Some time in early June 2009, while Dakota was still living outside. A little black cat started visiting the dry-food bowl everyday. Whenever she saw us, she would take off. I thought she might be feral. On July 9th, we noticed her sitting near the patio door looking in. My wife slowly opened the door and set a plate of wet food out for her. She approached and ate it, and then she continued to sit there and stare at us.
Wondering if she might still be hungry, my wife opened the door to give her more food. But this time, instead of backing away, she walked right in like she owned the place and started purring and rubbing up against our legs while at the same time hissing and striking out at any cat who came too close.
We were astounded. We didn’t know what to think. We’d never been able to approach her before, much less pet her or pick her up. We got her away from the other cats and into a bathroom where she lived for a long time.
Sheba’s moods were very hard to predict. One time she was affectionately rubbing her cheek against mine and in an instant she turned and bit me right on the nose. Sometimes when she heard cats on the other side of the door, she’d violently attack our legs. After a time-or-two of that, I’d get “armored-up” before going in, and my wife knew to call in the marines if I went missing.
The vet examined her and informed us she was pregnant, which I guess explains a lot. So of course, we did our research, prepared a nest and modified her diet appropriately. On July 30th, Sheba gave birth to four healthy kittens. We named them Phoenix, Chloe, Cubby & Emma.
Sheba’s kidneys are abnormal. She passes far more urine than she should. We don’t know if it’s congenital or if she ingested something that caused damage, but so far, it appears to be permanent. Perhaps it’s the reason she was dumped. She seems to do OK with it though.
Sheba is now our little referee. Occasionally when Spudski is in one of his moods and gets into a brawl with another cat, Sheba rushes in and breaks it up. She will not tolerate aggressive behavior from anyone. You go girl!
Phoenix loves action and adventure. My wife noticed that he bares a striking resemblance to Dakota. The older he gets, the greater the resemblance, thus the nickname Koty Junior. It is highly possible that Dakota is his dad.
What a puffy girl! Chloe might look like a charming little lady, but don’t let her fool you. Deep down, she’s a tomboy.
As a fuzzy little kitten, Cubby resembled a little black bear cub. He is a rough-and-tumble boy who likes to ride on your shoulders.
Emma looks the most like her mother. For some reason, when she’s chasing someone or is being chased she has to scream bloody-murder while doing it. I guess it makes her feel powerful. At first it startled everyone, but now we all just ignore her. She’s a total drama queen.
From recent research, we have learned that the Phoenix valley has had a free-roaming cat population-control problem for many years. Thankfully, there are now quite a few nonprofit shelters, foster groups, Trap Neuter and Return (TNR) programs and other supportive organizations battling to resolve this situation. For obvious reasons, kitten season is their most challenging time. During the heaviest point in the 2009 season, one shelter in the northwest valley was reported to have taken in 2,000 kittens in two weeks. However, I haven’t confirmed that.
In the desert just outside the Phoenix valley, 19 miles due west of us, is a rural area consisting primarily of small sized farms with horses and various small livestock. For years, the interstate exit there has been used as a popular drive-by cat-dumping-ground. Out of all the people that lived there, apparently only one couple cared enough to help the cats that managed to survive.
This couple was retired, living on a fixed income, but faithfully put out food everyday. Naturally, the cats were drawn there, and eventually a feral colony formed around the couple’s property. They had become feral colony care givers and, as such, help was available to them for fixing and feeding the cats. But, they didn’t know that —
One afternoon, my wife happened to meet them in the cat food section of the grocery store and they got to talking about cats. Some time later, she ran into them again at the same store. Then in early July 2009, we ended up sitting right next to them at a restaurant in an entirely different town east of us. I remember thinking how that was an odd coincidence.
We talked with the couple for awhile and learned that the wife had just been diagnosed with breast cancer and that the bank was foreclosing on their farm. They were very concerned about the future of the cats, so we told them that we would do some research for them. Then, my wife told them to call if they needed any help and she gave them our number. On August 18th, 2009, we received that call —
When the call came in, the woman was in tears. That morning, she had witnessed a mother cat being killed by a neighbor’s dog, leaving behind eight, tiny, orphaned kittens. They couldn’t be taken inside because she was under strict orders not to have any contact with feral cats during her cancer treatments. She said that she had tried to find a shelter that would take them, but it was the height of kitten season and every one she called just couldn’t take anymore. She said that the only offer of help she received was from the Humane Society. They offered to put the kittens to sleep. She said that we were the only ones left to whom she could turn, and she begged us to help them — So, we did.
Ohhh — did I struggle with that decision! On the one hand, I kept thinking things like “Why me? I don’t know anything about bottle-feeding helpless kittens! What are we letting ourselves in for? We have too many cats already! Talk about walking into something blindly! I just don’t think I can do this!” But on the other hand, it never completely left my mind how we just happened to sit right across from that couple at the restaurant. And how, out of compassion, my wife gave them our number. This wasn’t just cats in need this time, these people were children of GOD. These were neighbors in the biblical sense, and they were standing before us, asking.
To make a long story short, we did our research as promised and got the right organizations involved. The feral colony is now fixed and stable, and under the management of new, permanent care givers. (A special thank you to all the caring, dedicated, hardworking folks at the Foundation for Homeless Cats and the Animal Defense League of Arizona.) The sheriff was brought out to deal with the ongoing dog problem, and we ended up becoming foster moms to 18 kittens from three (possibly four) different litters. That’s right, 18!!!
We bought four nursing bottles and used a ton of kitten replacement formula, and later, canned kitten food. That stuff’s expensive! We went through piles of washcloths, towels and blankets. Who knew kittens could be so messy and so quickly too! While we struggled to raise our 18, Sheba was raising her four. She did a much better job. I’ve got to hand it to mother cats; they make it look so easy.
In the beginning, I was very nervous and awkward. When my wife went to work, I had to take care of them by myself. Even though I had done thorough research, I still felt like I had no clue what I was doing. Some of them were sickly and struggling and I was afraid. I asked GOD to please let them all live, and they did! Now, they are all heathy, beautiful and growing.
At first, the situation seemed nearly impossible. I was pathetic. I got hardly any sleep. But now, looking back, I guess it had its moments.