I glanced out the window this morning to see five feral kittens examining my woodshed. I carried the first load to the deck this past week, so for the first time, the woodshed is accessible. It makes a dry place, sheltered from the wind and rain, where the five will probably cuddle together and shelter – being close to the house, it includes the safety of being in a spot safer from coyotes and cougars. From a survival concept, they’re making a good choice.
I knew they were there. I’ve watched their mother, in person and on game cams, as she has hunted in the trees and fields around the house for several years. This long, hot, dry summer seems to have what she has needed to successfully raise a litter this year. Now comes the winter – and the half-grown cats are exploring for options they may need in a season they have never experienced.
In general, I like cats – and these little ferals demonstrate their species’ self-domesticating behaviors. While the wooded area is showing fewer squirrels, the hayfield and edges of the pond are a smorgasbord of mice, voles and frogs that have also moved into a niche where human habitation has made their existence easier. The ferals, preying on the nuisance rodents, may well improve my life. Still, my experience with domestic cats, living indoors and moving into a lap to purr and be petted, makes me feel that these ferals are missing an important part of a cat’s life.
I understand how the cuteness motivates people to feed the ferals. I’m a grownup. I won’t do it. But I’m tempted to put a couple of cardboard boxes in the woodshed.