A Troubling Feral Tail

Last night, I thought I would have a relaxing evening after fighting a nasty head cold for a few days.

Dinner was going to be easy to cook up – baked Tilapia, sprinkled heavily with California Style Lemon Pepper and a side dish of homemade coleslaw. I found the recipe for the coleslaw a few years ago on one of those copycat recipe websites. The recipe for which I searched was KFC’s coleslaw, the best I have ever tasted, in my opinion. The copycat recipe is really, really easy, especially when one merely needs to make the dressing and add it to pre-bagged tri-color coleslaw from the produce department at the grocery store.

With dinner cooked, kitchen cleaned, pets cared for, I sat in my recliner and turned on a movie, The Railway Man. This was an incredible movie. If you have Netflix, check it out.

OpieBasket2011My husband smokes cigarettes in the garage when it is too chilly outdoors to smoke on the patio. He came into the house for something and asked me where Opie (our orphaned feral cat)was. I told him that I thought she was in her ‘cave’ (the hall closet where I store blankets and pillows.) Opie often jumps to the top shelf and snuggles in for long naps.

I had gone to say ‘hello’ to her only half an hour before my husband came in looking for her and I read her body language that she was in no mood for company, so I left her alone.

My husband is of the mind that pets should be obedient to pet-parents. He went to check on her, started petting her and then I heard all sorts of raucous. He was loudly telling her, repeatedly to “STOP IT!” Then he shouted to me to get bandages. Sigh.

Containing my anger toward him, I quietly got three boxes of bandages and placed them on the kitchen counter. He was swearing that he was going to beat the damn cat, as he rinsed his bloodied hand in the kitchen sink.

I have learned a very long time ago never to argue with someone who has been drinking alcohol and I wondered how I was going to approach the subject about his treating the cat as though she has human understanding. I did not want him turning his anger against me.

OpieWindowAs I bandaged his hand with at least 10 regular-sized bandages. I tried to approach the subject, explaining to him that she was born in the wild and we rescued and raised her. She has the natural instincts of a ferrell cat, she has the “wild” inside her and that will never change.

He agreed to leave her alone, but only moments later, walked over to her “cat cave” to look at her. I was in the kitchen, observing and could hear the cat growling at him. Of course she was growling! He later told me that he hit her!  She was terrified of him!

At one point in our conversation, while still bandaging his hand, I told him that if he doesn’t stop his “playing” with her, I will have to take her to the Vet to have her put down. His anger rose, but I stood my ground, “…what’s better? Having you get crazy-mad at her and beat her or have her put down quietly?

“She cannot be taught nor controlled! If you cannot learn to live with her, understanding her special circumstances, then, it is cruel to keep her.”

He argued that because she is not socialized, she is not a candidate for adoption. I agreed and told him that the only options were for the humans in this home to respect her as she is or have her put down.

He retreated to the garage but returned to the hallway where he stared at her again and broke down into tears. Great! Not only did I have a cat who was scared to death, feeling cornered, but a man, under-the-influence, crying like a baby because the love-of-his-life, the cat, doesn’t love him – won’t be affectionate to him.

After the husband left for work this morning, I sat and cried, wondering if it was a good thing that I did adopt her, raise her, bottle feed her.

OpieSaidI hate zoos. I think animals belong and are happier in their natural environment. Yet, to let Opie loose, outdoors, she would be killed within 24 hours, either by a car, neighborhood dogs, the hawks, the owls, the coyotes…

I think she is unhappy as she sits in the window everyday, wanting to chase birds and squirrels. I think this is cruel. I think she is lonely, yet, to bring another cat into the home would surely become a bloody mess quickly.

I have such a headache from my tears. My concerns are that she is lonely and unhappy and that my husband has the attitude of a three year old when it comes to pets.



10 responses to “A Troubling Feral Tail

  1. Actually, another cat — kitten — might work out better than you think. Though she isn’t human-friendly, she might well bond to another animal, especially one just like her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m hoping that might be the answer. She is also a “Manx” cat and they have a temperament particular to that breed – not bad, just … they aren’t like normal cats. BUT, we still have one, old, blind, diabetic dog and I don’t want to take a chance on trying to introduce her to a new housemate at this time. I will push for another cat when the doggy goes to the pearly gates. I just hope that my husband “grows up” when it comes to playing with the cat.


