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Fern, a Feral’s Story
Angry, black clouds gathered overhead, the wind kicked up scattering the dirt at my feet. Soon the Oregon rainstorm would begin. Glancing back to our creek, the ferns near the bank suddenly parted. Out stepped a cat carrying something in its mouth. I thought at first it might have a large field mouse. But as she drew closer, I realized it was a kitten. With determined strides, she headed across the pasture, her gray-and-white patterned fur swirling in the wind. Passing me, she broke into a run heading directly for our shop. Startled, I followed her. She darted through the cat door. By the time I arrived to the shop, she had dashed out the cat door, heading back to the creek. My husband sitting in his shop chair held an amazed look on his face and a beige-and-white kitten in his lap!
“Do you know her?” Mike asked. Grabbing a clean rag lying nearby, I wrapped the kitten up, tucking him against my shoulder. “I have never seen her before. Looks like you’re a Daddy!” I added with a grin. Speechless, he just stared at me.
The cat flap opened, mom-cat again jumped into Mike’s lap, this time leaving a grey-and-white kitten before turning and fleeing back out the door. “What the heck?” Mike muttered, as he picked up the kitten and held it up. “Who is this cat?”
The cat made five trips; leaving behind on my husband’s lap each time a kitten. After the fifth trip, she laid down in the large cardboard box we had arranged for the babies. Soft bedding lined the box holding enough room for the family. As the kittens began to seek her milk, we picked up the box carrying the family into the house. Depositing the box upstairs, I spread out food and put bowls of water out for the queen before leaving the new family. Shutting the door at the foot of the stairs ensured the new family was safe from our resident cats.
A few hours later, “Fern” started creating a ruckus. She wanted out, and she wanted out NOW! Mike and I weren’t strangers to bottle babies, so I opened the door. Fern quickly raced down the hallway and out the cat door. I followed her to the outside steps watching her disappear into the night. Not knowing if we would see her again, I stopped at the outside freezer grabbing containers of kitten formula and a bag of bottles. If she didn’t come back, I wanted to be prepared.
Later, we heard a commotion at the cat door. Norton, my Alpha stood by the entrance growling. Picking him up carefully, I placed him in another room. Returning to the kitchen, Fern had returned. In her mouth, she had a huge gray-and-black striped kitten. He was so large; she couldn’t carry him so she dragged him backwards! I knelt down talking softly; I relieved her of her burden. She followed me upstairs keeping an eye on my precious cargo the entire time. Once kitty was placed with his littermates, she jumped in and they began to feed. I could tell she was exhausted.
Two days later during room check, I found Fern lying outside of the box. She had died in the night. She must have known that her kittens would be safe with us. How did she know?
Cats use urine to signal other cats. Cat urine can be a directional aide, a secret message, an invitation, or a warning to other cats to stay away. When you start to feed outside, not interfering with the gathering cats, they become comfortable. After eating, they will go over to the bushes and spray. This spray invites other cats to the party. Fern found her invitation to the party. She even located the host; she just couldn’t stay very long.