Especially the word ex-feral.
My husband and I were discussing the Moon dick-move incident last night, and he said to me, “Oh yeah, I’d forgotten about that. Moon used to do that to Rupert all the time.”
Due to scheduling, my husband was home during the day for a couple of years, and so he was Rupert’s sole caretaker. He did all the feeding and water changes for Rupert, and helped with Moon’s transition. Moon was still mostly out-of-doors at this point in the rehabilitation. Moon was also very neurotic about food. This was because the bigger more aggressive Tom cats would beat him down mercilessly and take his food unless I was there to intervene. When the last of the mean Toms disappeared, Moon had become so food obsessed that, according to my husband, he would charge Rupert as soon as my husband put the plate down, and often, he had to intervene so that Rupert could eat.
This is what life is for a feral cat. You don’t always get to eat. Sometimes it’s bad weather; sometimes the hunt fails; and sometimes bigger and meaner cats, raccoon, opossum, fox, or skunk steal your food. You gorge when food is available because it might be a day or a week before you eat again. Winter is the worst. Starvation is very real for feral cats, and apparently, even after 4.5 years inside with abundant food, Moon’s neurotic food obsession/starvation fear hasn’t gone away. They don’t “Get Over It.” They don’t get over a lot of things.
That Moon reverted to feral food aggression behavior with Rupert after 4.5 years surprised me because he’s such a cuddly luvbug now that sometimes I forget his struggle for survival. This is why I hate words. Not the words themselves, but the way we use them to define something so that we can check a box.
I recently decided to change my vet practice because of this and arguments over why I won’t feed Moon the crap prescription diet that they conveniently sell and constantly try to push on me to the point of rudeness. I won’t get into that now, though. Anyway, I found a new vet practice that I really like and went for a consult and tour. When asked about the kittehs, I said that I have 2 feral cats, which was promptly met with a puzzled look and this question: “You mean ex-feral, right?” I just smiled and said that they were, “Tame, nice, indoor cats now.”
But they will never be ex-feral. There is no such thing.
Their instincts and their fears will always be there, and it’s our job to mitigate the anxiety they feel because of it. We can’t fix them by calling them ex-feral. Shit, they don’t even need fixing. They just need reassurance, and the word feral doesn’t define them but simply speaks to the way we need approach their need for food, shelter, love, and medical care.