Twelve years ago I volunteered for a rescue group fostering cats and kittens. I’d already fostered Spencer, Gracie and Petunia, along with a few others when I got a call about 3 “semi-feral” cats needing a foster home. They were in a situation where they were at high risk of being abused and were living outside in the dead of winter. I’d never even seen a feral cat, let alone ever dealt with one before. I was assured they were not wild, but “semi” feral. They were about six months old. I didn't know that generally it's too old to socialize a kitten at that age. I just knew I needed to help.
©2004 Robin AF Olson. My feral friend, Cricket.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into but I agreed. The lady who runs the organization brought the cats over; three black cats, nearly identical save for one who had a little white “locket” on his chest. The other two were all black. How was I going to tell them apart? Did it matter? They all wanted to KILL ME!
I named them Boo-Boo, Sophie and Cricket and eventually I was able to tell them apart, but getting them socialized was another story.
I figured I’d be friendly and go slowly with them. There was no information about socializing feral cats online back then. I had to go it on my own. I only fed the cats off a spoon while wearing heavy gardening gloves. I’d let them lick the food, then try to pet them. What an idiot I was, but in a way, not knowing made me less fearful of what could happen to me if I was bitten.
©2005 Robin AF Olson. Boo-boo and Sophie, Cricket's brother and sister.
Cricket was all “airplane ears” and hissing. He was never aggressive with me, but man did he not want me near him. Boo-boo was a little bit easier to handle and so was Sophie. If I’d known then what I know now I’d have separated them, but in those days I didn’t even have a crate to house them in, let alone know they'd bond to me better if they couldn't rely on each other.
©2005 Robin AF Olson. Slowly but surely Cricket began to trust me.
©2005 Robin AF Olson. Boo-boo was fearless and loved playing with toys. I twas a great way to distract him from being fearful.
His siblings soon opened up and eventually I allowed them to mingle with my own cats. I knew finding them a home would take forever and I had little resources to find a family for them. I eventually left that rescue and began with another. The woman who ran the new rescue found a home for two of the cats. Getting them to that home was a bit of a nightmare, but in the end I was left with Cricket.
©2005 Robin AF Olson. After about 6 months, Cricket and his siblings had free run of the house. This spot in the living room became his until his final days.
At the time I only had a few cats so keeping Cricket wasn’t a difficult choice. Cricket never bothered with anyone or caused trouble. He was shy with new people but he found himself a place on the loveseat near the window where I often found him sunning himself. I hoped in time he would feel comfortable trusting us more and hiding less, but I had no idea just how far he would come over the next decade.
Next: the blossoming of a wild child...and just how much Cricket surprised us.