Downey and the Lil’ Kitty Mafia

Tiffani Crawford, Virginia, United States

My story…

Two years ago a group of wonderful animal lovers came together to re-purpose the old pony stall into a feral room/shelter on National Feral Cat Day. (I thank you all again for all of your hard work to help the furbabies!)

In order to get acclimated to their new home/land (after spay/neuter and vaccinations), I block off the entrances to this room. The new feral(s) are then moved into dog crates with food, water, litter box, bed and are lightly covered with a dark sheet to keep them calm until they get used to the new smells, sounds, etc. Bit by bit, the cover is pulled back till finally being taken off. Everyday, I lay on the straw beside the crates and talk to them softly, listen to gentle music, even sneak a nap in myself, just to help them learn my scent, the sound of my voice, etc., to see that I am going to feed, water and take care of them. When doing all of these things, I try to be as quiet and slow moving as possible because these poor souls are scared out of their wits by humans. Depending on how the feral is adjusting, I make a choice as to when to open the crate door and let him/her explore the room, which has up-cycled bookshelves fixed to the walls, that they can climb and find spots where they feel the safest and/or have fun. I leave the crates in there for awhile as they may feel safer curled up in the back of one on bedding.

The food/water and litter box are moved out of crate and are placed in designated areas in the room. The bedding is eventually moved out of crate and put on a stretcher bed or on bottom of bookshelf and the crate is removed. Meanwhile, I remove a part of the insulation between the stall and feed station of barn, so that the new baby can see the older babies that have been thru this process and taken up residence in the barn, the rafters of the stall (above the insulation), the two part garage and explore the backyard and field, woods, around the pond, etc. When they have adjusted enough, I remove the insulation completely at the feed window and open up two holes in the stall where they can enter and exit.

Some decide to stay in the stall for awhile more and others just mingle in with their new friends. At this point, they can all come and go as they please but have the safety and shelter of the adjoining buildings to come home to when needed. At this point, I also move the food and water into an area in the garage that serves as a common feed station.

Thankfully, I live in between two cow pastures and have woods beyond the back field. The acreage between my house and mom’s next door is 5+, so there is a nice amount of area to roam. However, they tend to stick to the garage and wooded side area.

I have had about 4-5 of these beautiful babies, the lil’ kitty mafia, find there way to my front porch, started hanging out and overtime, decided they wanted to be indoor/outdoor kitties☺️. One, that I named Downey, has completely domesticated himself and is so affectionate. I continue to work with the others, especially when they see me loving on Downey, they decide maybe this human isn’t so bad and I am allowed to pet their head a few times. I do this very cautiously and gently though. Plus, I do the same with the ones that have decided that they like the barn/garage area better.

Of the ferals that were rescued and/or brought to me to live out there lives (which is in the teens), only two decided that this was not the place for them and moved on. I pray that they found a wonderful, safe environment to live. Oh! I have also learned that several were not even ‘feral’ as I had been told and after working with them, they have been adopted as indoor only cats, which they are perfectly happy with. So, all in all, I believe, this ‘project’ has been an incredible success!

If it hadn’t been for the vision, creativity, dedication and support of Deborah Scott Biddle, Ron Biddle, Meredith Stewart, Susie Lynch, Vicky Burr, Ron Dumbrowski, Chris Q and Mom, these furbabies may not have made it to this day. I still appreciate all of your hard work, blood, sweat and tears! I hope you know what a difference you made to the lives of these kitties and mine as well! Thank you!!! Blessed Be!!! 🐈❤️