I have added a page on the Yellow Cottage Homestead website to summarize the history of our feral cats. Here is a copy of that as a blog post, but I will update the page over time.
When visiting the site, you can easily access the Cats page by clicking on the “hamburger” icon to the left of the title at the top, which will slide out a sidebar with links to the about page, cats page, projects page, projects summary, and post archive options, categories, tags, and more.
We have two groups of feral cats: outdoor-only feral cats, and indoor-only feral shop cats.
On August 30, 2017, we saw what we initially thought was a rat on our front steps… but on closer inspection turned out to be a kitten. Watching for a while, we saw that four kittens were living under our front steps. Fortunately we were in the process of adopting Paladin, our pet cat, so we had some kitten food on hand. We put some out for the kittens. An hour or so later, their mother turned up, having caught a mouse for them to eat. She was happy to eat the food too; no doubt she was very hungry, feeding and still nursing her kittens, not to mention feeding herself.
Read the first blog post about the surprise kittens for the introduction to them; here’s a picture of three of the kittens:
Here’s the mother cat, who we named Poppy, with a couple of her kittens:
Over time, we improved the feeding and living facilities for them, with a feeding station, a raccoon-proof feeder, a heated shelter, a custom-designed-and-built combo shelter and feeder, and more heated spaces. For details of those, check out the Cat House project summary page.
An important step with feral cats is to get them spayed and neutered. Otherwise, a family of five cats could grow exponentially to hundreds of cats, breeding out of control. To learn more about that, check out the posts on pre-baiting the cats (i.e. getting them used to eating from un-set traps), the actual process of TNR: Trap, Neuter, Return, and the followup a week later.
The TNR post also introduces the cats’ names, since that was when we first learned what their genders were (other than the mother, of course).
We have Poppy, the mother; Porcini, Portabella aka Bella, and Pomegranate aka Pommie, all female; plus Potato aka Spud, the only male. See the TNR post for close-up pictures of each.
The cats have a comfy routine of turning up for breakfast, often sleeping much of the day in the various heated shelters, with food available throughout the day, then hunting at night. They help us keep the rodent population under control around the outside of our house, and provide daily entertainment with their cuteness, but remain feral cats, wary of humans.
We got the shop cats on July 20, 2015, from the Multnomah County Animal Services. They have a “kitties for hire” program, where feral cats off the street, that are too wild to become pets, can be given a productive life helping keep workshops and barns free from rodents. They’re basically employees: we provide a comfortable home, food, water, etc for them, and in exchange they catch any rodents foolish enough to venture into our shop.
When we first got them, we kept them in a couple of large dog crates, joined together, to give them a comfortable enclosed space to get used to. After a while, we let them out into the rest of the shop. We decided to keep them indoor-only, in part to avoid wildlife from going into the shop, and in part to protect them.
Since we got them before I started this blog, here’s a picture of Pepper soon after we got her, in the aforementioned dog crate. Her estimated age was about five months old:
Pansy was an estimated one year old when we got her:
Since then, they’ve settled into their routines. Pepper has a cozy nest on top of some shelving in the front of the shop, with lots of padding, and even a heating pad to keep her toasty in the colder months:
Meanwhile, Pansy watches over the back half of the shop from her nest hidden behind some chairs, also with a padded bed and heating pad:
Each has their own food, water, and litter box. The two halves of the shop are separated by a wall, but there’s a cat door, so they can access the other half if they wish, though they usually stick to their own domain.
They have a pretty cozy life, periodically paying their rent with a dead rodent left as an offering for us.