With tomorrow being "National Feral Cat Day" (look for a special guest blog post on CAT CHAT from "Alley Cat Allies!") I thought it was only appropriate to highlight it again! Enjoy!
Michigan's own Sue Gibson contacted me back in June introducing herself, telling me that she works exclusively with feral cats, rehabbing them and finding homes for them when they are ready. She has worked with approximately 130 ferals (from four weeks to four years old) and says she has only had to find barn placement for two.
Sue's work with feral cats began in the Fall of 1996 when a pregnant feral stopped on her porch looking for food. The feral later was named "Cutie" by Sue and was with her from October 1996 through March 2002. Cutie produced 12 litters-37 kittens total (all of whom survived). Cutie should have been named "Smartie" because as hard as Sue tried to catch her to have her spayed Cutie outsmarted her at every turn. Sue was, however, able to bring all of the kittens in and place them in homes of their own (three of them remained with Sue).
Sue is self-taught in the ways of feral rescue. When she first started she found little support when she contacted various rescue groups, her vet offered support for a while but stopped when they no longer wanted feral cats at their facility.
As Sue says "simply for the love of the species". She thinks that cats are "the most misunderstood animals on the planet" (I have to agree). Each kitten is born with it's own "purrsonality". There are "people cats" and "aloof cats" in both feral and non-feral cats. It is about the personality. Just like in the case of people. There are people who are "people persons" and people who are not.
Sue uses large dog crates which prevent the cats from being able to hide under furniture etc. The crates enable the cats to get used to you being closer to them much faster. She sets the crates up with a small cat condo so they have a place to feel safe, a covered litter box (which also provides an extra level for the cats to perch on and affording them jumping exercise). She provides lots of toys and keeps toys within a paws reach outside of the crate to interest them.
For cats fearful of being touched Sue uses an ingenious method of having a "feather stick" lightly stroke their back and when Sue knows they like that and are comfortable she can then use her hand to stroke their back.
What is the turn around time on rehab?
Sue says it is always different and depends on the individual cat, what they have been through and how fearful they are. Some of her success rates have been as brief as 3 days, others as long as nine months. Sue's critieria for deciding when a cat can come out of a crate is when the cat greets her at the crate door when she shows up wanting her to pet it.
Sue takes great pride in cats that are more difficult to work with. She says "I like the fact that I can take them from being nasty or difficult and turn them into a cat I can toss over my shoulder and walk around the house with. It is very rewarding to see former ferals living in the lap of luxury and enjoying life, especially during the winter when the temperature drops below freezing! I have an upper balcony where my cats love to sit and enjoy the sunshine-no one has ever tried to jump. It's almost like their attitude is been there-done that, not interested!!"
Sue is more than happy to offer any assistance in the form of advice, trapping, loaning out a crate, setting it up and teaching people how to do what she does. She makes house calls! She wants it known though that she cannot bring them home with her. (She has 11 permanent houseguests since she began working with feral cats in 1996) You may contact Sue Gibson at: 248-457-7149 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org