One of my favorite pictures of Jack and Topaz
I began to realize that we had a couple of female ferals that needed spaying before they started having litters and litters of kittens. We also had several males who would be more than happy to help them start having litters and litters! I started reading all kinds of information about ferals, their care, their needs, how they came to be, and anything I could. One of the ferals was named Merlin by my son because he was silvery white, fluffy, and had crossed blue-eyes. I do not know if the real Merlin fit that description but for my son, it was good enough. Merlin was the father of most of the feral kittens, including Topaz. That fall, we managed to grab both Tag (Merlin's other daughter) and Merlin for a trip to the mobile spay/neuter clinic. Tag left my husband in dire need of antibiotics because we didn't learn about trapping. But she's another story. Merlin was caught easier than we thought he would be and that let us believe that he had been formally owned.
Two down and others to go!
It was the following summer, we realized that something was terribly wrong with Merlin. He had had kidney infections in the past for which we had him treated. This time he had both kidney and bladder infections that didn't clear up for weeks. Our vet cautioned us that Merlin might be in CRF (Chronic Renal Failure) which meant we had to think about possible euthanasia for him. I went into research-hyperdrive to learn more about CRF. Turns out the most kitties get this because of dry cat foods or foods made with grains and legumes (translation: corn or soy). Since we had Merlin inside with us anyway, we tried giving him only canned foods to see how he did. Miraculously, his constant kidney and bladder infection cleared up by the time we took him back to the vet's for a check up. However, by this time, he had been in the house so long with us, that it would have been cruel to turn him back outside. I started looking for another home for Merlin.
Merlin had been abused in the past because he had this tendency to snap his inch-long fangs deep first and then ask you why your hand was in his mouth later. In other words, he bit first whenever he felt that you were going to hit him. Even petting him was done cautiously because he tended to bite instantly. That tendency made him unadoptable in my book. And we had another house cat.
Three months later, D noticed a new kitten playing out in the yard. I just buried my head in my hands when he told me. Sure enough, she was about 2 months old. I told him she could stay but we had to get her fixed before she got old enough to be sexually active. "No more kittens born under our house" was my mantra. A week later, D noticed that she had gunky eyes. Ah--it looks like our friend Upper Respiratory Disease was back to haunt us. Caught her, took her to the vet for treatment. Because she had a couple of other problems as well, it took her longer to heal up. By that time, she had gotten socialized. Because of her age (and because I'm a softee) we could not put her back outside with the rest of the ferals.
I thought I was being smart by socializing her so we could adopt her out. She was beautiful and we called her Gabriella--Gabby for short. We did have a couple of people who came to look at her but they didn't return. They told me that she "wasn't their kind of cat" whatever that means! I even tried adopting Merlin and Gabby together because they had bonded. But most people didn't want to take on Merlin and his kidney problems, they wouldn't take Gabby. So now we were up to 6 cats and a rabbit. I felt panicky every time I thought about the number of cats we had, not including the ferals we were managing. I worried that people would start equating our home with hoarders. I worried how we could financially take care of all these animals, not to mention the emotional needs of every one, including ourselves. I worried how we were going to integrate our household members instead of having closed doors between the groups. I worried and worried.
Meanwhile, my husband was bonding with one of the outside ferals he named Mad Max. Max was a lone feral. His mother was killed before he was 8 weeks old by a hit and run. Our ferals refused to let him join the colony where he could have had companionship, warmth, and share the bounty. Winter was fast approaching and my husband was working at ways to keep Max warm.
Stay tune for part three...
Merlin and Gabby--Best Buds