“Was that a mouse???”
That was the sentence that started everything. While watching TV one night, my wife saw a tiny, grey rodent go scuttling through our kitchen. We’re the kind of people who don’t have the heart to set traps to kill mice. Instead, I ordered a live-catch trap online and set it up under the cupboard.
Over the next two weeks, we caught and released somewhere in the range of 10-15 mice. It became obvious that we needed a better plan. I researched the best ways to control rodent populations. I still wasn’t comfortable with snap or glue traps. I didn’t want to set out poison since I have pets who could be harmed if they found a way to ingest it. I was left with what felt like only one good option… feral cats.
“I need the meanest feral cat you can find.”
That’s what I said to the director of the Barn Buddies program at the Central Oklahoma Humane Society when I called her. Their program is set up to save cats who would otherwise be euthanized at the Oklahoma City shelter, due to being anti-social. It’s a program that puts ”nuisance” cats to work. Those cats are pulled by COHS from the shelter when requested by an individual, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and given a second chance at life. It’s a great program.
I didn’t want your run-of-the-mill feral cats. I wanted hunters. I needed cats to do the dirty work I couldn’t bring myself to do. The director of the program told me she could make that happen. The next week, I got the call that my two feral cats—both male—were ready to be picked up from their facility. I named them The Ghost and The Darkness.
“Please be careful. These guys aren’t happy.”
That’s what the vet tech at their facility told me when she handed my new feral cats to me in their carriers. She wasn’t lying. The whole way home (then the two weeks following), I was growled at, hissed at, swatted at, and hated by my feral cats. At least, when I saw them. The Darkness escaped their 2-week confinement shed after a week and has been hiding from me ever since. The Ghost stuck around but obviously hated me passionately. That was okay, though. He had a job to do, and I understood that he wasn’t a pet.
“What was that sound?”
As I made my daily trip to feed The Ghost, I heard a cat noise that wasn’t an angry growl. I looked across the yard and saw him standing, looking at me, and meowing as if he wanted to civilly, for once. I knew better than to trust this feral cat who wanted food and nothing more. Still, I couldn’t resist opening a can of wet food for him and sitting down next to his bowl. I told him that I wouldn’t bother him while he ate.
I talked to him, softly and kindly, for the better part of an hour as he slowly, carefully crept closer to his food—and to me. I was terrified that he’d decide to attack me, but I kept talking. Eventually, he started eating, only feet from where I sat. I kept talking. He would spook and skitter away, then slowly come back to his food. I told him stories. He finally finished his dinner.
I was sure he would run away, then. Instead, he came even closer. This feral cat, named for a man-eating lion, approached me with caution. I tried not to flinch as he came within inches. Then… he rubbed his head against me.
Over and over, he rubbed against me. I moved very slowly to stroke his head. He melted. Suddenly, he was a teddy bear. My heart broke as I realized that this tough, angry, not-so-feral cat had once been someone’s pet. He just had to be reminded that people can be good. He wanted to believe that I wouldn’t hurt him, or abandon him, or chase him away. In a matter of moments, I became a trusted friend to this soul who had been so let down by people in the past.
Since that day a week ago, he has been my constant shadow. I’ve renamed him Spoon since that’s all he wants to do. He sees me off to work every day and greets me when I come home. I’m amazed by the level of trust and gratitude that I’ve earned from him. Every time he asks for attention, I feel like I’ve been bestowed a blessing. I thought what I needed was a feral cat to kill mice for me. What I got instead was a reminder of how much good can be done by a little kindness.