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When I first started camping in the Berkeley hills about 11 years ago, there were already four feral cats living there — a mother and three kittens. They had a little nest in the bushes about 100 yards up the hill from my campsite.
Shortly after I moved in, the mother cat got hit by a car and died. A short while after that, the kittens summoned the nerve to trot down the hill and check out my campsite. I started feeding them every morning. So that’s how that got started.
About a year later, one of the cats, who I named Blondie, had her first litter of kittens: Moo Cat, Scamp and Scump (who disappeared shortly after).
A year later, Blondie had her second litter of kittens: the twins Mick and Keef. And then no more litters from Blondie (and it wasn’t for lack of trying — Blondie was always very popular with the local toms). I suspect she became infertile from the harsh living of feral cats. But who knows.
Then I had to leave town for 4 months. So I asked a homeless friend of mine who camped on the other side of the hill, if he would feed my cats while I was gone. And I gave him a big bag of cat food to take care of that.
While I was gone, my homeless friend fell in love with the cats and adopted Scamp (who he re-named Lovey Dovey after the line in the George Thorougood song “One Bourbon, On Scotch, and One Beer”). And Moo Cat and Lovey Dovey had popped out litters of kittens while I was gone. So now I suddenly had 12 cats running around my campsite. And things were on the verge of getting out of control. When litters of litters start having litters, the cat population can increase exponentially pretty quickly.
My homeless friend — who had become a confirmed cat-lover — urged me to get the cats fixed. But I didn’t think it was my responsibility. I never thought of them as “my” cats. Like I was the owner and they were my pets. They were feral cats, and I was a feral human being who just happened to be living alongside of them. And I felt getting them fixed would be a betrayal of their trust. They had come to trust me (something that doesn’t come easily with feral cats) because I never messed with them. So I felt that it would be morally wrong to impose my will on them.
My friend argued that the cats would suffer if I didn’t get them fixed. “If you feed them, you’re responsible for them,” he said. My counter argument was: “I also feed the birds and the squirrels and the raccoons and the skunks. But I don’t feel I’m responsible for their well-being either.” . . . One thing I always did do: No matter how many feral cats showed up — whether it was 2 or 12 — I always made sure they all had plenty of food to eat. Nobody ever went hungry at Camp Backwords, that’s for sure. So at least I was responsible about that.
But my friend felt strongly enough about the issue, that he said he’d be willing to take care of it himself. So I said OK. And he managed to get all the cats (except Blondie) fixed. And he found adoptive homes for a bunch of them, too. So that was cool.
So now I had four cats again. Blondie, Moo Cat, and Mick & Keef. Which was cool in a way. Because I had started out with four cats, and now I had four cats again, so that seemed like a natural order of things. And four cats was more than enough for me to deal with.
So now all the feral cats were either fixed or infertile. So I felt I wouldn’t be having to deal with the kitten issue any more (famous last words). And Iived happily ever after for several years.
Then I suddenly had to leave town for a year. It was heart-breaking living my cats behind. But that’s life in the world of feral cats. There’s no assurance for any of them. And very little assurances for you and me either, for that matter . . . When I came back to my campsite a year later, Mick & Keef had disappeared. But Blondie and Moo Cat were still around. And they were both in good shape, having somehow managed to survive quite nicely in my absence.
Then one day, these two other feral cats — Owl and Feral Tammy — happened to show up at my campsite. They had been wandering through the neighborhood, spotted my cat dish full of cat food, and decided to stick around. And before I knew it, Feral Tammy was preggo and she popped out a litter of three kittens: Scaredy Cat, Fatty and Crier. So here we go again.
I knew it wouldn’t be long before I had 12 (or more!) cats romping around my campsite if I didn’t nip this in the bud (so to speak). So, in a rare show of maturity, I managed to trap Feral Tammy, Fatty and Crier and get them fixed at the cat clinic.
But before I could get the other two cats fixed (Scaredy Cat and Owl) things started going south at my campsite. I got preoccupied with a very serious feud when several other homeless people invaded my campsite, then the rainy season hit, and then the cat clinic went out of business. Among many many other complications in the typical life of a fucked-up homeless person.
So, in the meantime, Scaredy Cat managed to pop out a litter of two kittens, who I named Mini Scaredy and Mini Owl (because they both looked like miniature versions of Mom and Dad). Scaredy Cat got pregnant a couple more times after that. But both times she had miscarriages. So I figured (wishful thinking) that she was infertile.
For whatever reason, Mini Scaredy never had any litters (and it wasn’t for lack of trying — that horndog Owl was on her when she was barely 7 months old).
And then Blondie disappeared. She was 10 years old (which is pretty ancient for a feral cat). So she probably quietly passed away. Then a year later, Owl and Feral Tammy also wandered off and disappeared. Probably casualties of the Great Rainstorms of the Winter of 2016-2017.
So now there were no toms around. So hopefully that meant no more kittens. And then Mini Owl disappeared (which was heart-breaking). So I was right back to where I started with 4 cats: Scaredy Cat, Mini Scaredy, Fatty, and Moo Cat. And hoping it would stay that way.
And then last month, Scaredy Cat showed up at my campsite one morning, with four little 2-month-old kittens proudly in tow. So here we go again.
And that’s pretty much where everything stands as of this moment.
The end (at least for now).