Tag Archives: Feral Cats

Sad, but not hopeless

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On Sunday nights I used to help feed feral cats who lived in managed colonies not far from my neighborhood. There were four stops, and on any given night, I might see from 5 – 30 cats who came to the feeding areas for food. There were a few cats who would get close enough for a quick scruff, but the majority of them would hang back until the food was in a dish.

Ink drawing of feral cat waiting for food.

My Inktober interpretation for SAD is based on my experiences with the colony cats. I would worry on nights when I didn’t see a regular visitor, or if a cat was clearly in distress. But, at the very least, these cats were spayed or neutered, and got a meal once a day. Occasionally, there would be a sick or injured cat, who, if it could be safely trapped, received health care. When kittens did show up, they were carefully captured, and placed in forever homes.

I dedicate this drawing to all of those scrappy cats who survive in the streets, around dumpsters, drainages, and parking lots.

 

Shelter

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I may have mentioned it before, but I love Illustration Friday, a site where illustrators respond to a weekly prompt based on a theme. It’s a great place to see a lot of creative responses to the motif, and to post your own theme-related work. This week’s prompt is SHELTER, which fits perfectly with some of my other recent posts. Like this Friday Art Cat on Katzenworld, this previous post about Los Gatos de Panama, and this one about a little kitty who lives in a culvert.

Cat under an umbrella, watercolor painting

Rainy cat.

Here’s a watercolor sketch that was inspired by a rainstorm and my cat, Miss Bean, who is wary of any water that falls from the sky. For me, it’s not only a portrait of my own cat who was a stray, but also a symbol for all the cats, and other homeless animals who need protection, food, medicine and shelter.

Soft, Yet Sometimes Evil

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Soft, Yet Sometimes Evil

Intelligent, impertinent, and sometimes snuggly, Miss Bean exudes personality. At nine years, she is the old lady of our cats.

Kitten and Cat

On the left is little Miss Bean just a few days after I rescued her. On the right is Miss Bean now. She still likes to look out the window.

A stray on the campus of the private school where I taught in San Antonio, she was pulled from the rosemary bushes by the maintenance staff in 2006. The school policy on cats was to call animal control, so I asked the guys to hand over the kitten to me. She was so tiny that she needed to be bottle fed, so, for weeks, she came to school with me, at first just sleeping and eating in a crate in my office. As she became more mobile, she pounced around the art room, posed as a model for drawing, and sometimes, caused chaos.

Kitty on table

The wee Miss Bean was a daily fixture in the art room when she was a kitten.

At home, she never really socialized properly with the other cats. There was a time when she was being catified by Cleo, one of my older calicos, but Cleo became ill and passed away, leaving Bean without a mentor.

Cat laying on person

Miss Bean positions herself where she is the most comfortable.

Occasionally, Bean still has difficulties relating to the other beings. I understand that bottle fed kittens are notorious for bad behavior. Bean has her moments, but under patient direction, constant reassurance and training, she has become a wise, mellow, somewhat snuggly friend. Bean especially likes to spend her down time perched on my husband.

Cat in a catio.

On the shelf in the Tabby Shack surveying the neighbors.

I am really bonded with Bean, I guess because of bottle feeding, and the extra special care she’s always needed. She has exquisite, multi-colored fur, a white kisser, and black, black feet bottoms.  Bean can really be a sweet cat once you know to be gentle, and watch for her communication. I can’t believe I’ve lived with Miss Bean for nine years already! She’s definitely been worth the trouble.

The Middle Cat

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The Middle Cat

Vera is part cute, part playful, part scaredy cat, and part lap kitty. We found her in a bush outside of a hair salon parking lot one evening when we were out for a walk. We couldn’t see her, but we could hear an insistent, high-pitched, staccato mew…mew…mew. She was very skittish and skinny, hiding deep in the bushes. My husband ran home to get a carrier and a little cat food. We put the carrier down with the food in it near the bush, and waited…for about two seconds! She went running in to the carrier, we closed the door and took her home.

Kitten and cat

The top photo is Vera just a couple of weeks after we brought her home. The lower photo was taken this winter in my studio, eight years later.

She is now seven years old, and hasn’t changed much at all. She’s the cat that our guests almost never see because she hides until she deems you a safe friend. She loves to be up high.

Four pictures of a gray and white cat.

From lap kitty to garden explorer.

She’s often found on the fridge, hanging out on a shelf, or in the back of the studio closet. Vera is the most helpful when I’m working in my studio. She offers advice on (a.k.a. lays on top of) my projects. But mostly, she just wants to have lots of scruffs!

Cat on book and on fabric.

This is how she helps me when I’m working in my studio.

Too Many To Count

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Too Many To Count

Panama City is sprawling and modern with amazing architecture, stunning tropical vistas, and a lot of history. Panama City also has an alarmingly high stray animal population. With lazy, unkempt dogs visible in every part of the city, I knew there had to be stray cats, but where?

I’d seen a single, sneaky cat in an alley near a grocery, one under a car near the fish market, and a couple of scrappy cats in the old part of the city. But, it wasn’t until our final night that I found the lair.

Alley cat, cat under car, cat on wall

Grocery, fish market, and apartment dumpster cats in Casco Viejo, Panama City.

