The episodes of The Young & The Feral track the daily dramas of the free-living cats of our block in Queens.

The accepted term for groups of feral (a.k.a. wild, undomesticated) cats is "colony".  I call them a family.  Having observed them for years, I can tell you these cats are not the chilly, distant creatures people think, competitive for resources and disinterested in socializing.  They are devoted, caring families who love their babies, share their wealth, and have an amazingly structured society.  And because the dramas we have observed playing out between them are so complex and melodramatic, they often read like a soap opera.

Our feral cat problem started when the unspayed female cats of my mother's neighbor fraternized with an unneutered feral tom cat, and before you knew it, Bob's your uncle (or Cow's your father in our case - Cow was the Heavyweight Tom Cat of the Avenue, fathering all the kittens for blocks around, for years, without challenge.  My aunt Betty, who lives on the corner of the same street, named him "Cow" because he was white with black cow spots.  He's Jack's grandfather, btw.  Jack, as a matter of curiosity, is the only one of my cats that I know his lineage going back several generations.  I tell him all the time about his famous grand cat and all the times he walked in front of my car causing me to slam on the breaks and scream and nearly have an aneurism.  But I digress.):  KITTENS!  And cats and cats and kittens, all sitting on the back step with glistening, pleading eyes like Puss In Boots.  You expect a tear to fall out as the cat in front says, "please, miss, won't you give us a crust of bread?"

My mother couldn't say, "sorry, I don't have any cat food," because right on her foot was her own fat Caroline with tuna crumbs on her beard saying, "mm that was good."

So she fed them.  Then they brought two friends, and next week those had two friends and before you knew it, it was a Pantene commercial in the back yard (without the perfumed hair.  And not my backyard, to be clear.... this is going on at my mother's house.  I am NOT that crazy cat lady!)

Anyway, they're all just cats.  Until you get to know them.  Day after day, watching them, feeding them, seeing how they interact, with each other, with you, how they take care of their babies, always leaving a babysitter with the kids if the group take a walk.  You get to think of them as neighbors.  They become friends, and eventually you're talking about them as if they're people.  You meet your neighbor in the bakery and you say, "Hi Joann, did you see Sylvia today?"  She says, "Is that the lady in the pink house?"  Duh!  Joann!  "No! Sylvia is the long haired tabby.  What's the matter with you!"

The idea to write it as a soap opera came from a crazy phone conversation with my mom, a fan of daytime TV, who often forgot to let you know she was making a segue before changing the subject.  She was in the middle of telling me about this and that feral cat, who gets along, who doesn't, who's eating, who's not, etc., when she suddenly cried, "Omg!  I have to go.  Victor and Diego are having a viscous fight!"  She threw down the phone.  When I heard from her again, I said, "which cats are Victor and Diego?!"  When she caught her breath and stopped laughing, she let me know Victor and Diego were characters on All My Children.  Of course from that moment on, the two fighting ferals were called Victor and Diego.  And a soap opera was born.

      - JD


Would You Consider Donating To Our Feral Cats?  They Have a PitchInBox!

Current Members of Our Feral Family: 

My Mother's (and now mine since I inherited them) Back Yard Crew:

RUBY, the current alpha female (a tortoise shell with white feet and one ruby streak on her nose).  (TNRed mid-2010)  Ruby is several years old now, and we refer to her as Grandma.  She has had several litters of kittens, and been through many things, including the losses of several children and grandchildren.

             Ruby's grandchildren (her daughter Opal's children), born Aug. 2009:

         PENNY - (a very pretty calico) (TNRed mid-2010)

         JACK COWSON. (another B&W male with markings like Grandaddy Cow) (TNRed mid-2010)

         PEACH - (a ginger kitten with one eye) (TNRed mid-2010)

SANDY (a red tabby adult male, slightly more pink/tan than yellow).  We don't know his place in the family.  He has been around as long as Ruby.  He could be a kitten from her first litter, or her brother.(TNRed 2008)

HAHN - a tabby male, from Karen's last known litter.  A gray tabby with very bold stripes (no white).  (TNRed mid-2009)

PEARL, A.K.A. LESTAT - a newcomer as of Fall 2015. An almost all black kitty, sex unknown, with a round white spot in the center of his/her chest and long vampire fangs you can see from halfway across the yard. 


CHARLIE (the cat formerly known as Adolfo)- a large tuxedo, the alpha male of Aunt Betty's porch crew.  (TNRed mid-2008) The first to claim her porch as his turf and, with his small posse, declare the porch off limits to anyone but himself and his crew. 

BLACK SHUCK, A.K.A. HARRY - an all-black male, terrible looking, beat up cat, named after the legendary ghost dog of the British moors whose appearance signals impending doom.  He's been moved from the Sometimey list to the regulars list since he spends most of his time now on Aunt Betty's porch.  He used to be Charlie's sworn enemy.  But Charlie accepts him now. (TNRed mid-2008 and there's a very funny story about it here.)

HALFTAIL, a.k.a. NOTAIL, a.k.a. ROXANNE (because she loves it when you turn on the red light laser toy) - a very small, gray female with next to no tail.... a sort of bunny tail. (Spayed Sept. 2010) Adolfo's second "wife."  She moved in on Adolfo while his first "wife" Sylvia was ill.  She had kittens on Aunt Betty's porch and now lives with Aunt Betty.  Read the drama of Adolfo, Sylvia and HalfTail here.


THE ALAMO - Another fearsome looking, feral male cat that looks like he's been chewed up and spit out by a shark- all red tabby with a very large head.  The Alamo first appeared at the back door in winter 2009 looking absolutely awful.  He had a huge, open wound on the back of his right ear that went halfway down his neck.  Probably from a fight.  We once caught him in a humane trap by accident.... we were trying to catch baby Garnet when her leg was injured.  Instead, Alamo walked into the cage.  I tried to get a spur of the moment TNR spot for him, but there were no vacancies.  I had to let him go.  We were never able to get him in a cage again.  I doubt we ever will.


* (TNR= trap, neuter, return)