Tuesday, January 4, 2011


One of the many neighborhood strays. We’d see the tail end of her almost every time we walked down the stairs of the deck toward our chicken coop.  A little grey feline creature, obviously attracted to the chickens, but scared of people and poodles.  She would dash over the fence to our neighbor’s yard and hide under his trailer whenever we appeared. 

Not wanting one of my chickens to become her next meal, I set a Haveahart trap and baited it with dogfood.  Sure enough, next morning, she was caught. 

She did not like being picked up in the cage and transported to my garage.  She fought and scratched, hissing the whole time.  We had a beauty on our hands, though.   With her soft, silver grey coat, white bib, and green eyes, she reminded me of the cat I had when I was growing up, Tinkerbell.  So that’s what I’m calling her.  

After looking into those eyes, the plans I had to take her to the shelter were thrown out the window.  They told me frankly that a cat who is not friendly has almost zero chance of being adopted and would almost surely be euthanized.  Over the holidays, I read an article about how overrun our local shelter was with cats.  Well, what you do?

I looked at the website of Ally Cat Allies, a DC-based organization that helps people live with feral cats.  We talked about training her to be our pet.  Everybody loved the idea, but I’m barely surviving the allergy I have to my poodle.  There is no way I can add a cat to the mix and expect to be able to breathe.   So Tinkerbell was let go to resume her life as a free, chicken stalking, backyard stray…and I fear we haven’t seen the last of her.  Quite a few people have told me that it’s rare for a domestic cat to attack full-grown chickens, but not so sure about a hungry stray. 

I’m currently doing some research to find out if there are vets in our area that participate in the Trap Neuter Return program, a humane way of controlling feral cat populations.  Learn more about the benefits here.   If you know anything about these programs in our area, please email me at nyackbackyard@gmail.com.

UPDATE FOR ROCKLANDERS - Since I wrote this post, I've discovered two Rockland-based stray cat advocacy groups.  Both work with vets who participate in the Trap/Neuter/Release program, and also foster and place cats for adoption.  Links are provided to their websites, where you can go for more info.

P.O. Box 523, New City, NY 10956
New City, NY
TARA (845) 754.7100

P.O. Box 103
Pomona, NY 10970


tut-tut said...

JGH, is she spayed? I don't think there is much chance of bonding with a feral or taming them. I have a friend who is the MOST ARDENT animal lover, and she captures feral, strays, etc. and has them fixed. Ferals she lets go.

tina said...

Good luck with her. I wish capturing my stray cat here was so easy. He is one savvy tomcat and refuses to bite-proverbially for sure. So glad you caught her. Here they have a low cost spay/neuter program. This is really why we wish to catch our stray we call Cole. Maybe they might have that there thru the humane society? My daughter fostered a feral cat whom she later adopted. She rarely sees or pets that cat but that' okay. She is fairly calm and it all works out. Good luck with Tinkerbell.

JGH said...

She is most definitely not spayed, Tut. I'm not sure how to tell a feral from a stray. My guess is that feral are somehow "wilder" and not as friendly/tamable. Or does it have to do with having been born and raised in the wilderness?

meemsnyc said...

I feel your pain, we have a LOT of strays in our neighborhood! What if you fed her? I know that sounds counter intuitive but if she's not hungry, maybe she won't attack the chickens? We don't feed any of our strays except for one.

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

She is very cute. I will also have many dilemma on how to deal with feral cats.

TALON said...

Do you plan on still feeding her so she's not tempted to do any chicken killing?

I have to say your photograph is stunning...she looks so deceptively sweet and calm in it.

I think feral just means born and bred and living in the wild.

JGH said...

Talon, if I see her again, I may put some food out for her. Now I'm thinking there may be two grey cats....oh no!

Pam J. said...

She's sweet but it's a tough situation. Personally I would do exactly what you're doing: let her run free and hope for the best. I know Alley Cat Allies in DC very well--when my daughter lived in DC she and her roommates occasionally turned over kittens to that group. I adopted my kittens from another DC group called, I think, simply Feral Free. I sat in a vet's waiting room one Sunday AM, while Lucy & Georgette were being spayed, and watched a trapping crew bring in many city strays for neutering and release. I'm a huge fan of outdoor cats in cities....the rats you know. But I'm spectacularly ill-informed about the pros and cons of strays so my opinion is pure emotion. Good luck with Tinkerbell!

k said...

My brothers had Spare Cat, who was an even-more-than-normally neurotic Maine Coon Cat that they enticed indoors, somehow. She was always standoffish to everyone except Kurt. When he died, she went back to living in the garage, and had spare kittens. All very sad.
But anyway. Singulaire? I think I could almost deal with having a cat in the house since I've started taking it. If it didn't sleep with me. And think of how all that puffiness would eliminate wrinkles. YMMV.

Patti Lacy said...

Oh, I love your heart. There were not one but TWO stray dogs running about our place on Christmas. Even GOOD scraps could not entice them.

May Tinkerbelle find a way to survive that is best for her.


LazyMom said...

awwww! What a cute kitty. We have a few wild cats in our backyard and they are BIG and do have interest in the chickens, but we have yet to have problems.

Skeeter said...

My two fur balls came crawling out of the woods as strays. I worked diligently to tame them. I worked every day and night with them a little at a time to earn their trust. They have called our house their home for the last 8 years. They have their claws and don’t scratch the furniture like cats can do. Again, I worked diligently at training them.

You must have patience with a wild cat. Once you get them to trust you, rush them to a Vet for Neuter and Spay dates! If not, then expect more stray cats to show up and a hungry cat will kill a chicken for food. You can keep them outside wild animals and they will not bother your chickens if you provide food for them. Setting out food randomly will attract other wild animals such as raccoon, opossum and squirrels so be cautious with feeding them. Good Luck and Bless you for caring about this beautiful fur baby…

JGH said...

K, I love the name "spare cat" and how funny that she had "spare kittens" and I take Singulaire too. All hail Singulaire - I can almost deal with the hair.

Skeeter, I really admire you for your patience in taming those strays. I'm putting out food for the cat, and it's always gone, but I have no proof it's the cat that's taking it...

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

Over two summers, I had twenty New York barn cats neutered or spayed, tested for disease, and immunized. This, of course, with the permission of the farmers whose barn they frequented.

The cats were definitely healthier, not having to spend their lives as kitten factories.

When you do this, make sure they "notch" the cat's ear, so that everyone can tell that she's spayed.

JGH said...

Lisa/Robb - What a project - I hope that farmer appreciates you! Thanks for the tip re: the notched ear.