The episodes of The Young & The Feral track the daily dramas of the free-living cats of our block in Queens.
accepted term for groups of feral (a.k.a. wild, undomesticated) cats is "colony". I call them a
family. Having observed them for years, I can tell you these cats are
not the chilly, distant creatures people think, competitive for
resources and disinterested in socializing. They are devoted,
caring families who love their babies, share their wealth, and have an
amazingly structured society. And because the dramas we have observed playing
out between them are so complex and melodramatic, they often read like a
feral cat problem started when the cats of Mrs. Lipkin* (my mother's
neighbor 6 houses down), who were never spayed or neutered, started
spending time outside, fraternized with
other cats who were unspayed and unneutered, and before you knew it,
Bob's your uncle (or Cow's your father in our case - Cow was the
Heavyweight Tom Cat of the Avenue, fathering all the kittens for
blocks around, for years, without challenge. My aunt Betty, who lives
on the corner of the same street, named him "Cow"
because he was white with black cow spots. He's Jack's
grandfather, btw. Jack, as a matter of curiosity, is
the only one of my cats that I know his lineage going back several
generations. I tell him all the time about his famous grand cat and all
the times he walked in front of my car
causing me to slam on the breaks and scream and nearly have an
aneurism. But I digress.): KITTENS!
And cats and cats and kittens, all sitting on the back step with
glistening, pleading eyes like Puss In Boots. You expect a tear to
fall out as the cat in front says,
"please, miss, won't you give us
a crust of bread?"
My mother couldn't say, "sorry, I don't have any cat food," because right on her foot was her own fat Caroline with tuna crumbs on her beard saying, "who's THAT? What does he want?"
she fed them. Then they bring two friends, and next week those have
two friends and before you know it, it's a Pantene commercial in your
back yard (without the perfumed hair. And not MY backyard, to be
clear.... this is going on at my mother's house. SHE'S the guilty
one. I had nothing to do with it. I am NOT that
crazy cat lady!)
all just cats. Until you get to know them. Day after day, watching
them, feeding them, seeing how they interact with each other, with you,
how they take care of their babies, always leaving a babysitter
with the kids if the group take a walk. You get to think of them as
neighbors. They become friends, and eventually you're talking about
them as if they're people. You meet your neighbor in the bakery and you say, "Hi Joann, did you see Sylvia today?"
She says, "Is that the lady in the pink house?" Duh! Joann! "No!
Sylvia is the long haired tabby. What's the matter
The idea to write it as a soap opera came from a crazy phone conversation with my mom, a fan of daytime TV, who
often forgot to let you know she was making a segue before changing the
subject. She was in the middle of telling me about this and that feral
cat having a fight, when she suddenly cried, "Omg! I have to go.
Victor and Diego are having a viscous fight!" She threw down the phone
and didn't call me back for an hour. When I heard from her again, I
said, "which cats are Victor and Diego?!" When she caught her breath
and stopped laughing, she let me know Victor and Diego were characters
on All My Children. Of course from that moment on, the two fighting ferals were called Victor and Diego. And a soap opera was born.
*name changed to protect privacy
Current Members of Our Feral Family:
My Mother's (and now mine since I inherited them) Back Yard Crew:
the current alpha female (a tortoise shell
with white feet and one ruby streak on her nose). (TNRed mid-2010)
Ruby is several years old now, and we refer to her as Grandma. She has
had several litters of kittens, and been through many things, including
the losses of several children and grandchildren.
Ruby's grandchildren (her daughter Opal's children), born Aug. 2009:
PENNY - (a very pretty calico) (TNRed mid-2010)
PEACH - (a ginger kitten with one eye) (TNRed mid-2010)
SANDY (a red tabby adult male, slightly more pink/tan than yellow). We don't know his place in the family. He has been around as long as Ruby. He could be a kitten from her first litter, or her brother.(TNRed 2008)
CINDY - (a very beautiful calico), Ruby's adult daughter, 1st in line to Alpha Catship after Opal's passing. She has a large black patch over her whole back that looks like a saddle. (TNRed mid-2009)
SMUDGE - a dead ringer for Hahn, until you see his very wide nose with the dark smudge on it. (TNRed mid-2009) We believe he and Hahn are brothers. We call them The Swirl Twins.
BLACK SHUCK - an all-black male, terrible looking, beat up cat, named after the legendary ghost dog of the British moors whose appearance signals impending doom. He's been moved from the Sometimey list to the regulars list since he spends most of his time now in my yard. Although he can occasionally be seen on Aunt Betty's porch... if he can get away with it. He's Adolfo's sworn enemy. If he comes on the porch, it's a fight to the death between them. (TNRed mid-2008 and there's a very funny story about it here.)
PIGEON - a creamsicle cat... male, white with ginger tabby patches and hood. Very vocal, almost friendly. He does a lot of talking when the food arrives. I can pet him while he's eating. He may have been a house cat, as he would very much like to come inside, and will if I accidentally leave the porch door open. He's a newcomer in the Spring of 2012 and very quickly assimilated with, and moved in to a position of authority in, the colony. Not yet neutered. I call him Pigeon because he's always perching on the fence.
PIXIE - a very pretty, young and small ginger tabby, female. A newcomer in the Spring of 2012, appeared about the same time as Pigeon.
ANTHONY - (OMG, will the new cats never stop coming!? I'm trying to downsize! Aunt Betty has to stop putting out too much food!) This is yet another new cat, first seen in the neighboring yard August 23, 2012. Looks male, is tabby with white feet and bib and has a white dash down the bridge of his nose.
Aunt Betty's Porch Crew:
ADOLFO a.k.a CHARLIE - a large tuxedo male, the alpha male of Aunt Betty's porch crew. (TNRed mid-2008) The first to claim her porch as his turf and, with his small posse, declare the porch off limits to anyone but himself and his crew.
HALFTAIL, a.k.a. NOTAIL, a.k.a. ROXANNE (because she loves it when you turn on the red light laser toy) - a very small, gray female with next to no tail.... a sort of bunny tail. (Spayed Sept. 2010) Adolfo's second "wife." She moved in on Adolfo while his first "wife" Sylvia was ill. She had kittens on Aunt Betty's porch and now lives with Aunt Betty. Read the drama of Adolfo, Sylvia and HalfTail here.
SNAKE - male tabby, no white, with fine stripes and a sour expression. Adolfo's best friend and the only male cat allowed to come on his porch. It's possible they're brothers from the same litter. Snake also spends a lot of time in my yard. (TNRed mid-2008)
THE SOMETIMEY CREW:
THE ALAMO - Another fearsome looking, feral male cat that looks like he's been chewed up and spit out by a shark- all red tabby with a very large head. The Alamo first appeared at the back door in winter 2009 looking absolutely awful. He had a huge, open wound on the back of his right ear that went halfway down his neck. Probably from a fight. We once caught him in a humane trap by accident.... we were trying to catch baby Garnet when her leg was injured. Instead, Alamo walked into the cage. I tried to get a spur of the moment TNR spot for him, but there were no vacancies. I had to let him go. We were never able to get him in a cage again. I doubt we ever will.
TOM - a square-jawed, tabby & white male, possibly one of our babydaddys before his TNR. We thought Tom was MIA, Spring 2010 and listed him on the former members page, but he turned up in early Winter of 2010, looking very healthy and clean. He's now gone MIA again, Summer 2012 and hasn't been seen since Spring. We think he may be staying with a family part time. (TNRed mid-2008)
BANGS, a large B&W male,
with black hair in bangs over his eyes. Unneutered and uncatchable!
The current babydaddy of most of the kittens in our area. Also MIA since about Spring 2012.