Ferals in the Neighborhood

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Jude and Simon love looking out windows. They are avid bird watchers. One of the things I knew we would miss when moving from the apartment to the house was the sliding glass door that was on the second floor apartment. The cats loved looking out this and watching all the birds in the trees.

Even though there is no sliding glass door in the house, the cats are enjoying all of the windows just the same. We have finally settled into a routine and I have identified Simon’s favorite window and Jude’s favorite window. When I identified Jude’s favorite window, I took the cat tree and put it in front of it. The cat tree was in front of the sliding glass door in the apartment, so now it is in front of Jude’s favorite window in the house. Simon’s favorite window in the house already has an ample perch for him to bird watch. (He sits on a chair.)

Something new that we have all noticed outside since moving to the neighborhood are outdoor cats. The apartment was on a very busy highway and all cats were indoor only. We never saw any outdoor cats at the apartment. There are many outdoor cats in the neighborhood at our new house.

I have pretty much been able to figure out which cat goes to which house. I may not know all the human neighbors, but I know all the neighborhood cats and roughly where they belong.

There is one cat that I jokingly call Jude’s girlfriend. We will call her “Lucy.” When Jude sees Lucy out the window, he gets really still and intent. He watches her closely. If she is walking down the sidewalk and leaves his frame of view, he will race to the next window just to see her. He does not seem agitated or aggressive, just very, very interested. Lucy seems interested in Jude too. The closest she has come to looking at him through the window is our front steps.

There are other cats Jude sees out the window, who must be male. Jude puffs all up and growls. Sometimes he even turns around and growls at Simon because he cannot take out his aggression on the outdoor cat.

There is one cat in particular that upsets Jude and he continuously takes it out on Simon. Simon is black and white. He is pretty much equally black and white. The outside cat in question is also black and white, except this cat is almost all black with just a little white on his chest. I think Jude gets confused because the outside cat looks so much like Simon and then takes out his aggression on his brother. We will have to work on that.

We have already had well over a foot of snow and days below zero. As winter has progressed, I have noticed that I do not see the outdoor cats anymore. They are being kept inside their houses, which is great. They should be inside when it is negative 12 out.

The one exception is this black cat with the little bit of white on him who absolutely pisses Jude off when he sees him outside. Since I have gotten sick of just referring to him as the outside cat, I am calling him “Clarence.”

I am pretty sure Clarence is homeless. Like genuinely homeless.

He is the only cat in the neighborhood I still see outside in bad weather. He is outside all the time. I see his footprints in the snow all over.

As the temperature has plummeted, I am concerned. I see him huddled in places.

My garage door is open year round. There isn’t really anything in the garage except garden rakes, snow shovels and the garbage can. I firmly believe that a garage is for parking my car inside not for storing stuff. I refuse to be one of those Americans who has a garage so full of stuff that you can’t fit the vehicle inside. I have a hard time putting the garage door up and down, so I just leave it up. Apparently the prior homeowner did the same.

The point is, my garage door is up, and I noticed that Clarence would dash inside to hide from the elements. It makes sense. It’s probably one of the easiest shelters for him to find.

I probably shouldn’t have done this – I’m either a sucker or just a soft heart, but I went online and read about feral cat shelters. I strongly dislike the idea of Clarence being outside in such frigid weather. I’ve been homeless myself and I know how much winter sucks without permanent shelter.

I made a feral cat shelter out of a storage tote, some styrofoam, and one of my old space blankets from a marathon. These are the blankets they drape on us after a race to retain heat. They work. The website said to use straw, but I couldn’t find any. It said not to use blankets or towels because they retain moisture, but I did put a fleece blanket inside in lieu of the straw.

I put the cat shelter up on a pallet in the garage to keep it off the cold concrete floor. I have no idea if Clarence actually goes inside for warmth or not, but I feel better knowing it is there as an option for him.

On the days the thermometer has dipped below zero, I took one of my microwaveable rice bags, heated it and put it inside the shelter twice a day.

People have been saying that I will now never get rid of him. Some people say I should just let him in the house. My thought is that I don’t want him in the house. I am okay with him outside. I already have two cats and they are all I can deal with as far as family members. Ideally, I would like to either trap, neuter, release (TNR) or trap and take him to a shelter. We will see.

Part of the reason why I think he is truly homeless is that he is very skittish. He runs away. The only time I see him is through the window. If I am outside or open the door, he runs away. He is either not used to humans period or was/is abused. All of the other neighborhood cats are friendly. They will at least walk past you on the sidewalk and some will even rub up on your legs if you let them. Clarence is not friendly. At all. He is also the only neighborhood cat still outside in all weather and temperatures.

The other thing I noticed was Clarence licking my front steps for water. I felt bad. So, sucker again, I set out a water bowl. I just don’t think any human or animal should have to go without water. That’s not right.

I figured that if I am wrong about Clarence being a boy, that I would just call the girl Clare. Clarence is the name of the angel in the Wonderful Life movie. However, I am pretty certain Clarence really is a boy. His footprints are rather large, plus Jude strongly dislikes him.

The other reason why I am pretty sure Clarence is a boy is that someone sprayed (peed on) one of the snow shovels outside. I am pretty sure it was Clarence. I don’t think he has been fixed. While I am not sure if he is actually using the cat shelter or not, it is pretty clear that he is marking that space as his “territory.”

This whole experience of outdoor cats is new to me. My cats are indoor only because they are beloved family members and I would be too worried if they went outside. Various people tell me not to feed them or whatever because then you won’t get rid of them. But if they are truly homeless, shouldn’t we try to help somehow? Trap, neuter, release (TNR) to reduce the homeless cat population or trap and take to an animal shelter to be adopted. I cannot take strays into my home, but I can at least help support the homeless population. I can’t just leave them outside to dehydrate and freeze.

Right now the only homeless cat in question is Clarence. I have read about feral colonies on the internet. There is not currently a colony here. All the other outside neighborhood cats appear to have houses. Except this one.

Isn’t that what life is all about? Trying to change the life or make a difference in the life of one person? I’m just trying to offer resources to a homeless cat to survive the winter. I am pretty sure that he would survive without my help, but as someone who has experienced homelessness in my own life, I just can’t stand by and watch.

Do you have feral cats in your neighborhood? Any experience with building outside cat shelters? How do you interact with homeless cats?

 

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