February was a cold snowy month, as always. Only February 2014 was a bit colder and snowier than usual. My husband (George) was away for a few weeks when we got our really big snow. Almost three feet that fell over the course of a day and a night. I thought about our furry visitor and started to worry. Domesticated cats stand less than a foot from the ground. How would he hunt? How would he find his way around in this deep, drifting ocean of snow? I put food out – just in case, just to get him through to the melt – and magically it disappeared. I didn’t see him at first, not for a couple of days, and half wondered if it was a raccoon or an opossum I was feeding and not the little grey tabby cat at all. And then I saw him, sneaking by the sliding glass door.
Winter faded and spring approached. The weather grew warmer and we spent more and more time outside. Little by little we worked away at him, slowly winning his trust. We were able to get close enough now to almost touch him. Almost, but not quite. At this point we knew he wasn’t feral. You’d never get that close to a feral cat. Not in a few weeks. Likely not ever. But he was stray and shy so we had to be patient.
Our community has a feral cat problem. It’s common out here in the country. The homeowner’s association put out a letter, warning residents not to feed the feral cats. Not to encourage them in any way. “He’s not feral,” George told me. “He’s our cat.”
He was. He already was. And we hadn’t even been able to pet him yet. George named him Oliver, and Oliver it was.
A breakthrough: Oliver finally let us pet him! And after that first touch, he couldn’t get enough. He was twitchy and demanding and made it clear that there were certain ways and certain places he most definitely did not want to be touched, but now it wasn’t just food he wanted from us.
We talked to our friends in the rescue business about using live traps, the best ways to get him without stressing the poor cat out. But I had an idea. We got a crate – a large one, big enough to be a cat-sized apartment – and set it on the deck, with Oliver’s beloved towel inside. In he strolled like it was the most obvious thing in the world. So George called the vet and got Oliver a ‘tutoring’ appointment, and two days later, we lured him into the carrier with a bowl of food, closing it behind him pretty as you please. No muss, no fuss, just one confused looking Oliver.
Oliver was surprisingly calm on the ride home from the vet. Drugs maybe, who knows. He freaked out a bit when we released him from the carrier, scurrying to one side, knocking head first into the screening, backing up with a confused look on his face. George and I tried to be patient, offering soothing words and fingers for scratching. Two minutes later, all was forgiven. Oliver was our cat. We’d claimed him. Now he claimed us.
It’s been three weeks now since Oliver first let us touch him. Things are better, but far from perfect. He’s still a bit twitchy and he’s young and sometimes unpredictable (he looked up at George the other day and knocked his glasses clean off his face for no apparent reason), but he’s a lovable bugger. He still wants our cats. Badly. He’s a boy cat with boy urges, but we’re hoping they’ll fade as the hormones flush from his system. Until then, he’s staying outside. Not that that’s all that bad. He gets food and lots of scratches, the sun and clean air and the wind in his fur. Oh and a house upgrade. We got him this pretty swank, insulated, M*A*S*H style cat house that he thinks is the bee knees. So, yeah. Oliver’s got it rough.