About a year after we moved into our current home, three feral kittens showed up in the neighborhood, often hanging out in our yard and driveway. The next-door neighbors assured us that they would take care of the kittens, and we thought no more about it. Callie and her several siblings, who came along about a year later, introduced us to the feral cat population problem in California.
Callie was a pretty little calico, mostly white with harlequin patches of black and orange here and there. The coloration around her right eye was quite striking: surrounded by an orange patch, she had a thin outline of black right around the eye that looked exactly like eyeliner. Her fur was fairly soft, somewhere between the wiry stiffness of Mouse and the velvet of Billie. Her skull had a prominent ridge at the back which always surprised me when I petted her.
But it took a while to learn the softness of her fur and the shape of her skull, because she was even shyer than the other kittens in the litter. We barely knew she existed for a few months after we first saw her siblings; I suppose she might have belonged to some other feral group. After some work, our backside neighbor L managed to catch her and get her spayed. For some time after this traumatic experience, Callie refused to let any of us come near her, though she happily ate the kibble we left outside for her.
After a few years, Callie gradually lost her fear of humans. She regularly came in to both our and L’s house. If it was particularly cold, we’d sometimes let her spend the night, though she often yowled to be let out at five in the morning. Over the last few months, she became quite social, demanding to be petted and jumping up onto the futon and next to or onto our laps if we were sitting there. She was really quite affectionate if given the chance, and was even willing to approach strangers to be petted.
She was an excellent hunter and would announce her latest kill on our back porch. After the first time that she brought her prey inside for our approval, we learned to step outside to praise her instead… and then go inside while she completed the messy business of playing with and eating her kill. (There was one episode when she hadn’t done in her catch quite as thoroughly as one might like, and the squeak that the poor injured mouse made as it tried - and failed - to escape subsequent capture sounded _exactly_ like a squeaky cat toy.) Despite her being fed by two households and supplementing her own diet occasionally, she never gained much weight.
( Possible TMI: discussion of kitty woes including cancer and inappropriate defecation )
May you romp in fields filled with fat mice, kitty buddies, and loving humans. We’ll miss you, Callie.