Patience and Love Transform a Feral Cat into a Wonderful Pet
By Sheri Parks, member of our Client Care Team
I discovered Leery, along with her mother, brothers, and a sister, living behind my home when we moved in 7 years ago. I was sitting on my deck one night when I noticed several pairs of glowing eyes all huddled together under a group of pine trees – such precious babies!
I began setting out food and tying to catch them, which was difficult because it quickly became obvious that they had had no contact with humans. Every evening I sat near them while they ate and I would also try to pet them. One kitten was more curious and less afraid than the others. I named her Leery because she was still “leery” of me, never guessing that she would become my pet.
Leery and her family came into my life before I began working at Animal Hospital of North Asheville, and back then I was unaware of how quickly kittens grow and begin to reproduce. Before I knew it, I was on a quest to capture, spay/neuter, and find homes for lots of kittens and cats.
Leery’s mother and two brothers were caught, spayed and neutered, and released at a safe place where they would be fed, looked after, and provided with shelter. They were too feral to be inside cats. Leery’s sister, Momma, had 2 litters of kittens before my neighbor, Julie, and I were able to catch her. With the help of Mary Paws, we were able to find homes for all the kittens, and once Momma was spayed, she was re-released back at my house.
During this time, Leery also had 2 litters of kittens. My husband, Ryan, Julie and I would catch the kittens and bottle-feed them. Then we found foster homes for them until they were old enough to be adopted. We were very careful to make sure that they didn’t breed.
Over time, Leery and Momma were learning to trust me. Leery allowed me to pet her and Momma let me get close enough to feed her. I devised a bed for them to keep them warm during cold weather. I cut a hole into a Rubbermaid container and put blankets and straw in it. Leery and Momma cuddled up and would sleep together in this makeshift shelter.
Eventually, Momma let me scratch her on the head; I made much more progress with Leery. Leery actually loved to be petted and, unbelievably, she also came to love my Jack Russell Terrier, Weebo. (Weebo loves every creature on Earth and she adored Leery from the start.) Weebo licked Leery’s face up one side and down the other and Leery would rub against Weebo. Leery never once swatted at Weebo.
Although Leery was by far the most social of my feral cats, she was also the most difficult to catch. We weren’t able to catch her until after she had her third litter. Leery brought her kittens to my neighbor Julie’s garden and we were able to catch the four kittens. We put them in a dog crate on my front porch. The kittens began to cry for their mother and Leery appeared on my porch. I quickly scruffed her and slid her into the crate with her kittens. Success! Finally after three years of trying, I had caught Leery. Friends, family, and my co-workers at Animal Hospital of North Asheville adopted all of Leery’s kittens.
Once Leery was spayed, I continued to feed and love her and her sister, but sadly one day, Momma never returned. I choose to believe that she found someone else to feed her in a quieter place. She was very frightened by noise and fast movement. I know Leery missed her since they were so very close.
My sweet Daddy built Leery a house for shelter from the rain and cold. He even insulated it. Her shelter was kept on my front porch and Leery loved it, which made me feel a little better about leaving her outside.
One bitterly cold day I prepared the spare bedroom for Leery and thought I would attempt to bring her inside. I put all of my pets in other rooms before I scruffed Leery and brought her into the house and the bedroom. Much to my surprise, Leery was quickly content with her new space! She only went back outside when the weather warmed up again. The following winter I repeated the same procedure and this time she never went back outside again! She even became roommates with my rescued bunny, Lola, who was crated in the same room. Leery lay next to Lola’s crate and touched noses with Lola. They would often lay like that, nose-to-nose. Leery never once tried to harm Lola.
Over time, Leery and my four other cats got to know each other by sniffing each other under the door. They now all live in harmony together. She fits so well into my “zoo!”
Leery is a beautiful cat. She looks at me so lovingly with her yellow eyes that sparkle against her black coat. One of her ears is clipped because she was once feral and she was spayed at the Humane Alliance, but I think this makes her even cuter.
It has taken time, patience, and love, but now she plays with toys and when I’m brushing my other cats she lets me know she’s anxious for her turn by pawing at the back of my leg or even gently nipping it! She is also the only one of my cats that will let me clip her nails without a fuss.
Leery is a special girl and I love her very much. I feel blessed to have her in my family.