After spending about 30 minutes (again) today trying to catch the furry feral felines, I decided something had to change. This afternoon, I had an appointment to have the two females, Annie and Gracie, receive booster vaccinations and I knew it was going to be a real feat to get them into pet carriers. Timmy finished his vaccination routine weeks ago, and has calmed down quite a bit. I can pet him and be near him without him running away to hide. I still can't hold him without a towel and a firm grip, but he's made more progress than his sisters. They had been spayed much later than Timmy was neutered, so their time table was not the same as his.
Chasing frightened little cats around is not what I want to be doing. They become so scared and try to hide, then I have to force them out of hiding and that only fosters their fear of humans. A few weeks ago I was told by someone I consider an expert at cat care, that I needed to separate the kittens from each other (since they huddle together for safety), then cage them in order to allow them to rely on me and begin to trust. I didn't take that advice because I could not imagine keeping them in cages. Today I changed my mind.
On the way home from the cat clinic, I stopped and bought a small cage. I had bought an identical one last weekend when I thought we'd be housing another feral cat for a few days after her spay - turned out she was a nursing mother and had to be immediately released after being examined by the vet. We did not have her spayed. Neighbors tell me the mama cat has been seen coming from the wooded area behind our homes and going back there after having her meals. The neighbors and I keep dry cat food available and one neighbor makes sure mama cat has warm milk each morning. As soon as the kittens are weaned, back to the clinic we'll go. Since we don't know where they are, all we can do is pray they're safe. We surely don't need more feral kittens running the neighborhood, but they didn't ask to be born, nor did their mama ask to become pregnant. When she brings them out in a few weeks, the neighbors and I will do what we can to get them inside and checked by a vet so they might eventually be put up for adoption - if they're not too wild. This is a never-ending cycle.
Tonight Annie and Gracie are tucked into their cozy little cages. This will be a temporary situation because I don't believe keeping animals in cages helps them become social beings. My only reason for doing this is a need to touch them and be close to them. When they're out and about downstairs, they have too many places to hide and I can't sit down there all day and wait until they decide to come out and be sociable. That hasn't happened in all these months and I doubt it ever will.
The girls are sitting in their clean litter boxes for now. Most cats do that because they feel safer there. They have soft bedding, food, water, and toys. Since having them in cages (for about 5 hours so far) I've already seen more progress than I had for months. They can't go anywhere so I guess they're resigned to have the crazy cat lady pet them no matter what they want or don't want. I've been checking on them every half hour or so and have reached in and petted each one - without being scratched or bitten. They're such pretty little wild things. I have to give them every chance possible to become pets. This process is taking much longer than I ever imagined but I can't give up on these babies. They deserve to be loved and to live without fear.