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STEVEN (A Feral Kitten's Perspective)

Steven is a 12-week-old feral kitten. He is wild through and through like Dar-ling his mother. Wildness is just fear with no definition... a fear of the unknown. It is fright spawned of not knowing humans, from never experiencing a human touch or a caress. It is fed by the perception that a human is a giant predator with huge hands that harm. It is extreme terror of all the sights and sounds of humans.

You see, Steven was born and raised in a brush pile. It is estimated that he is a third generation feral. He knows no boundaries in the freedom of the wild - except those imposed by his feral mother. She taught him to hide when a human is in proximity. She taught him that humans are the enemy. They're worse than dogs and dogs are bad. You can hide down deep under the old rusty car parts out back and a dog can't get you. Eventually a dog will give up sniffing and barking and go home. It could take hours - but eventually its human will call it - or it will loose interest. A cat can wait it out.

It is more dangerous to be seen by the big human predator. Humans are everywhere and they run the higher realm of existence on the planet. A feral cat's existence is based in anonymity and trying to survive in the shadows of the human world. Dar-ling has not shown Steven the road yet - it is very dangerous. Humans drive big fast cars that kill on the road.

Humans can also set traps and catch you and take you away. It had happened to Dar-ling's babies before. Dar-ling grieved for their safety and welfare endlessly.

Once Steven was trapped with his siblings and he lived a couple weeks in a garage. The humans were huge and noisy. It was so very frightening to be contained by their walls. It was unnatural to be so close to them... with no way to escape to the fresh air of the woods and grass. His sister and brother had been fooled by the humans. They would come out of hiding to play with human plastic toys. But not Steven... he was anti-social and true to his nature. He was not to be trifled with - he was made only to hunt living creatures like bugs and mice. He would not play or look their way. They could not change him. He could strike fast at their hands like a rattlesnake when they came at him with their finger claws.

The humans kept his two siblings as house pets. For some reason Steven had been set free to join his mother in the outside world. Perhaps because he had put up a good fight. He was untamable.

True, he was dependant on their food supply - as was his mother now. It was an easier way she told him... so they would have to compromise. They would not have to cross the dangerous road for water or food. The stories his mother conveyed to him made him long to see the creek across the road and to fish for crayfish and frogs. This new food arrangement would spare them from being observed by other humans too. These humans are reliable. She could depend on getting a meal 3 times a day. She had never had that before. It had been a hard life before the humans had become kind to her. She had raised many litters of kittens and lost many to the extremes of climate and to starvation.

Somehow, his mother had made a bargain with the woman of the house. They had talked over the fence with eye-blinks. The woman kept audibly mentioning safety for her and for her babies - even in the foreign human tongue - it was unmistakable. Evidently Dar-ling had exchanged two kittens for a life of ease for herself: a place to feel safe and for food. It was a bargain that she really had no control over - but she accepted it.

Dar-ling had become sterile from the operation the humans had given her. She would have no more children. None of her previous kittens had either survived or lived nearby so Steven was a consolation to her in her old age - someone of her own kind to keep her company. She took pleasure as a mother in helping him to figure out life as a feral cat in the human neighborhood. She played with Steven like a young kitten herself - because of health improvement from good food and having rest from hunting and constant pregnancies.

Times were changing now that humans were aware of them. The woman called them by name when she put out the food and they came to her call. Steven was disgusted with the arrangement - but he agreed to show courtesy for his mother's sake. Sometimes his mother made him go first to eat the food as she wanted him to learn to trust the woman. The woman called him "Steven" - but that was not his real name. His feral name was "Race Bandit" - because he had racing stripes painted on his legs and body and the sides of his face. (Humans call the markings: "tabby.") And he was quick like a bandit.

Once the woman put out a red rubber ball near the food station. She bounced it a few times and rolled it a few times while he watched from under an old pop-up trailer in the woods - then she left the ball there on the ground. Dar-ling told him it was not to be touched. It was a foreign object; it was useless. Steven obeyed while his mother was watching... but like any cat he was curious - and he was just a little boy too... so he ran back in under the hole in the fence when his mother was not looking and stole the ball. He carried it with his teeth and ran with it into the woods. (Who knows what a little feral cat does with a red rubber ball in the woods?)

The next day the woman left a stuffed toy animal for Steven. It was a little bull-dog with a pink tongue. Again he stole it and ran into the woods and hid it under the old car parts - to be played with at a later time.

Steven is not so tough - he is just scared of humans and has feral wiring that runs very deep. He is living a happy life in his outside home with the loving support of a human family. And who knows what the future holds for him as he continues to blossom?

~ Diane Vanas

July 20, 2010


Found DEAD down the neighbor's old well pit on May 2, 2011. R.I.P.

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