When people hear that you have retired feral cats in your house, they imagine chaos similar to a pack of hyenas, and they wonder how I decorate my house at all let alone during the holidays. Now I was a ferret caretaker for twenty years, and my husband and I can tell you that cracked-out hooligans was an apt term to describe them, and my house was always in a state of constant chaos.
- Twenty years of walking backwards around the house;
- Twenty years of defensive soccer moves to punt wild ferrets back into the house as they bum-rushed the doors in an effort to get outside;
- Windows could only be opened from the top and only a crack;
- Heavy canvas had to be stapled to the undersides of all beds and furniture that could be excavated and crawled into;
- Nothing, absolutely nothing of value could be on or remotely near the floor; and,
- Anything relegated to end tables or the coffee table had to be velcroed to said table.
There was a lot more but the list is soooo long, and compared to that business, the cats are practically comatose. I’ve had my shit fucked with. Antique clocks smashed to bits. Christmas trees pulled down. Potting soil ground into the entirety of my dining room carpet. I could go on and on an on, but here’s the thing: You adapt. You compromise. You love them. I don’t have carpet anymore.
That said, feral cats are a bit different from your run-of-the-mill housecat. Feral cats come from the wilderness. Trees. Dirt. Shrubbery. Territory and possessions are defined by scent, and they DO NOT fuck with shit if they don’t know what it is because feral cats are smart and their wild mothers teach them that curiosity does, in fact, kill the cat.
When we transition a feral, we pheromone spray the things we allow them to claim as their own. We are fortunate that our ferals are bush cats. Ground cats. They don’t climb or like to be too high. The back of the sofa is as high as they like to be. We keep pheromone treated blankets on the furniture that they can use, so they don’t jump on my counters, or tables, of book shelves, etc. They stick to where the friendly smell is. Eventually you can stop spraying when they’ve added their own stink to the thing. It’s almost like setting up invisible boundaries that delineate our things from their things, which is important when trying to teach them that some things are dangerous things, like electrical cords, which we keep hidden or switched. They also have special 4×4 wood sticks to use as scratching posts because they know wood is for scratching, so why teach them to use anything that remotely feels like your furniture or your carpet? As for holiday decorating…
I don’t have a large Holiday Tree because the ferrets cured me of that cliché right quick. My last reasonably sized fake tree had all the decorations hot glued to it. Took weeks, but I love a tree with twinkle lights, so now, I just have small trees, curated and decorated by yours truly, in every room of the house. This is my most recent upgrade to the dining room, and even with the lights, shiny balls, and all the little fake birds, they, the cats, couldn’t care less. Rupert did attack my crow sculpture on Halloween his first year, but in his defense, it looks real, like taxidermy, but it isn’t. I forgave him, and he was disappointed that it wasn’t the chicken dinner he’d hoped for that first night he was in the house. The fake trees smell like fake to them, so they aren’t worth bothering with, and they have their own shiny balls to play with that smell like things to play with. It’s all about training.
We give them their own things and their own space and they allow us ours, though I do tease Moon from time to time by putting primitive dollies on his satisfaction chair (where he grooms after a good poop.) Sometimes he doesn’t care, and other times, I get stink eye.