  2. How long have you had her? Would it help to explain to your husband that as a feral cat her very existence depended upon defending herself against anyone or thing that detected her presence? She is not responding to affection by lashing out. She is responding to a threat, and that threat is verified when your husband strikes her. I know you know all of this and have probably told him this. Might he respond to a story told from the cat’s point of view? I hope you keep her and if you get a small enough kitten, perhaps it will respond lovingly to your husband and his needs will be met as well as your feral cat’s needs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Opie is nearly five years old now. Has been good with the dogs – loved Buddy (who died 4 days before my son.)

      Husband is in the shower now. Opie is in her cave. I have been conversing with him for nearly two hours now, explaining about her special situation – she is not retarded, she is scared, she is feral! We are the ones who need to respond to HER needs.

      The tag that I made for her carrier has her name and in bold letters, “SCAREDY CAT,” for when I have to drug her and take her to the Vet. I am lucky that the Vet tolerates her. The last time I brought her in for her shots, even though I gave her drugs, she was still able to swat the Vet with a vicious cut.

      I feel like I’m trying to run a rescue center for one cat and I don’t know what I’m doing because I don’t have the support from my 285 pound kid-husband.

      Sorry – needed to vent. Thanks for commenting. I will not give up on my cat.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Is there a reason why she can’t be an outside cat?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes. We live in a rural area – 80 acres of wood behind us, filled with deer, coyote, (I’ve seen a cougar,) foxes, hawks and owls – all predators of cats.

          Judy, sometimes I think that it would be kinder to let her die in her own environment. Let her catch some birds and mice and moles and whatever, so that she can fulfill her instincts. But I don’t want her to die.

          Maybe that’s my problem. Life’s destiny. The order of life. Did I interrupt it by saving her life? So that she could be confined, indoors, to an unhappy existence?

          That’s what’s on my mind right now.


          • My last 14 years in the States I lived on 2 acres in the redwoods..a mountain property with cougars, owls, deer, raccoons, skunks. The bears had been hunted out long before. For my first month in the house, I was alone during the week as my husband was still finishing out his teaching job 300 miles away. The first week, a feral cat started coming around. She would only come within a few feet of me when I was down below the house working on planting a garden. She would meow and I started putting out food for her. I had unwittingly locked the keys to the garage and car inside the garage and was miles away from any town with no phone or TV–only a radio for company and at that time the trailside killer was working the mountains and they were finding body parts on trails…I was paranoid, so I was not sleeping at night and the cat and I somehow bonded. By the time my husband arrived, the cat was coming up to the porch to be fed and within the month, she was sleeping at the foot of my bed. It was then that we discovered she was pregnant. I made a nest for her in my studio and my husband teased that she’d have the kittens anywhere but the place I’d prepared for her–in his sock drawer or under the lower porch stairs. But, one day we were sitting on the porch and she came up and meowed. I said, “Are you ready to have your kittens?” She meowed and I entered the house and went down the stairs to my studio. She followed, ran over to her “nest” and started to give birth to her first kitten. When I tried to leave to go to the bathroom after the first kitten was born, she followed after me with the second kitten half-emerged from the birth canal. I came back and watched it being born, then my husband held her while I ran quickly upstairs and returned to see the third kitten born. Needless to say, the mother cat and I were equally bonded to those kittens and I kept them all. The cats went out and came in at will through a magnetized cat door. They all had magnets on their collars that opened the door so for the first few years, the raccoons couldn’t enter the house. (Another story there.) The mother cat brought baby rabbits into the house for the kittens to “hunt.” No not at all condoned by me. At any rate, when the kittens were a year or so old, the mother cat disappeared. I don’t know if she was killed by an owl or cougar or whether she went back to the wild. One kitten died from the shots they were given when they were a year old and the other two lived with us for the next 13 1/2 years. Then in our last 6 months in CA., the third cat disappeared, so only the one remaining male cat moved to Mexico with me. I was as bonded to those cats as I think it is possible to be bonded to any animal, and yet I let them live equally in the wild and in the house–as they wished. They perhaps died sooner than they might have but it never occurred to me to trap them inside. I guess I’ve lived as I want to in spite of dangers and I granted them the same pleasure. I am telling you this story not to make you feel guilty but to give you “permission” to do what it seems you know is the possible right thing to do. I know from experience that it is often reassuring to find someone who has made the same mistakes we have or been faced with the same decision, and either of these descriptions of my past actions might be the truth..or perhaps there is no set truth and we make decisions according to our nature. At any rate, I’m supporting your decision either way. I’ll be interested to see what choice you make and I don’t really think there is a set right thing to do. You’ll know by whether you feel comforted or irate when you read what I’ve written and that will perhaps help you make your decision about what the right course is for you, your kitty and your husband. Whew. Loong comment. Hope I haven’t upset you. Just trying to discuss this with you. You will make the correct decision for yourself whichever way you decide…Best, Judy

