Off North Road : Taming the feral feline
After Kimba died, my wife Mary Ann and I wondered if we should find another cat. We had lived in relative serenity with Kimba for 19 years since his arrival with our son Chris, home from UMass-Amherst for a Thanksgiving. "Could you keep him for a while until I return next term?" he asked.
We agreed knowing full well the risk we were taking of acquiring a permanent boarder if not a full-time household pet. Chris had named him Kimba, a name that stuck.
Sadly, when Kimba died, it left a void in the atmosphere of serenity, coziness, warmth and uniform sense of belonging - characteristics we thought common to households with kittens who grow to cats.
Kittens are usually accepting, darling, playful, active and curious. They lend an air of mischief to a loving relationship. When they are tired or curled up on one's lap and a purr vibrates through our laps, we are pleased that a pet can be so affectionate.
So we decided to begin again and look for an appropriate kitten. Our hopes were fulfilled when an old friend and her new husband who were setting up their own homestead had an expectant cat about to have kittens. We could have the pick of the litter.
And we found our lovely dark yellow kitten with faint tiger markings over his flanks and tail. As we drove out of the yard with the frightened kitty squalling in our cat carrier, I wondered if this was going to be a harbinger of a problem and I noticed the open barn door in my rear-view mirror. As I remember, that barn door had been open to the fields and woods each time we had driven down the drive to visit our friends. In some alarm I said to Mary Ann, "We are bringing home a feral cat!"
"Oh, I don't think so" she said.
"Well," I replied, "Where do you think the father came from while Momma was expecting kittens always inside the house?"
"He's not feral; I can see him and I know he can't be feral. We'll keep him, of course."
We had some difficulty in finding a name for him. Perhaps we had feared we would attach an evil sounding name to him unconsciously - like Hitler or Judas. One day a friend walked in and quickly labeled him Mocha for the darkening tan color of his rich coat.
He is now five or six years old and we are very fond of him although we have suffered an unusual number of deep scratches and occasional bites. We expected that; but Mocha's clawing phase seemed excessive in comparison to our experience with other kittens.
"She's not feral!" I would say to Mary Ann in a rather sarcastic tone, but we soldiered through. Mocha could be so affectionate. After eating a can of wet food and a handful of kibbles, he'd curl up on my lap or shoulder. If I were sleeping on the couch, he would purr and rub seductively across my shoulders or move down to my stomach where he would punch out the air pockets, I guess, of my internal workings until I would begin to feel his claws penetrating the layers of clothing over my midsection. That's when I'd rise abruptly and tip him off of me.