We were strolling in the linear park along the Pacific Ocean looking for raspa when I saw a petite, mewing white and calico kitty perched on the seawall, along with at least 20 of her friends! There were feral cats sneaking in the bushes, lurking on the rocks behind the wall, and many just out in the open. They were looking for handouts, endeavoring to be approachable in hopes that someone would toss an edible morsel. Some of the cats were people-friendly and would scruff on someone’s leg or take a pet on the head. Most were dubious, and darted a safe distance away upon being approached.

Cat on the sea

A collection of the sweet, feral cats I bonded with at the marina in Panama City.

I discovered that these cats are part of a managed colony run by kind people at an enormous city marina. When I asked the night guard how many cats he thought lived at the marina, he laughed. Too many to count.

Too many to count. That basically encapsulates the stray population, in general. Too many dogs. Too many cats. A problem that humans created, and are now trying to manage through education and sterilization, while struggling to provide basic food and care for the uncountable.

Watercolor sketch of cats

Drawings in my sketchbook of just a few of the feral cats I met. 

And yet, help comes. Of all of the cats I encountered, I could tell they were being fed, as evidenced by piles dry cat food scattered on the pavement. Almost all had a clipped ear, the sign of having been spayed or neutered. A cat here or there needed serious personal grooming, but mostly they seemed adjusted to their lives in the tropics, resting on a seawall, enjoying the cool ocean breeze.

Life in a Culvert

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I should have named my cats Lucky, Fortunate, and Charmed. All three were rescued from stray-dom, and now live a dry, protected, well-fed, and healthy existence. They receive regular scruffing, head pets, and belly rubs if they so choose. There is no chance that, as they lay in a sun puddle by the window, anything dire will happen.  My cats even have an outdoor room built just for them so they can go out to watch the birds and roll in the dirt, despite the sideways looks from my neighbors, some of whom still think the catio is a chicken coop.

Cat at a gas station.

Hello! I live in a drainage culvert.

So, when I encounter stray cats like this sweet, little black kitty, I feel sadness and shame. Sadness because I can tell she’s not getting the health care she needs, or the best nutrition, or shelter from the heat or rain. As far as I know, she’s the only kitty who lives in this culvert, at this gas station, in this wealthy, gated neighborhood area in San Antonio, Texas. Shame because my cats live the feline equivalent life of the 1%. (And do they KNOW how lucky they are?!)

Black kitty could be considered lucky among the feral and stray cats. I asked the gas station attendant who tended to her, and was told that she gets plenty of food and water from the kind people who work there, and from people in the nearby neighborhood. That’s good. There are many, many people who care about animals. And this black kitty is a true feral. She would not respond with purring to a scruff on the head, even if you could approach any closer than about 8 feet.

I can’t possibly help every kitty in the world.  I understand that change comes one kitty at a time. I also know that this black kitty’s story plays out in thousands of culverts, parking lots and abandoned buildings all over the country, and that not every kitty is faring as well as this San Antonio gas station kitty. I try not to be overwhelmed, and give my support where I can.

Here’s a scruff for all kitties, everywhere.

You Need A(nother) Kitty

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June is Adopt-A-Cat Month here in the United States. A brilliant and worthy celebration! So, why have I waited so long to celebrate? Lack of direction? Indifference? Too busy? NO! Just wasn’t sure how to properly honor such an awesome event…so, I finally made a work of art to show my support.

According to the ASPCA

“Of the 3.4 million cats entering shelters, approximately 37% are adopted, 41% are euthanized, and less than 5% of cats who came in as strays are returned to their owners.”

I read that statement multiple times… MILLIONS of cats?! more are euthanized than adopted! only 5% returned to owners? Isn’t anybody looking?! We (as an internet culture especially) worship cats on a scale that the Egyptians couldn’t even imagine. And Egyptians took their cats very seriously. Did you know that, “because of widespread cat smuggling in ancient Egypt, the exportation of cats was a crime punishable by death?” Animal Planet  (I got this factoid and others here at Animal Planet.)

Adopting a new kitty, or adding some more to your collection, is the obvious way to celebrate Adopt-A-Cat Month, but if you simply can’t for practical reasons, then there are other ways to help.

  • Volunteer at your local shelter as a cat caretaker, helping in the socialization (this means petting and playing!), care, and well-being of cats until they are adopted.
  • Donate your dollars to cat rescue sites in your area. Many rescue agencies are run by individuals or small groups who personally assume the monetary burden of rescue. During the summer months, they are often saturated with kittens and need additional donations of food, old towels, carriers, cat toys, and cat litter.
  • Some areas sponsor trap, neuter, and release programs to help moderate and maintain feral cat colonies. Before I moved to Michigan, I was the Sunday night feeder for feral cats who lived in parking lots at nearby businesses. I supplied the food, and my husband and I would drive around just after dark every Sunday and leave food for groups of spayed/neutered colonies. Sometimes we would find new cats, or new kittens, which would then get trapped, neutered, and released back into the colony. Captured kittens were often adopted to good families!

While June is the official Adopt-A-Cat month, I think that every month should be Adopt-A-Cat month! I love cats and will advocate for happy, healthy, well cared-for cats with glee and passion. We all need a(nother) kitty!

Adopt-A-Cat

Fabric Collage: cold emersion dyed fabric, with screen, digital, and relief printing. Carol Parker Mittal