As many as a dozen cats frequent our home on a daily basis, and they exhibit a wide range of cat behavior when it comes to affection. Some are the neighbors’ cats that occasionally come for a visit and a quick bite. Some are feral cats that come by a few times a week for some food and water, and then quickly depart for parts unknown. However, six of the cats we take care of are regulars. Each night they sleep in the heated, soft beds that we provide for them in our garage. Every morning, at least three or four of them greet us and wait around for us to place their food and water out along with some treats. Then they rest comfortably outside most of the day under the bushes and trees or investigate the nearby woods and garden. They’re back each night to follow the same routine.
Of the six, three are mature adult females who have been with us a couple of years. The other three are youngsters — offspring of the females — who have been with us since they were born. Each adult female has one youngster left from their original litters. All six started as feral and remain somewhat feral even after a couple of years. They all have their own personalities and are very sweet when interacting with each other. However, when it comes to interacting with me, there’s much variation: Some of them are very affectionate, while others have never come close enough for me to pet.
The one we call Momma Kitty is the most affectionate out of the three adult females cats and the one I’m closest to. She stays at our house full time and rarely leaves the garage or driveway area. She’ll let me sit beside her and talk to her. She rubs against my legs when I bring food and lets me pet her while she eats. The other two females, Natasha and Miss Cali, are not affectionate with me at all. After two years, they’ll sit within three feet of me and watch me place the food in the bowls. No matter how hungry they are, they will not approach me or the bowls of food until I walk away.
Thankfully, the three youngsters are all affectionate. Miss Kitty will rub against me and let me pet her as long as food is involved. Once she’s finished eating, she’ll walk away or climb into her heated bed for the night. She always tolerates me petting her while she’s eating. But when she’s done eating, she’s also done with being petted.
Rusty, a very talkative boy, will also let me pet him while he eats. He’ll usually rub against me only when I’m petting one of the other cats. Otherwise, he chooses to meow and shake his tail a foot or two away from me.
Then there’s Ash. He’s definitely the friendliest boy around. He’ll come running when you call his name, just like a dog. He never gets enough attention and meows when I sing his special song to him. If I point toward the five-foot high fencepost, he’ll oblige me by running towards it and taking a graceful leap to the top of the post, where he’ll sit for his dedicated time with me.
Because Ash loves attention, his persistence about getting attention from me while I’m in the yard with my dog can sometimes be a little much. While Ash is four times the size of Dusty, our toy schnauzer, Ash doesn’t seem to understand why he can’t get petted at the same time Dusty is trying to do her business in the back yard. Rain or shine, he wants attention, and he’s always persistent about getting it. To be honest, I find that one of his most endearing qualities.
Even though I consider the six cats I care for regularly to be feral, I will always care about what happens to them and continue to take care of them. And, while it would mean a lot to me if Miss Cali and Natasha would let me pet them like the other cats do, I realize that this type of interaction might never take place. Miss Cali and Natasha have simply never understood what all the fuss over being petted was about. Nonetheless, I’ll always wonder why Rusty, Miss Kitty, Momma Kitty, and Ash are more affectionate than Miss Cali and Natasha.