            Liked by 1 person

  3. What a beautiful story you have shared with me! Not to discount everything you said, but our feral cat was only hours old when she was abandoned (husband found her in a storage closet at his office.) We think the mama cat was moving the kittens to a safer place when employees started coming in and the mama abandoned the last one.

    According to our Veterinarian, bottle-fed pets are not properly socialized, thus Opie’s psychological problems. She did not learn important things from her siblings and real mama.

    I’m still leaning toward getting another cat, when the dog passes away. I think that will help a lot with her feeling bored and lonely.

    Thanks again for your beautiful story! I truly appreciate it, and if it were my decision alone, I would let her explore the outside, but, my husband can be quite stubborn and controlling, so, I will do the best that I can in the whole situation.


  4. Wow, that’s a very difficult situation, Swoosieque. I’m sorry to hear it. I love cats and lived with them all my life (including several Manx, who do have special personalities at times, kind of reminds me of calicos) until I became an adult (my husband is severely allergic, as are the kids). So, now I get/got my ‘animal fix’ by volunteering and then working at different animal shelters here, as well as visiting people who do have indoor cats. At one shelter, I was highly involved with the farm cat spay/neuter program. My opinion on TNR and outdoor cats has changed and morphed over the years. I agree with you; terrible things can and do happen to cats who live outdoors (and they kill a hell of a lot of birds, which, along with bats, keep our mosquito and other annoying insect populations in check), whether feral or not. I can’t go a week, some months, without seeing a dead cat out on the roads, and we’re rural, too. My neighbor’s cats are barn cats, and they’re sick, wormy, sneezy, and flea- and mite-ridden, though I know the people love and otherwise care for them. Anyway, you’re not asking for my advice, but my thought is that Opie is probably not as unhappy as you surmise, looking outdoors at the birds and such. To some degree, she has to conform to the situation, because it sounds like it would be much, much worse for her outdoors.

    Trying to cut this short . . . So, it doesn’t sound like letting Opie out would be a good situation for her, or you guys as you worry about her. Yes, the husband can definitely be advised to not hit her and needs to give her space, as you do. If none of the other suggestions work, do you think he would be willing or have time to volunteer at an animal shelter with cats–maybe he could not only learn about cat behavior from the cats and knowledgeable people there, but he would get his ‘loving cat’ fix, too? Anyway, your situation is very difficult; I’m hoping for the best, for all of you!


  5. Oops. And it erased one other comment. Check into Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, Alley Cat Allies, or just google “cat enclosures” or some such. I have seen feral set-ups that are made just out of storage tubs like you’d get at Walmart. It’s not cheap, per se, but indoor and or outdoor/indoor enclosures can be made for cats. Perhaps there’s a shed or unused room in your house that your husband might like building trails and kitty hideaways and poles and hammocks for? Some men (and women, for that matter) like to build such things, and can really be ‘sky’s the limit’ depending on the time and money you want to spend on it. It’s kind of like kitty enrichment. I’m a little hesitant to agree with getting a kitten, but if you can keep Opie isolated from the kitten, that might be best. I can’t remember if you said she’s spayed or not. It would be better if both she and the kitten are spayed or neutered, as the case may be. Again, you’re not asking for my advice, but I hope it all works out good for y’all. I know, from personal experience, having been owned by all types of cats over the years and making a lot of mistakes, honestly.


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