Saturday, March 13, 2010

Call of the Wild

I received a card of appreciation yesterday from the Anti-Cruelty of Society in Chicago for a small contribution I made recently. The front of the card carries a photograph of two precious kittens, one an orange tabby and the other all-black. It is gratifying to know that even a modest donation gets noticed and is meaningful to an animal-welfare society.

My late friend and professional mentor Virginia “Dinny” Butts established the Virginia Butts Berger Cat Clinic at the society, and every time I receive correspondence from one of its staff members, I think of Dinny and all of the cats whose lives she is helping to improve through her generous bequest.

The note on the card is forward-thinking. While many of our thoughts are turning to spring (in Houston, specifically, to air-conditioning tune-ups), the Anti-Cruelty Society is planning for another kind of wake-up call next month. April is Feral Cat Recognition Month. I like the clear-cut description of a feral cat: “a cat born outside and who has never lived with a human family, or a house cat who strayed from home and over time has thrown off the effects of domestication and reverted to a wild state.”

Too often, when people talk about feral cats, they act as if they are dealing with creatures in a leper colony. When I first got into this “business,” as a friend calls my feline rescue missions, I wasn’t familiar with the term “feral.” In fact, I thought that the Texas-inflected voice was referring to a “Fair Isle” cat, and I had no idea how a cat could resemble a sweater from L.L. Bean or a similar purveyor of preppy clothing.

Had I believed that feral cats were hopelessly vicious animals who could not be tamed, I would not have had the privilege of living for the past ten years with so many cats. Another friend asked me the other day, “How can you tell which ones you can ‘work with’?” Let’s just say that my heart has never led me astray.

Query of the Day: Have you rescued feral cats?

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