In recent months, our Vinsetta Park subdivision has been home to several litters of feral kittens.
Neighbors who live near the intersection of Greenleaf and Fairlawn, in particular, have spotted tiny tabbies or black-and-white tuxedo kittens scampering across manicured lawns and hiding in the shrubbery.
But thanks to a heartwarming community effort, what was once viewed as a local animal-control problem has turned into a neighborhood crusade with more than one happy outcome.
A successful rescue attempt
I've learned over the years that fate plays a cool hand in the game of cat ownership.
Driving home from an errand last week, my husband Doug was stopped on Greenleaf by an elderly woman waving for help. As it turned out, an incredibly tiny kitten had run beneath the woman’s car and she was afraid she’d run over it.
In a single gesture that would swiftly rearrange our two-cat household, my husband reached under the car to fetch the frightened tabby, then brought her home.
Who wouldn't have fallen in love? Sporting a richly patterned coat with black stripes and splashes of tan and orange, the 4-week-old tabby resembled a miniature bobcat. While Doug and I were fairly certain the kitten was feral, we had to be sure she didn't belong to another family.
That same day, I sent a notice through the neighborhood email chain, which is managed by our neighbor, Dan Ferris, and reaches 150 households in Vinsetta Park. The email chain keeps us all updated on important issues such as block parties, Neighborhood Watch alerts and, more often, lost pets.
I attached a photo of the orphaned kitten to my email and asked if anyone owned her – or would consider adopting her.
Assuming that a stray kitten isn’t an easy sell, I was surprised to get email responses from four neighbors who were eager to give the orphan a home. One was Julie Martin, the mother of three little girls – Mackenzie, Kate and Avery –who’d been planning to adopt a companion for their older cat, Motley.
In the meantime, my son in Chicago saw my photos of the orphaned kitten and urged me to keep her. I didn't need a bigger nudge than that, although I felt a bit guilty for reneging my initial adoption offer.
I promised Julie, who was first on the list of responders, that I’d let her know if we changed our minds. Happily, the story doesn’t end here.
Another orphan finds a home
A day later, I heard from Angie Alexopoulos, a Vinsetta Park neighbor who had just rescued a black-and-white feral kitten from her front yard. Several members of Angie’s family are allergic to cats, so she had to locate a new home for the stray. Could I connect her to one of the families who wanted to adopt?, she asked.
Within minutes, I shared the good news with Julie Martin, who promptly ran to the next block to check out Angie’s kitten.
“We walked into Angie's house and we were in love as soon as we saw the kitten,” Julie said. “He has the sweetest little face and personality to match.”
Julie’s daughters named their new kitten Vinny – after Vinsetta Park – which suits him as perfectly as his spiffy tuxedo markings.
The Martin family had no qualms about adopting a feral kitten, but Julie admits Vinny initially required special care. When Vinny first came home, she explained, he was fed a kitten milk substitute (available from pet supply stores) from a dropper. “Vinny is also too young to be tested for feline leukemia. To be safe, we’re separating him from our older cat until he’s tested,” she said.
“The way it all worked out was awesome,” Angie told me after the adoption was final. “This kitten found a home with the Martins because our neighborhood is so connected.”
A furry population explosion
Angie did all the right things when she first discovered the tiny tuxedo kitten in the bushes of her front yard. She drove him to veterinarian Jim Mast at the for an exam. (Stray cats often require treatment for fleas and parasites in addition to basic immunization.)
Dr. Mast, also a Vinsetta Park resident, has a personal interest in the local feral cat population. Over the past several months, he has spayed and neutered several strays in Vinsetta Park and he hopes that ongoing neighborhood efforts will lead to the humane capture and treatment of the feral mother cats still roaming our subdivision.
"Many veterinarians will spay and neuter strays at a discount," Dr. Mast said. "It's in the best interests of everyone in the community."
So how did Vinsetta Park become a breeding ground for wild kittens?
“Last fall, a pregnant cat was dumped off on Bassett Street and started hanging out in our yard. She had four kittens,” explained Julie Dean, another concerned neighbor who’s been trying to manage the strays and find homes for them. "When summer came, only two of the kittens and their mother still came around. Then all three got pregnant and had four kittens each.”
Julie Dean said she contacted the Humane Society, but they had too many cats and were not able to help. “I continually ask everyone I meet if they would like a kitten,” she said.
If you find a stray cat or kitten you can’t keep, Dr. Mast suggests asking your veterinarian for the name of the nearest animal rescue league.
Most vets will also offer tips on how to care for the cat until you locate a home for it; or you can check the “Kitten Care” section on Home At Last Animal Rescue. At the present time, the is overstocked with cats waiting for adoption.
Feline soul mates
“I love cats because I enjoy my home, and little by little, they become its visible soul,” wrote the French author Jean Cocteau. Anyone who’s ever kept a cat knows exactly what he meant.
As I type this, our new kitten, Izzie, is perched next to my keyboard in my home office. She’s purring at full volume, waiting for her chance to jump on the keys. I can’t help but wonder where she’d be if my husband hadn’t brought her home.
Meanwhile, I learned through the neighborhood grapevine that there are at least four more kittens and two feral mothers still on the prowl. A long, cold winter is predicted and I wonder how they'll survive.
Cindy La Ferle will be signing copies of her story collection, Writing Home, at The Yellow Door Art Market’s “Holiday Open House” 2:30-4 p.m. Nov. 19.