For more than a year now, we have been caring for two or three feral cats from the neighborhood. Now one of the cats, Franklin, has begun to really trust us. We had a breakthrough today; Franklin let both my husband and me pet him, without any food nearby. He let us scratch his ears and pet his back. This would have been unheard of just a few months ago.
Before we had Franklin neutered and vaccinated with the help of The Cat Connection, he was a pretty ferocious stray cat. He once launched himself nearly five feet up at our window and yowled at one of our indoor cats, who was sitting in the windowsill. We saw him wandering the neighborhood, looking ragged and lean, but we couldn't get anywhere near him. Once we saw him limping badly with a swollen elbow joint on one leg, but no effort to catch him succeeded. We thought that was it, and were astonished a few weeks later to see him again, walking on all fours.
This was a tough cat, and he had the scars from street battles to prove it. We were worried that his time would run out, between the danger from cars, human beings, and coyotes, and the diseases he could catch. When some kittens were born into the neighborhood we couldn't wait anymore to take action. We were determined to get all of the strays neutered, and the youngest ones adopted to good homes if they could be tamed. We helped save quite a few little lives in the process.
Once we humanely trapped Franklin and had him vaccinated and neutered, everything changed. He was too wild to be tamed and adopted into a home, but he calmed down, began spending time in our yard (we agreed to feed him and the other feral cats in exchange for participation in the program) and slowly began to gain weight, relax, and trust us.
Today Franklin avoids any confrontation with our cats, even if I bring them outside on a leash and halter. He never attacks. He gives way if necessary. He snoozes on our deck, and keeps me company in the mornings when I write outside. Petting him never seemed to be an option, but now we can even do that.
Here's the quandary: we've learned that Franklin is FIV positive, probably from his years of battles on the streets. Cats can live a long, normal life with FIV, it is not a threat to humans, and it is not easy for cats to catch it from each other, but they can pass it on if there is a fight and a serious bite. Our indoor cats are not FIV positive, and knowing this, we don't think we can risk trying to bring Franklin indoors, especially because one of our indoor cats is a territorial male who would never stand a chance against Franklin.
Franklin also is best buddies with a little white feral female who follows him everywhere. She is so sweet and fun, but she won't let us anywhere near her. So if we brought Franklin in, or found him a home, we know she would be lonely.
What to do, what to do! What if we move away some day? I could never leave Franklin behind! But the little white cat can't be tamed. There are no easy answers, but for now I know this: Franklin is healthy, happy, and well-fed, and a lot better off than he was before. We'll figure something out.