Sunday, July 16, 2006

Ferals are our Friends

I call the cat in the picture, Sweet. She's not "my" cat. She's feral. Three years ago, my freshly planted Nepeta disappeared. And the usual suspect (Mr. Gopher) was not to blame. I couldn't blame snails either as there weren't any slime trails and the leaves and stems looked "eaten". The culprit was a momma cat and she had left her small litter of 3 kittens under the juniper. It was then that I realized how many feral cats live in our area.

The kittens were quite mature, and frankly, I couldn't adopt them myself or convince others to adopt. I ended up turning to Project Purr. They have a low-cost spay and neuter program. So there was this period of time where I was humanely trapping and escorting these fellows to a participating veternarian. Quite the chore, and somewhat harrowing in some regards. But, as far as I can tell, they live perfectly happy lives. Sweet is the only one that regularly comes around my garden. I used to feed the others when they came around, but they have since moved on (or have passed on). She's no lap cat, but will come to watch me (at what she sees as a reasonable distance) putter in the (ahem, her) garden. In fact, this morning, I came around the corner and she looked quite surprised with a "what are YOU doing here? don't you work elsewhere?" look. She'll even get surprisingly close when I'm harvesting beans. With all the leaves rustling, I think she believes I've caught something interesting for her. She looks a little disappointed by the long green things in the bowl.

She does her job at keeping the field mice in check. I've never seen her catch a gopher, but she does hang out in the "active areas". I assume when she doesn't show up for her usual "supper time", she's found fresher fare (and yes, I hope it's a gopher).

The only thing Project Purr asks in return for their services is to send a letter to the editor of the local paper, talking about how they helped me, and their overall mission. I sent the letter, but I never saw it published. So after I had snapped the picture, I thought maybe I'd blog about Sweet. She's a very nice companion and I thank Project Purr for helping us out.


Christine said...

I enjoyed this anecdote for many reasons. First Sweet bears a little resemblance to my very first cat that I adopted on my own. Living alone in a small studio apartment after college was made more amenable by her welcome every evening.

Also, I'm glad to see you have a solution to the mice problem. I suspect mice of devastating my tomato crop at my community garden plot.

Poisons and traps are out but perhaps I could convince a cat or two to hang out there!

Also, I commend your efforts to minimize the feral cat population.

CoastalCAGardener said...

I'm surprised that the cats aren't hanging out already if you have a few mice. I don't think I know of too many community gardens that don't have a cat or two.

It's funny, just the other morning, I spied sweet working on catching a mouse, but she wasn't very successful (mouse got away to see another day). I don't want to call her a slacker, but they aren't 100% reliable either! But she's a good companion, none the less.

Thanks for leaving a comment!