I’m Nickel, a female kitten who grew up in Forest Park. Talk about a rough kitten hood, I barely survived it. That’s because I was born into a colony of feral cats.

It was crazy overcrowded. There had to be forty cats. I lived there with my mother Princess and my older sister Domino. The colony had some male cats who kept fighting over the females. These tomcats were no prize, impregnating every female they could find and spreading disease.

We didn’t know where our next meal was coming from; there was no clean water to lap up with our tiny tongues. My fur became dirty and matted because there’s only so much cleaning you can do with a dry tongue. Plus, I was scratching fleabites.

I didn’t think things could get any worse. Then my mom got bitten in the leg by a raccoon. It got infected and she was limping badly. I thought, “Well, we’re a typical dysfunctional feral cat family: the kittens don’t make it and the adults live only two years.”

Then, one day, my mom and I went inside this thing to get some food. The door closed behind us. The next thing I know, Forest Park’s guardian of stray cats, Terri Woods, was driving us to the vet.

The vet took one look at my mom and saw she needed emergency care. They put her to sleep – excuse me – sedated her and cleaned up her wound. They gave her antibiotics and spruced up her fur. Most importantly, they made sure she couldn’t have any more kittens.

Meanwhile, they got rid of my fleas and – sorry I get choked up – gave me a home. I had never spent a night indoors but Terri let me live with her. No more freezing winters, or sweltering summers. My own dishes of food and water and I learned how to use the litter box right away.

Still, I was worried about my mom and sister returning to the colony. But it wasn’t the same hellhole anymore. The sick males were gone. Terri had provided straw-lined shelters and the colonists were eating regularly. Overcrowding was down – there were only six to seven cats left and none of them had any ability or inclination to make kittens.

Terri’s not done, though. There’s still enough grant money left from a PetSmart grant to trap, neuter and release 300 more Forest Park cats. The grant will expire in the Fall so Terri’s hoping she can mobilize summer volunteers to become colony caretakers.

You can fill out an application at the Animal Care League and email Terri at CATS4ForestPark@gmail.com if you’d like to save adorable creatures like myself.

If you prefer applying face-to-face, Terri is hosting a meeting at 921 Lathrop Ave., on May 4 at 7 p.m. I hope to see you there.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.