In case you were wondering, I'm still here, plugging away. No disaster has befallen me or my family, it's just been a busy time recently. Between work, home, feral cats, check-ups, and now a lot of concern about hubby's 93 year old aunt, we've been extremely busy (a recurring theme, isn't it?).
Speaking of feral cats, I have learned a WHOLE LOT about them recently. After our sort-of decision to try to adopt the two Manx cats who have been visiting (we've vacillated a bit since learning how difficult it may be to actually get them to live inside) I went to the houses behind my across-the-street neighbor to make sure that the Manxes didn't belong to someone in that area, where I met a very nice lady named Dot who is also a cat lover. Not only did she "know" the Manxes, she had also been feeding them and at least 5 additional cats who live in the woods adjacent to her house. Dot's impression was that people drop off unwanted cats in the woods next to us. Having four indoor cats herself, she was not in a position to take any more cats in, but assured me that the Manxes and several others were homeless.
Now realizing that we most likely had a colony of feral cats living among us, I've started researching and reading about them. The trend these days is to trap-neuter-return (TNR) all members of a feral cat colony and then someone usually becomes the caretaker of the colony by putting out food and making a sturdy shelter for them. One very interesting fact I learned is that in these shelters one should never put blankets, towels or the like because they mildew and become quite nasty. Instead, the better bedding material is cedar chips, piled several inches deep, with a sprinkle of cat flea powder (other wood chips are ok, too). Not only does the cedar deter fleas but the loose, deep material also allows the cats to burrow down and hollow out a nest which allows them to retain heat in the cold weather.
Until now I wasn't aware that there are dozens of groups all over the U.S. who sponser and/or operate TNR programs for feral cats. One group with an excellent website full of resources is IndyFeral. The foundational concept is that not all cats are alike and some are just not suited to living indoors, and this is not a reason to kill them. They believe that there is good reason to neuter these cats so they don't overpopulate the area and also to avoid the many annoying behaviors associated with mating. These cats really do well living in colonies with some human support, according to the many websites. A group in San Diego also has a very informative website, here. There, they have documented a 50% reduction in the number of cats caught and killed by animal control compared to the year before the TNR program started nearly 2 decades ago.
So, for me, this kind of changes things. I had a nice talk with a wonderful lady from a neighboring town who runs their TNR program, and although she didn't want to discourage me (she said), she thought it was highly unlikely that the Manxes would be tameable as house cats. But, she was absolutely positive that the cats must be caught and neutered, and she was willing to help us, since her town is having a lull in complaints about feral cats right now. Next week we are getting together--she's bringing the cat traps and will be making appointments for the neutering the next day (she's pretty sure we'll catch them in one night). So, late next week I'm becoming part of the TNR group here. It's funny how you can get involved in a project by caring about something, even when you didn't mean to take it all on!
I still want to see if the Manxes show any signs of being socialized in their past--maybe in just a couple of days they might warm up or something. If not, we'll release them back to their colony, where they seem to be making out pretty well so far.
So, I guess I'm becoming at least a part-time feral cat colony caretaker. I think I'll get Dot involved...maybe if I fund a bunch of cat food she won't mind. ;-)