Effie former feral cat

The Tale of Two Ferals

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We’re delighted to share a timely guest post from Andrea Dorn, a writer and former vet tech about her relationship with two special feral cats Effie and Two-y. Winter is hard and more so for feral cats. Learn how you can help ferals in your area visit, Allie Cat Allies Today is also World Spay Day

Tale of Two Ferals

by Andrea Dorn

Last weekend Winter dumped a foot of snow on central Iowa. Today we got another inch. I tell you this, not as a weather report but to point out the conditions feral cats must face in their day-to-day lives outside.

Today, Two-y is AWOL. I don’t usually see him in weather such as this and it worries me. Not that long ago he was in my house, quarantined for a time. I’d hoped that I could find him a home. But I never did and I couldn’t keep him. Even though they couldn’t see him my other cats knew he was in the house and protested in various, unpleasant ways. Most importantly Two-y was growing more and more depressed in his isolation. Finally I decided to release him back into my yard where I first saw him.

Two-y feral cat

You see, Two-y is a feral cat. Since the early ‘90s close to 75 feral cats have passed through this house. Some were kittens who either moved on to great homes or stayed with me. Some were adults I had spayed/neutered, vaccinated and returned to their habitats (called TNR, or trap-neuter-return). Some adults decided to give up their feral ways and stay with me. One female even turned out to be a domestic cat that had joined my colony. Luckily I found her a terrific home. When I first caught him he was designated “Stray #2”. So when I realized he was sticking around and needed a name I took that and the fact that he is a bi-color and decided he was “Two-y”


Two-y showed up at my house one winter along with another male and two females that seemed to be littermates. Eventually I caught the males neutered, tested and vaccinated them before returning them to my yard. The females were pregnant before I caught them so I decided to keep them and let them have their kittens in my home. After keeping the females in my home for so many weeks as they raised their kittens, I just didn’t feel it was right to turn them out again so they stayed with me.

Back in ’97 I caught another feral adult that refused to give up her feral ways. For years I called her Lady Gray Butt because she was too stubborn to fall for my traps. But in ’97 when she was full term with her last litter of kittens she was so desperate for food that she finally gave in. Her reward was a new name, Ineffable or Effie, for short. She had her kittens only 2 days later. I spent the next 14 weeks socializing the kittens and trying hard to make friends with their mother.

Effie former feral cat

Unfortunately she wouldn’t relent. One day she even came at me with claws slashing. I gave in and returned her to the colony (after spaying and vaccinating, of course). But that wasn’t the end of her story.

Effie stayed with the colony even after the barns were torn down and the other cats disappeared. I continued to feed her and tried over and over to make friends with her. It took years but finally it happened. I touched her. She didn’t like it but she didn’t leave her food either. Every day after that I continued to touch her when I could. I advanced from touching just her tail to her rump to her back and finally to scratch her neck. And yet I couldn’t catch her.

She wasn’t dumb. She knew better than to trust me when I brought out a towel or a net or anything other than the food container. Eventually I did get her used to having the carrier near her as she ate but for agonizingly long months I could do no more. Then suddenly one day I took the chance and lifted her up into my arms. She gave me the most awful glare from her eyes but she didn’t fight so I quickly set her into the carrier. She was twelve years old. Effie spent the next four years as one of my closest friends.

So, I haven’t yet given up on Two-y. I know that adult cats can be rehabilitated. But for now, he happily roams the neighborhood and I’ve promised to keep his vaccinations up-to-date. One day perhaps he’ll retire and I’ll bring him inside again.

Editor’s note: Andrea Dorn is on a blog break. Her post last July after Effie died is worth a read. Her moving words and images will touch many of us who have loved and lost a beloved cat. Visit Andrea Dorn.

Andrea Dorn, RVT,  MLT (ASCP)
Editor Liaison, 2015-16 CWA Conference Committee
Professional member, Cat Writers’ Association
Member, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
Contributing writer for Cat Fancy and Cats USA
2013 Purina Proplan/Cat Writers’ Association Pedigreed Cats Special Award Winner
World Spay Day


  • Skeeter and Izzy

    I posted yesterday but for some reason it didn’t save here. You know how we feel about the Ferals. We will have to read Andrea’s stories at home, we know we will cry…..
    Thank you Andrea for loving the Ferals too.

    Skeeter and Izzy and the Feral Gang + Twig & Peanut & Romeo >^..^<

  • Cathy Keisha

    What a beautiful story. TW feeds 2 feral colonies and just found out that Ramona, one of the kitties is going into a house when it’s cold on. She sleeps on the bed but won’t let anyone touch her.

  • Kathryn

    Aww, made me tear up. Ched and Mao said they wish more people were like Andrea. Wonderful, wonderful post. Thank you.

    When I was a child, ferals were known as strays. We had a couple. Usually, our cats came from the pound.

    One stray who appeared at our front door was a pregnant, long-haired tux and she had two litters with us. The first was three kittens and the second the summer later was eight – four sets of twins.

    Unfortunately, my long-term childhood cat, Siami, age 7, left me during this time — he ran away — because he felt I had abandoned him for Feathers, the long-haired tux.

    Another feral in the 90s was a gray tabby I adopted from an ad posted on a bulletin board. She was about 2. She was found in an empty house the new owners bought. I adopted her from the new owners. She had been feral for her two years. I had had a kitten recently who died on the street, so I wanted a full-grown cat. This feral cat was named Huggy by the previous owners, the ones who had left their cat in the
    home when they sold it..

    Huggy was very sweet in the house. She’d come in and say goodnight to my kids (jump on the bed and rub faces) when I put them to bed. Then, she’d sleep on me and then make her rounds to all the beds to sleep with everybody.

    I wanted to keep her inside, because our street was very busy.

    One day, she escaped through the door. She came back about an hour later, with a chipmunk.

    She insisted on going out every day, sometimes twice a day. She always brought back prezzies for us.

    She made a successful adaptation to living in the house, while still retaining her feral ways.

    My kids were young — 2 and 4 — but the preschool teacher said it was a good thing my kids were learning about cats’ true natures at this age.

    After three years, Huggy met her match one day with a car.

    Otherwise, she had a charmed life for a former feral.

    We then had six years of pets other than cats — bunny, guinea pig, parakeets (all at the same time, donated to us from a friend going back to England), gerbils.

    When we got Ched and Mao, I said, they’ll grow fat in the house, but this is a densely populated town and they’ll die by auto if they go outside, so they’re staying in.

    • Andrea

      I’m so sorry about Huggy and Siami. They do face a lot of challenges as outdoor cats. I know that about Two-y and hope he decides to come inside someday before his challenges get the best of him.

      There was a time when ferals were lumped in with other stray cats but now we recognize that feral cats are different. They are truly wild and not used to human contact. Ferals are usually the offspring of stray cats and those that have been abandoned by their owners. They grow up fearing humans unless someone steps in to help.

      Thanks for you kind words.

      • Kathryn

        I hope that about Two-Y, too.

        Thanks for reminding me of the difference between ferals and strays. I’ve never seen true ferals, always lived in well-inhabited neighborhoods. My sister lived in a semi-rural part of Cali (near Hollister) and there were lots of mean ferals there.

  • easy rider

    that was a great story and I hope so much it works with Two-y too. Mom’s BFF rescued a feral once and although her Felix was still a guy who disliked close contact to humans, they had a wonderful relationship for more than 17 years.

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