Friday, October 19, 2012

Our feral cat returns

Franklin the feral cat in his new home
Franklin peers out of his new house
In a previous blog post, I discussed the preparations I'd gone through to help our outdoor cats move to a completely new community. At the time, I was convinced that feral Franklin was gone, as I hadn't seen him for several days prior and had no evidence that he was anywhere in the vicinity. It seems I had given up on him a little too early. Over the past week, he's reemerged and now he seems to be settling into his new home.

Since Franklin is feral, he can't be touched and he certainly doesn't come when he's called. He might not even know that we call him Franklin. Taking care of a cat like this is really hard, especially when you're moving from one neighborhood to another. There's no way to convince cats like this that you mean them no harm and that staying with you will be best for their long-term health. Most of the time, they just run off as soon as they see you. Franklin is no different, and the move seems to have broken what little trust he once held for me. Before we moved, he'd get close enough to sniff my fingers. Now, he likes to maintain a 3-foot distance at all times.

The other boys are spending their nights in an enclosed space with heated beds. Often, they must be picked up and carried into this home, and Franklin would rather die than let me pick him up. For now, I've rigged up a little enclosure for him. It's a bit on the ghetto side of things, but he seems to like it.

In essence, this is a litterbox with a closing flap that I've filled with rugs, blankets and a heating disk. I have the door propped open with a stick for now, so he can get in and out, but eventually, I'll remove that stick so he can retain heat in there a little bit better. In this little makeshift bed, he stays warm and dry, and for an outdoor cat, that's a pretty good life. I'm hoping he'll learn to use the cat door in the outdoor enclosure the other cats use, and in time, he'll spend nights in there with his buddies. If he never chooses to do that, however, at least he'll be clean, dry and warm. Here's hoping he chooses to stay this time, and that he forgives me for moving him.

In the interim, I've learned something about feral cats. For the week that Franklin was missing, he was squatting about 6 feet from the door, right underneath the deck. He never made a sound, never ate a bite and never emerged for anything at all. He must have been simply paralyzed with fear and unable to do anything about it at all. If I had all of this to do over again, I think I would have been a bit more respectful of his fear, and I would have introduced him to Salem much more slowly. It seems like he needed weeks, not days, to adjust. That's something all feral cat keepers would be wise to remember.