Today, I am excited to welcome Anne Elisabeth Stengl to my little corner of cyberspace. Author of the Tales of Goldstone Wood series and a special heart for feral kitties, she shares with us how she got into rescuing these tiny tigers.
by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
One thing you need to know about feral kittens: They are tigers. Tiny tigers, to be sure, but tigers nonetheless. They are vicious, they are wild, and they will gladly tear your hand off if you try to pet them.
They are also terrified.
So I learned a few years back when, newly married, I moved into a house next to a feral cat colony. In the forest just beyond my backyard were dozens of wild cats living, hunting, breeding like crazy, and raising litters of kittens that knew nothing but fear for any human they might encounter. They may look as cute as any little striped kitten you might see in a pet store window—but trust me, you don’t want to touch these flea-bitten, disease-ridden, ferocious beasts!
But . . .
But I am a crazy cat lady at heart. I always suspected as much. When I got married, I had two cats of my own, plus a foster kitty I was keeping for my military brother. Crazy-cat-lady syndrome was already beginning to show symptoms.
Still, when the first of the wild mother cats brought her litter into my backyard, I told myself there was nothing I could do. They were wild. They were untouchable. They were pests and nuisances, that’s all.
I couldn’t bear it any longer.And I watched the kittens of that litter die off. Until there was only one left.
So I started doing some research on feral kittens and their taming. I learned that the one kitten remaining to that litter was technically too old to tame. They say ferals can only be tamed if they are younger than 12 weeks, and this kitten was already half-grown. But I decided to do what I could for her anyway.
She was a bright girl, for all her ferocity. She wouldn’t come near me, but she was curious about me. If I went out into the yard and called, she would come to the edge of the forest and watch me from behind the ferns. So I would sit on the lawn and talk to her. Just nonsense, all in soothing tones. I provided her with food and tempted her to come closer and closer to me. But I didn’t dare touch her . . . a couple of swipes with her claws warned me away from that! Those silky ears of hers were not meant for petting.
At least, not at first.
Weeks after I started spending time with this little gray kitten—Mya is her name—I began to see changes. She would wait for me to come out. She would spend most of her day lounging on my lawn. She wanted contact with me. This wild, dirty creature craved the affection of a human.
One rainy April morning, as I sat on my lawn, my clothes soaking through, Mya climbed into my lap for the first time.
A month later, I placed Mya in her forever home, where she now enjoys a pair of humans all her own who provide her with love, warmth, and laps. She was the first of my feral kittens. After Mya, I decided it was time to start taking seriously the feral cat problem behind my house.
I bought a set of live-traps, and when another litter showed up in my yard, I caught each of the kittens and took them down to my basement. I also caught their mother and had her spayed, before releasing her back into the wild (she was far beyond taming already). The kittens were as ferocious as Mya had been, more so even. But they were much younger, and after a week or two of work, they all became lap-babies.
It was work. I had to spend a minimum of two hours every day just sitting with these kittens. At first, I couldn’t even touch them. Then, slowly, they’d start trusting me to pet their heads and scratch their tiny chins. I kept a steady supply of Gerber Baby Food (chicken and gravy was the favorite) on hand, and I would give them dollops of it off the ends of my fingers.
One by one, I watched miracles happen.
Those tiny tigers, that would have scratched me to ribbons when I first met them, transformed before my eyes. As I poured love upon their heads, they responded. They opened up. They began to show me individual personalities, desperate for affection. They started out wild, but the ability to love was hidden inside, waiting to be discovered.
So these kittens became what they were meant to be from the beginning: beloved pets.
As I held one particularly vicious baby named Muppet, now cradled in my arms and purring as her little paws kneaded the air, I realized how like we are to these feral kittens. We are all of us born wild, scared, and even brutal. But we all of us hunger for love, even if we do not realize it. Love from a Being entirely other than we are, beyond our humble comprehension.
And when He stretches out His hand to us, we are transformed. We may bite and snarl at first, but He is ever-so patient, pouring out love time and again. So we are softened. So we are changed.
So we become what we were intended to be from the beginning: beloved children.
Over the last few years, I have worked with and tamed over 25 kittens and a couple of cats. All them have found forever homes . . . several with me! Every one of those kittens, both those I kept and those who have moved on to new families, remain in my heart. There is nothing quite like the experience of watching fear turn to trust, hate turn to love.
There is nothing quite like seeing a small reflection of myself in little kitten eyes.
Anne Elisabeth Stengl is the award-winning author of the Tales of Goldstone Wood, a series of fantasy adventure novels told in the classic Fairy Tale style. She is married to the handsome man she met at fencing class and lives with him, a gaggle of cats, and one long-suffering dog in NC.
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It’s pet lover month, and we are celebrating with a photo contest & a giveaway! Do you have the most pets? Do you have the strangest pet? There will be prizes, flash giveaways, and a grand prize. Please join us!