08 July 2008

Sophie’s Pride

As I mentioned, my cat Pojaoque was given to us by a stray, feral cat who was living in the neighborhood. My husband had been watching the family dynamics of this cat and her two daughters and son for a while. When two new kittens showed up, he began to think we needed to do something before the neighborhood was over run by the kittens of this female cat and her two daughters. Of the kittens, we were only able to adopt the black cat, who is our beloved Pojaoque. We weren’t able to adopt his gray brother unfortunately, but that was basically the mama cat's choice.

Clara hiding in the grass.

My husband had already been feeding the mama, her two girls and son. He had gotten them use to all going into a very large cat carrier we have. We asked out Vet about options for feral cats, and found out there is a group in Albuquerque that holds a clinic once a month on the second Sunday just for the purpose of spay and neutering feral cats. It was perfect. We didn’t want the neighborhood over run with feral cats, yet we couldn’t imagine the possibilities that might happen if the animal shelter picked them up. All we had to do was catch them all, and kept them from eating or drinking through the night before surgery.

It took my husband three tries. He had all the cats in the carrier the first time, but while he was transferring them to the other carriers he lost all but one. Our hungry strays came back nonetheless, and this time, we used a clipboard to transfer one at a time to other carriers using the clipboard as a restrain for the others to keep them inside the carrier. We had them all trapped and ready to spend the night in our living room.

Sopie and Ildy
Sophie and a Tortie Girl, The vets clipped their ears to let animal control know they were "fixed" and being watched over.

Early the next morning, a colder than usual Sunday in January, we were lined up outside the Humane Society which lends their facilities to the Spay and Neuter group. Many of us there were planning on taking back the feral cats and committing to watching over and providing for them. For the next three nights, our living room was our feral cat’s recovery room. I almost hated to let them go, except that we desperately needed to clean the carriers out, not to forget what the carriers were beginning to smell like after three days of feral cat pooping and peeing.

We’ve been taking care of them since. They hang out in our yard, sleep on our front porch, and greet us when we come home after work. They trust us as far as feral cats will trust anyone. There are times that we will be outside sitting on our porch, and the ferals will come out of hiding to join us. They won’t let us too near to them, but they know we will give them food and fresh water. I talk to them all the time, and sometimes Clara or Idly will meow back at me. Oh yes, they all have names.

Nambe, Pojaoque’s brother

We named our black kitten Pojaoque in honor of one of our cats that had recently died named Tesuque. Tesuque had been one of the all time great cats, and Pojaoque was a pretty amazing kitten. Pojaoque is the sister Pueblo of Tesuque. These Pueblos are the Native People living north of Santa Fe, New Mexico long before the Spanish arrived. I carry some of the ancestry of the Northern and Southern Pueblos, and I grew up near these two Pueblos.

We decided we needed to give the feral cats related to our Pojaoque names of other northern New Mexico Pueblos. So Pojaoque’s brother, the gray kitten, became Nambe. His older gray brother, who really more closely resembles Pojaoque, became Juan after San Jan Pueblo. Their two Tortie sisters are Ildy, after San Ildefonso Pueblo, and Clara after Santa Clara Pueblo. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we named the mama cat Sophie because she seemed to make a choice of giving us Pojaoque, while she refused to let us have Nambe. Of course Sophie came from the movie titled Sophie’s Choice.

In the last six months we’ve watched the family dynamics change greatly. At first they were a very tight-knit group. Something happened just recently to change this. The two Tortie sisters, Ildy and Clara, disappeared for eleven days. The night before they disappeared, I heard cats fighting so I went out to make sure they were alright, but there were no cats in sight.


Shortly after the Tortie girls were back, I heard another cat fight and went out to check again. This time I saw Sophie run out of the bushes and across the street. The two Torties are almost always together. Usually Juan and Nambe are together, and Sophie is often alone. While the Tortie girls were gone, Sophie was always with Nambe and Juan. There are time, like before, when they all gather around the food eating together as a family, but now it seems like they have an understanding that they will take turns.

Something was unsettled in the feral kitty world, but I think in time it will all settle. They may no longer be Sophie’s pride, but we have promised to feed, care for and shelter all of them for the rest of their or our lives.

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