Four Ferals and a Possum

There is, in Los Angeles, near the Burbank airport, a wonderful organization called FixNation (www.fixnation.org) that neuters feral cats. (They also neuter some domestics, for a fee.) They spay/neuter the ferals, give them shots and a dose of flea medication, do minor repairs, and it doesn’t cost anything. They also provide traps and detailed instructions on how to use them. The person bringing in the cat or cats — one morning when I was there, someone brought in twenty; they were trapping an entire colony — agrees to provide food and shelter overnight while the anesthesia is wearing off. In my case, I kept them (in cages, of course) on my screened-in patio.

My most recent foray into neutering ferals came about as result of a really warm spell we had a couple months ago. I looked out the window and saw a couple stranger toms trailing after Patches and BB and thought, Oops, here we go again. Time to grit my teeth and start trapping.

I truly hate trapping the ferals. However, I also hate dead kittens in my back yard. Live kittens are quite a different matter. I’m going to go through withdrawal this summer now that both BB and Patches have been fixed. As have Squirt and Nose. Nose especially is great because I caught him before he turned tom. Nose was born last summer, and Squirt the year before that. Squirt had definitely turned tom but he’s mellowed considerably since his FixNation adventure. He and Nose are buddies now.

I had to keep Nose caged for two nights. He had a gash on one leg that the vet stitched up and they didn’t want the stitches breaking loose. It’s almost as hard for me to keep the ferals caged as it is to trap them in the first place, so I kept going out on the patio to talk to him. Nose is the tamest of the ferals, even more so than BB, I think because he started letting me pet him when he was still very young. I’d talk, he’d talk back — or vice versa — I’d stick my fingers into the cage (not in most cases a good idea with feral cats), he’d lick them and rub against them and purr.

We bonded that night, Nose and I. All the other ferals  took off for parts unknown the second I opened the cage door. Nose hung around for a good ten minutes while I sat down on the ground and petted him. We had a love fest.

I’m not the only one in the neighborhood having ferals fixed. I noticed the other day that Bad Ass has a notched ear. (An ear notch is the universal sign that a feral cat has been neutered.) I also noticed that he has a big bald patch on one haunch. I’m hoping that it’s result of a cat fight, and not a sign of mange. I’m keeping an eye on him. I’m also hoping that whoever had him fixed is keeping an eye on him too. Bad Ass will at this point let me get within a foot or so of him (if he’s hungry enough), but I don’t much fancy the notion of trying to get him in a cage. Nose once had a similar wound and I was terrified that he had mange, but it turned out that he didn’t. Hopefully Bad Ass’s misadventure will end as well.

Lord, but he’s a raggedy looking cat. Which just goes to prove that looks don’t matter much in the feline world. There are many many tuxedo kitties in this neighborhood thanks to Bad Ass. Including Squirt and Nose.

In addition to the ferals I’m feeding raccoons, possums, and birds. I’ve seen the raccoons a couple times — they appear to be thriving on dry cat food — and have had a couple glimpses of the possum, mainly its hindquarters as it’s running away. The possum gets along well with the cats, seems to be part of the extended feral family.

Lots of people hate possums. I don’t. Granted they’re not one of nature’s more cuddly creatures, but I find them so ugly they’re almost cute. This may have something to do with having grown up in Pennsylvania hunting country where there was a mounted moose head by the front door and a mounted deer head by the back and a stuffed fox in the attic. Folks eat squirrel and rabbit — and yes possum — in those parts. Anyway, I’ve named the possum (if I feed it, I get to name it) Polly (Pauly?) Possum, since I’ve no notion whether it’s male or female. Possums are nocturnal creatures, so up til today I only glimpsed it at night.

I generally put food out twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. Last night I forgot. This morning when I went out only Bad Ass was at the door, which is unusual; most often Nose and BB are waiting for me. I was talking to Bad Ass, asking him where everyone else was, when BB, Nose and Patches came running up from the back yard. With them was — I blinked. That was either a hairless cat or…

Yep. That was definitely a possum tail disappearing among the boxes and other assorted stuff piled in the carport.  I bent for a better look. There was Polly/Pauly looking back at me.

Eye contact with a possum. It was very, very cool.

Published in: on April 21, 2009 at 1:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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