An Interview With Nermal

nermal.jpgThe following is an interview with Nermal, Rochester’s housemate. Shortly before his death, Rochester wrote his final piece for Itchmo. In it, he told his faithful readers that Nermal would attempt to fill the void left by his passing. Nermal has been practicing his cat-to-human communication skills and should be ready to write his own articles soon.

Reporter: Hello, Nermal. Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to talk to us today.

Nermal: Did you bring any cat candy? I was told there would be cat candy.

Reporter: Can we do the interview first?

Nermal: Ok, but don’t forget.

Reporter: Nermal is an unusual name. How did you get that name?

Nermal: Auntie named me after a kitten in the Garfield cartoons. Nermal is the cutest kitten in the world.

Reporter: So you’re the cutest kitten in the world?

Nermal: I guess so. Except I’m not a kitten. Auntie never saw me when I was a kitten. Is it time for cat candy yet?

Reporter: Pretty soon. You say Auntie didn’t know you when you were a kitten. How old were you when you met Auntie?

Nermal: I’m not sure. The doctor said maybe two years, maybe as much as three years. He said I had full-grown teeth, and they were too dirty to be less than two years old. I like that pencil you’re holding. Can I play with it?

Reporter: I’m using it just now.

Nermal: Ok. You can give it to me when you’re done. Don’t forget, now. Pencil. Candy.

Reporter: How did you meet Auntie?

Nermal: First I met Rochester. Then I met Daddy. Then Auntie.

Reporter: How did you meet Rochester?

Nermal: Looking for food. That’s all I ever did before I met Rochester. I was looking for food and I wandered into his territory. I was scared when I saw him because he was so awfully big. I think he was the biggest cat who ever lived. I thought he would kill me maybe, or at least chase me away, but he didn’t.

Reporter: So you and Rochester became friends?

Nermal: Not exactly. Rochester felt sorry for me because I was so skinny and little. He brought me to his house and showed me to Daddy. He told Daddy to give me food.

Reporter: That was nice of him.

Nermal: Rochester wasn’t like the other cats I knew. He wasn’t afraid of people at all. He told them what to do and they did it! But he didn’t really like me. He just felt sorry for me is all.

Reporter: But he let you move in with him.

Nermal: That wasn’t really his idea. That was Daddy’s idea. It was Daddy that fed me every day, and after awhile I got brave enough to go into the house. At first I never stayed very long, because a house is a scary place. You haven’t forgotten about the cat candy, have you? And that pencil? I really want that pencil, you know. And the candy.

Reporter: I haven’t forgotten. What’s scary about houses?

Nermal: Well… for one thing there’s people in them.

Reporter: People are scary?

Nermal: Of course! Just look at the size of them! They make a lot of sudden movements too. And they’re noisy. There’s vacuum cleaners and washing machines and tv… houses are only quiet when the people are sleeping.

Reporter: You aren’t scared of people now, are you?

Nermal: I’m not scared of Dad. Or Auntie. But everyone else, yes.

Reporter: But you’re here with me now.

Nermal: I was told there would be candy.

Reporter: I see. When did you start living with Rochester?

Nermal: When it started to get cold outside. Houses are kind of creepy at first, but they’re always warm and dry and there’s food and water. Another thing about houses is that compared to outside, they’re pretty safe. There’s no coyotes or foxes or coons in them. After the sun goes down, outside isn’t safe for a little cat like me. Houses are better, if the people are nice.

Reporter: So up until you met Rochester, you were a feral cat.

Nermal: That’s what they say. I never knew I was a feral cat until I wasn’t one any more.

Reporter: Have you seen the articles about feral cats and about how a lot of towns are trying to stamp them out?

Nermal: Auntie has. She says they want to kill feral cats because they’re dirty and have diseases and make messes in gardens and kill birds.

Reporter: What do you think about that, Nermal?

