My small stray cat secret...

 April 2023
Speckles the Stray

Many of us have small secrets. For example, we might watch The Bachelor on TV, or check out what clothes the British Royal Family are wearing. I've got a small secret. I watch stray cat rescues on my Facebook feed. But that's because I've been feeding and trying to socialise a feral stray cat for nearly two years.

Here's a detailed report on Speckles, a young feral mackerel tabby. Initial contact : I must have spent at least six months in total ignorance. He would have seen me a lot, but I didn't see him. I didn't know he was hanging around.

By June 2021 food by the cottage started disappearing almost daily. I thought it was one of my Fred cats finishing off the left-overs. Then about September 2021 a cat-visitor started circling the cottage in the middle of the night, miaowing. Again I thought it was one of the Freds being a nuisance. Then came the day of reckoning : November 7th 2021. I saw a cat sneaking off from underneath the cottage. Hello Fred, I said. Oops. Not Fred. Wrong markings, smaller body. Aha! Finally it all clicked into place.

 In a sweet, smoochy mood.
Speckles the Stray

Hello Speckles

I gave the visiting cat the name 'Speckles' (to match his speckley fur) and started leaving food out for him. I'd sit patiently on the cottage verandah and wait until he plucked up the courage to come and eat near me. Then I started to hand-feed him. This went on for the next four months. Four!

First successes...

In March 2022 I got away with a chin-tickle while he was busy eating. In May 2022 Speckles gave me a body smooch - the first ever. Later that month he gurgled when I was patting his head. I like to think he was trying to purr - who knows? All these momentous milestones were faithfully recorded in my gardening journal.

In mid-winter 2022 I was wrapping up warm and taking my early morning cup of tea onto the verandah. Speckles would usually pop out from his safe place underneath the cottage for breakfast, and he'd share my milk. Gradually, as the months went by, he became more relaxed, and I'd find him curled up snug in the cat basket, or stretched out looking sleepy on a cushion.

This has been going on for nearly two years now. So are we getting somewhere? Maybe, but not very quickly! Speckles leans into me when I sit on the cottage verandah, and give me lots of body-smooches. He tolerates my head-patting. He comes for dinner most evenings and breakfast most mornings, though he often forgets his manners and hisses at me. He knows his name, which is sometimes shortened to 'Spex' or formalised to 'Mister Speckley Puss the Cat'.

 Even wild cats need to relax sometimes?
Speckles the Wild Cat

Just sometimes, sitting out in the cold with my feral friend, I think I'm really quite daft. But at least (thankfully) I've grown out of watching The Bachelor. Alas - unlike those Facebook stories there's been no fairytale socialisation of this feral cat. Yet.