Friday, October 4, 2013

Conquering Mama Kitty

So I set myself a near-impossible task this summer. I decided that I was going to tame Mama Kitty.

This is Mama Kitty
Mama Kitty is a wily feral cat who has lived in my neighborhood since before I moved in. I glimpsed her for the first time passing through my back yard about a month after I'd married Rohan and taken up residence in Rooglewood. Any attempts to make friends were . . . I won't even say spurned. Spurned implies some form of acknowledgement.

Mama Kitty did not acknowledge me in the slightest. She ran the moment she heard the door open.

She is a feral cat, you see. Which is not the same thing as a stray. A stray cat has had some measure of human interaction, and was likely abandoned by previous owners and thus obliged to take up life as a wild cat. But they aren't truly wild.

Feral cats, by contrast, were born in the wild, raised in the wild, and have never had any human contact. They're kind of like squirrels: cute and fluffy, but you'll never get anywhere near them. So I shrugged, figured it didn't much matter, and moved on with life.

Then Mama Kitty earned her name and brought her first litter of kittens to my yard.

I can't actually say for certain that they were her first litter. She may have had several before I came around. But it was the first litter of wild kittens I'd ever seen, and it broke my heart to watch all those sweet little fluffies out there on my lawn . . . slowly dying off as they succumbed to various diseases.

Something had to be done! So I rescued the last kitten of that litter--Mya is her name, and she lives with some dear friends of ours--and determined that I would catch Mama Kitty, have her spayed, and not let her keep producing more wild litters.

But Mama Kitty is a wily girl, as I said up above. I set so many traps for her, caught and fixed a variety of other cats, and even once found myself peering in through the bars at a rather baffled opossum. But I couldn't catch that fluffy gray girl. She eluded me.

And continued eluding me for several more litters.

Yes, Mama Kitty is the mother of Mya, Mousse, Midnight, Minko, Mithril, and Mackintosh . . . not all at once, mind! She kept having them--I'd catch them--she'd vanish, then show up again with more! It was very frustrating.

I'll forgive her, though, since she gave me several of my all-time favorite rescues, including these darling half-brothers!
Her final litter included Mackintosh (renamed "Bertie"), who is the gray-and-white kitten pictured above. I caught his brother, Mithril, several weeks before I caught him. And in the meanwhile, I FINALLY managed to catch and spay Mama Kitty. After that, she had several weeks with just her and Mackintosh.

Here's the thing, though. Spayed/neutered cats are no longer so instinct-driven. Thus they are more apt to bond.

And that's what happened. Mama Kitty, who never cared or even seemed to notice when I took away her other kittens, bonded with Mackintosh. When I finally caught him and took him away for taming . . . she sat out in the middle of my yard and cried.

For days.

Oh, my word! It nearly broke my poor little kitty-loving heart! I had half a mind to turn the kitten loose again, I felt so bad. But I knew that wouldn't be best for him. He'd grow up as wild as his mother and never know the love of a home.

Mama Kitty found the window of the room where he was kept. She sat outside it at night and cried some more.

For days.

Yes, I felt like dirt.

So it was that, once all of her kittens had found their forever homes, I decided to set my sights on Mama Kitty herself and see what I could do.

The thing is, as I said above, Mama Kitty is feral. Not stray . . . feral. She still reacted to me the same way she had three years go--running the moment she saw me. From all the reading I had done, I was convinced it was pretty much impossible to tame an adult feral, so I knew it was probably a hopeless venture.

But I have a secret weapon: Chicken and Gravy Gerber Baby Food.

Yup. It is a magic charm. Cats will do anything for that stuff! I have used it to tame all of my feral kittens, transforming them from snarling little tigers into purring lap-babies within days. "What, you'll give me baby food if I sit in your lap? Okay!" And I figured the charm would probably work equally well with an adult.

That's how I started. I would put out little plates of the good stuff in the same place every day. She figured that out really fast! Then I'd start sitting in the yard when I put it out. That was a little more scary, but . . . okay. Then I moved closer. Then I moved closer still.

Then I was offering it on the end of my finger.

It took weeks and months even. But I am proud to say that, as of this evening, Mama Kitty let me pet her. And when I say, "pet her," I mean to say that she was rubbing all over my hand and arm, purring and making "happy feet" the whole while. I NEVER thought I'd live to see the day!

She's still not exactly what you'd call tame. I don't know if she'll ever be fully that. I don't know if it would be wise to try to bring her inside. But she has definitely learned what it means to receive love from a human.

Mama Kitty now lives in my yard, spending all of her time lounging in various sunny patches. If I go outside, she always seems happy to see me, and I bet she'll start approaching me for more petting now that she's discovered how nice it is. I suppose we'll just see where this goes . . . .

But seriously, isn't that great? Do celebrate with me, dear imps! I am so excited about this little triumph.


Kathleen said...


Unknown said...

I am a huge cat lover, and this story made me laugh and warmed my heart ever so much! I wish you would share more cat stories with us, Anne Elisabeth--I could read them forever. When I'm older and have my own lovely house surrounded by wilderness, I want to be a cat lady--more than I already am, that is. ;)

Unknown said...

Yay! Oh, feral kittens always make me so sad. I'm glad you're helping to give them a better life!

Sarah Pennington said...


I love hearing your kitty stories. They always make me smile.

Meredith said...

That's so very sweet. Our tabby, Simba, had two litters of kittens before she was spayed. We found homes for all the cats except Buddy, who was so very wild we could never catch him. It's so strange, but he actually loved me. I read outside a lot, and he always came and climbed into the porch swing beside me. He'd meow and I'd talk to him, and it finally got to where he'd let me pet him. I think it must have been the Braille books that attracted him. When you read Braille, your fingers make a kind of swishing noise as they glide across the page. Buddy would come and rub his face on the dots, sniffing the book and making small meowing noises. I'd pat the swing and coax him to come up, and, if I was daring, I'd reach out my hand for him to smell. It got to the point that everytime I went outside, he would jump onto our ledge so that I could pat him. He always meowed like crazy, just as if he were carrying on a conversation. But, whenever anyone else would come outside, he'd take off. That cat was a roamer and we could never even catch him to take him for vaccinations. He'd be away for several weeks at a time and come back with telltale evidence of having been in fights. He always came back. Cats are such amazing and interesting animals.

Thank you for this outstanding story. I'm so glad Momma Cat is warming up to you.

Hannah said...

Oh, how sweet! I simply love stories of kitties learning to love! I've tamed my shared of kittens, but I haven't had the chance on a completely wild cat.

However, when my brother was little he began to tame a feral mamma kitty who despite her fear, longed to be loved. He was very gentle and quiet, when not defending her from the other cats. She was a living skeleton and supporting a little kitten, whom my brother saved more than once. The kitten was tamed without trouble, but Mama needed more convincing.

Over the years, Mama did learn to love us, but she was always too afraid to come in the house. She was officially our cat though, so when we moved, she came with us. She lived in the garage, refusing to come into the house until winter came. When the cold fell, I actually coaxed her inside. At last, she discovered the joys of warm fireplaces and cozy coaches! Soon she would even the share the coach with the dog! Ha!

Jenelle Leanne said...

Aww, yay!!!! Such a sweet story.

Clara said...

Yay!!! This is such a sweet story! I needed to read this today.

I know that you've said that you modeled Una after yourself, but I think that you are the most like Imraldera! Imraldera, like you, loves the wild Black Dog and you love feral Mama Kitty. She gave the Black Dog love and attention just like you've done with Mama Kitty.
And Rohan is Eanrin:P

Faith King said...

Love this story! :-)

Emily K said...

So sweet!