Nobody told me that feeding feral cats would be so hard on my heart!
My brood has been as large as eight but has often times been reduced to two or three. I love them all, but it's impossible not to have favourites...some are friendly, some are beautiful, some are timid and some are just so funny!
They all have names..most of them are human names but sometimes Hubby and I choose silly, affectionate names like "Kitten 1 and Kitten 2" or "Little Itty Bitty".
We never try and tame them or touch them. They are born in the wild and to me, it's enough that they trust us enough to stick around and raise their kittens here. We've had limited luck with TNR (trap/neuter/release) but we do continue to try when kittens appear...and before they learn the code of "avoid the cage no matter what tastiness lurks inside it!"
In the almost three years since we started making sure no feline on our property goes hungry, I've learned the hard way that "having a favourite" is a very risky undertaking. I mean, I love them all, but there are just some who burrow themselves particularly deeply in my heart.
The latest one to do that was Little Itty Bitty. Pure black with bright green eyes and just so tiny she still looked like a kitten even though she's fully grown; with a meow so clear and pitiful it was always enough to bring a lump to my throat. Last week on one of the coldest winter days we've had this season, I spotted her crouched in the same position for hours by our hedge. Kind of unusual for her to be out for so long and not moving.
I went outside to see if I could determine if there was anything wrong with her--blood, limping or otherwise. She let me get right next to her, looked up at me and cried and cried. She didn't move. All I could really discern was that her eyes looked a bit runny. But then she walked over to the food tray without a limp...but she didn't eat. She'd been looking a little scruffy of late but I hadn't thought much of that. She does live outside after all.
Feeling pretty helpless, I returned inside and found a crate and some of Francie's old blankets in the basement. It was just so cold; I thought maybe she might go in the little shelter I made.
But she was gone by the time I went to put it outside.
And I haven't seen her since. Not once...and this after seeing her several times a day, every day, for the entire year since she was born.
It doesn't bode well, so once again I remind myself that it's nature's way. Cold comfort.