Last week, I discovered that we have a feral cat living in our yard. When we moved here, 23 years ago, we had lots of feral cats. Often a half dozen or more would squeeze beneath the door and take shelter inside our barn each winter. We haven’t had one for a couple of years. The theory is that the coyotes have been decimating their numbers. This one came as somewhat of a surprise.
I never see feral cats when the weather is good. Only in the dead of winter when they are cold and hungry do they show themselves. Feral and stray cats were never meant to live in the wild. Often they have been abandoned and left to fend for themselves. They are common domestic cats. Pets. Or at least, they should be.
I spotted this one prowling around my compost pile at dusk. He made his way past the bird feeders, maybe hoping to find a sparrow for supper. But the birds had retired for the night. I watched from my window as he turned the corner of the house and jumped up onto a shelf beneath my patio bar where I had left an old rug last fall. It was not the warmest place he could have chosen to spend the night but it was off the ground and was somewhat sheltered from the wind.
The forcast was calling for a winter storm and the sky had faded from daytime gray to cast widening ominous shadows. Tiny white snow pellets spit against the window. I wanted to do better by the cat — give him a softer blanket and erect another wind break, but I knew better. If I approached him or gave him any hint that he might not be alone in the world, he would run. With daylight quickly turning to night and with a storm approaching, I did not want to chase him from what he obviously had decided was the best shelter he could find. I quickly and quietly set a dish of cat food and a bowl of fresh water outside the back door. It took only a few minutes for him to smell it and come out. He ate the entire bowl before climbing back up into the bar. At least he now had a full belly.
I put on my coat and went out the front door so as not to disturb the cat. Inside the garage/barn, I filled and plugged in the heated water bowl that hadn’t been used for a couple years and I left another bowl of cat food. Then, I left the door ajar so that kitty could get inside if he came that way. It would be a safer and warmer place for him to live if he found it. It was the best I could do for now.
In the morning I slowly approached the bar. Kitty was gone. I went to the barn. The food had been eaten and I heard something scurry in the back corner. I refilled the bowls and quickly left, happy that he’d found the better place to sleep.