Taj and Coco Off the Streets: Can They Give Up the Wild Life?

Urban Wild Kingdom Part III

2 mins read

Part III in a three part series by EWL resident J.R. Hampton

Once the three weeks of trapping and vet visits are over, things return to normal in the feral cat colony. More or less. It reminds me of the finale of The Wire: there was good and there was bad, but the story didn’t end tied up in a neat bow.

It just ended.

Our urban wild kingdom adventure was kind of like that.

Here’s what happened.

The Kittens

“Hopper” was the first kitten we trapped and in her fear, she bit through the glove of the vet tech handling her during the initial exam. The protocol this particular vet followed called for the animal to be euthanized so the brain tissue could be tested for rabies. I was at work, still in the glow of thinking that I was doing something good for the cats, having caught the first kitten – when the Piedmont Animal Control officer called me to tell me he was on his way to the lab with the decapitated head of Hopper on ice in a bag. I asked him to hold so I could run to a conference room as I lost it, crying. We changed vets.

“Butters” and “Kyle” were caught next and ended up at the Berkeley Shelter for adoption. Kyle found a home. Butters, who at 3 months was already too wild, escaped from a volunteer and spent several days hiding in the wall. When they finally recaptured him, Piedmont Animal Control brought him back to the colony and released him. We have not seen him since.


“Coco [Taylor]” and “Taj [Mahal]” were caught separately and one of the colony caretakers ended up fostering them. She found them a home; the new owner will adopt them in October. Five months old now, they are still a little feral and will require patience. The new owner understands all of this and I think it will work out.

The Adults

“Francesca”, the beautiful but wild mom of the kittens was trapped and released after being vaccinated and neutered. We’ve seen her a few times, but she makes herself scarce. I imagine it’s a conflict for her, in whatever way cats navigate their feline emotional landscape: we are a source of food and at the same time, a source of fear.

“Tibby”, a handsome black male with an amazing silver undercoat tested positive for FIV. Two types of cats test positive: those that have it and those that have been vaccinated. Tibby hadn’t been neutered, but he was so tame you could pick him up and pet him. After boarding him for a week and more tests and asking a woman who has rescued 20,000 feral cats (yes) – we made the best decision we could, which was to release him. He comes by once in a while to visit and grab a bite. I suspect he has some other haunts in the neighborhood, which is fine now that he won’t be fathering any offspring.

“Lolo” or Little Orange, the baby daddy was the only cat we weren’t able to catch. I set traps in every location I thought would disarm him and baited them with the irresistible treats. All of which he ignored. There aren’t any fertile females in our colony at the moment, but since cats have a range of about a mile, its possible he’s still active in the equation of cat math. Lolo is getting tamer, though. My neighbor and I wonder if we can catch him with a net.

I think the net idea signifies that I’ve crossed over into crazy cat lady-dom.

But I know we’ll figure it out.

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J.R. Hampton

Fiction writer and cat aficionado discovered Emeryville in the ’90s, loved it and stayed. Her most recent thriller, "Eidolon" (working title) is out to agents and she's begun work on the second book in the series. Follow Jacqueline on Twitter.

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