I’m excited for fall, but like every year, I regret not doing enough this summer. I’d promised myself that this year I would finally take advantage of the Forest Park pool … but then I got a tattoo, which couldn’t be exposed to chlorine. I only barbecued once because we didn’t get a new grill until Labor Day. But yesterday I was reminded of the most important task left undone this summer.
As I was leaving to work, I noticed a cat slink down the alley. A black-and-white cat with matted hair and a missing ear. My poor feral kitties! A colony of them live in my alley and I’d sworn that this summer I was really going to do something to help them.
My former roommate, Tai, and I noticed them a couple summers ago: a few big, furry black cats; a tiny black cat with white paws, who we dubbed Socks; and her kittens. We bought cans of cat food in bulk and spent hours trying to lure the cats to us. Tai was able to catch the sickliest kitten and take her to a local vet who turned her over to the Animal Care League, but we panicked when winter came and we hadn’t been able to round up the rest of the kittens.
We feared they wouldn’t survive and knew that if they did, they wouldn’t be adoptable by spring. You have to catch feral kitties very young to tame them. Those kittens did survive, but then another litter was born. Last winter was very harsh and I’m sorry to report that those kittens didn’t make it.
That makes me cry and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I guess I’m the punk-rock cat lady. Two of our three cats are named for punk musicians (Sid for Sid Vicious and Lars for Lars Frederiksen). We plan to get a fourth and name him Danzig. Two of my kitties were street rescues (one by Tai, one by the Animal Care League), so I’m extra sensitive to homeless cats.
Last winter, I started researching what I could do for the feral cat colony. Forest Park has limited resources when it comes to animal control, so I knew I’d have to do it on my own. The best solution is trap the kitties, get them neutered, and release them back into their environment. Then the colony doesn’t increase and you can provide care to the existing cats. I live in a townhouse without a real yard, but I’d noticed that the people in the house across the alley were feeding the cats. I’d been meaning to approach them and see if we could do the trapping on their property. However, I’m nervous about talking to strangers – what if they judged me for my pink hair and tattoos? – so I kept putting it off.
But when I got to work after seeing the poor feral kitty, two older women came in for lunch. They sat at the bar and I couldn’t help but overhear them talking about cats. I had to chime in and we ended up in a long conversation. It reminded me that cat people love to talk cats. My neighbors clearly care about those feral cats like I do and no matter what type of people we are, we’ll have something to talk about.
That gave me the courage to go to their house today. They weren’t home, but I’ll keep dropping by until I meet them. There is still time for us to plan care for the cats in the cold. After all, it’s not winter yet.
Stephanie is the author of “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” and “Ballads of Suburbia.” She’s a proud Forest Parker who holds a master’s in fine arts degree from Columbia College Chicago. She also works locally at the Beacon Pub and loves to hear from people through her Web site www.stephaniekuehnert.com.