Someone recently asked me how I manage to maintain a quality level of care for the seventeen feral cats that inhabit my home. I never think about how to maintain their care. I just provide what they need. So how do I manage? 

kittyenclosureI never shop at malls anymore (an extreme life-style change for this former Southern California girl). My clothes are mostly second-hand thrift store items. Traveling is a rare occurrence. What pet sitter in their right mind would agree to take care of seventeen socialized feral cats, two horses and a German shepherd dog? Besides, the cats that live here have been abandoned or traumatized prior to coming here; doesn’t feel right to abandon them for a few “get-away days.”

My husband is retired. We live simply. Mike is wonderful and patient with the cats. He is the one who agrees to drive any distance (within reason) to rescue a cat in need. He sacrifices sleep during kitten season to help me bottle feed orphans. He spent (during an increasingly difficult rescue) over one hour hacking away on a mat that had formed over a feral cat’s rectum preventing elimination, receiving for his efforts a less than fragrant surprise in the end (no pun intended).

We are not a rescue organization. We are twokittyenclosure people who care about these cats. We care, because so many do not. In this area, stray and feral cats are looked at as disposable. They are feared. The older cats are often poisoned, or worse. They become easy targets of abuse and hatred. I step in to let them know that they matter. That someone cares.

Many have come here just to die in my arms, breaking me apart afterward. But while they are here, they are loved, cared for, vetted and comforted. Abandoned kittens left in hayfields, exposed to the elements have rested gently in the palm of my hands as they gasped their final breath. Cats that were near-drowning victims now scared of the dark, sleep in heated cat beds with night lights burning. A sick mind is also a creative mind, dreaming up endless ways to torment creatures that never asked to be born. I will not share all these ways in a list here.

kittyenclosureUnderstanding feral cat behavior becomes the key to getting along with these beautiful cats. Not expecting anything out of them takes the pressure off; they relax and trust quicker. Mending broken spirits with soft words, setting up a routine so there are no surprises.  Learning how to tell time on their time-clock and not setting them to my time.

Policies do not guide us here. Love directs us. On adoption days, I am relentless in my questioning. These cats have been through more than any creature deserves. Their reward: A loving home, where declawing is never considered. The outside world is strictly off limits and spaying and neutering of kittens is crucial. If a suitable home isn’t located, they will remain here with us. I reserve the right to re-claim any adopted cat or kitten if they are in danger of neglect, for here, they have their own safe world.

Two tunnels lead from the dining room window to the cats’ outside enclosure. The tunnels consist of two seven-foot irrigation culverts extended above the ground a few feet. The enclosure measures 35x18.’  Inside, is a feral cat’s paradise; trees, ramps, elevated posts and jumping platforms, a feeding platform, water fountains, three large kiddy pools turned into kitty litter boxes, cat posts and condos and tunnels, exist in their world. They find the freedom they instinctively crave, the exercise they need and warm beds when the weather turns nippy.

Opening up my heart and home to abused and abandoned cats/kittens comes with a price. The price is not always monetary (though my vet might argue with me on that issue!) The price is learning to live and accept the loss, understanding how to cope with seeing first-hand the darkness and ignorance of humanity and not letting the exposure turn my heart into stone. 

So how do I manage? I have managed, after years of living among them to understand their feral cat ways, break down the barriers and bond with each one. They manage to sing me to sleep with their purrs, leap on my back in greeting in the morning, keep me in laughter daily and drive me to tears when I have to say goodbye. This is a price I am willing to pay. For that first head bump, given by a cat that weeks prior would hiss or hide from me in terror feels better to me than winning the lottery!

© Mary Anne Miller

Mary Anne Miller is a freelance writer and member of The Cat Writers’ Association. Her websites include: her latest work can be seen at

Ed's note:

If you would like to donate anything to Mary Anne to help her care for these beautiful cats, please email her at:  or you can do a PayPal to

As Mary Anne says:

My vet debt has skyrocketed because in this area they find some pretty bad ways to hurt cats and kittens. So donations are always welcomed through Paypal at 

I have also recently been entered into a shelter contest and the way to win is by getting the most popular votes. You can vote daily on the animal rescue site:

Visit and click to give food, then click the button up at the top for the Shelter+ Challenge to vote.  Look for CATS in Oregon then vote for me. The prizes are grants to help make my shelter better for the cats.  There are two that come up: Mary Anne's is the first one: Cats Inc.

As I said, I do it because I can, because I care and because these cats deserve to know that good humans exist as well right alongside the bad.'

A Morning Kiss

A morning kiss, a discreet touch of his nose landing somewhere on the middle of my face.
Because his long white whiskers tickled, I began every day laughing.

Janet F Faure

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