet? So much for
The following morning, (which happened to be a Saturday) Bob and I managed to haul our
selves out of bed to get Cali by the 7 am pick up time. By now Cali was able to pick her head up
and look around. She was even trying to stand a little. This was a vast improvement over the
almost comatose kitty we dropped off the night before. However, she still needed continuous
antibiotics through an IV, meaning back to the regular vet. By now we were on a first name
basis with everyone there.
By now the situation at the Rude Ranch was: Five permanent residents, (Tia, Billie Jo, Ashley,
Ghost and Maggie) who were more than a little miffed at being rolled out of bed and deserted at
the weird hours that Cali's vets required. One semi tame Mama kitty who was still camped out in
the third bedroom. Three more kittens (Blackie, Abigail, and Blue) who were still less than
cooperative in the second bedroom, and lastly one little calico who was quickly becoming the
patient of the month at two different vet offices. We were beginning to feel a bit
Coming Soon: Cali's recovery, or How to Look Fashionable Wearing your Cats Food, and The
Things that you Find in the Middle of the Road.