Nermal: I think that a lot of people are dirty and have diseases and kill birds, but no sane person talks about killing them because of it. It’s not like feral cats want to be dirty and catch diseases. It’s not like feral cats even want to be feral cats. They don’t even know that they’re feral cats. They’re just cats. A lot of feral cats would like to be pet cats. If they weren’t so scared they’d try to find a nice human to live with.

Reporter: A lot of feral cats aren’t interested in being pets.

Nermal: It’s not easy to stop being afraid… you have to be desperate. Desperation makes you brave. So you have to be that way, and then you need to find a kind human who will let you live in their house. I don’t think there’s as many kind humans as there are cats that want to find one.

Reporter: You seem upset about this.

Nermal: I just don’t think it’s very fair. Auntie says it’s people’s fault that there are so many feral cats anyway. People throw cats away and then complain when they don’t die fast enough to keep from becoming feral cats. Somebody threw my grandma or my great grandpa away… I don’t really know how many generations back. Anyway, one of my ancestors was thrown away. And we die plenty fast enough. A five-year-old feral is a pretty old cat, you know. I’m way older than that now. Rochester was way way way way older than that when he died. And anybody who thinks it’s fun to be starving all the time, and to be freezing when it’s cold and to get wet whenever it rains should just try it for a while. And a cat colony is no picnic either. If you’re a tomcat, you have to fight to keep your place in the colony. If you’re a female, you have kittens all the time. Sometimes people help, but mostly not.

Reporter: Do you approve of trap-neuter-release programs?

Nermal: I think it’s better than the killing. I had the operation myself, you know. I was terrified when I had it done, but it helped me. I’m too little to defend territory and fight for females. Now I don’t have to worry about that. If ferals don’t have to fight each other all the time and raise kittens all the time, their lives are easier. No kittens means that the colony will go away by itself in time. It’s not as good as a real home for every cat that wants one, but it’s better than killing. Are we almost done?

Reporter: Just a couple more questions. Was it difficult to learn how to be a pet?

Nermal: At first it was. The hardest thing about being a pet is getting used to being touched all the time. People like to touch fur. And they like to pick things up. Petting wasn’t so bad… it’s almost like being licked by a very big dry tongue. But being picked up is frightening at first.

Reporter: Anything else?

Nermal: Well, there are some rules. People like to make rules. I’m not supposed to sharpen my claws on the furniture. I have to relieve myself in these boxes of special sand. I can’t go outside after dark. And they make me go to the doctor’s sometimes. I hate that.

Reporter: Rochester’s been gone for a while now. Do you miss him?

Nermal: I do. He didn’t like me very much, but because he was a cat we had a lot of the same interests. Take mice. I’m very interested in mice, and so was Rochester. The people aren’t at all interested in mice. Catnip is another thing that I had in common with Rochester. And play-fighting. Even though Rochester wasn’t all that friendly, he’d still play-fight with me once in a while.

Reporter: Would you like it if another cat came to live with you?

Nermal: I’m not sure. It’s a little bit lonely without Rochester. Auntie says that someday a cat will come along who really needs to live with us and then I’ll have a new housemate. She says that our family never chooses the pet… it’s the pet that chooses the family. That’s how they’ve always done it, so I just have to wait and see who comes along.

Reporter: Is there anything else that you’d like to tell us about yourself?

Nermal: Like what?

Reporter: Do you have any hobbies?

Nermal: Other than mice, you mean?

Reporter: Well, yes. Other than mice.

Nermal: I herd chickens.

Reporter: Really? That’s a very interesting hobby for a cat. How did you get started herding chickens?

Nermal: There isn’t much else you can do with them, is there?

Reporter: I suppose not. Any other hobbies?

Nermal: I love toys. Like that pencil of yours. That’s a good toy. When are you going to give me that pencil?

Reporter: Very soon. What kind of stories will you write for Itchmo?

Nermal: Cat stories. Maybe a chicken story. Do you think people would like a chicken story?

Reporter: I’m sure they would. Thank you, Nermal.

Nermal: Is that it?

Reporter: Yes, that’s all.

Nermal: Good. Now can I have that cat candy? And hand over that pencil please.

37 thoughts on “An Interview With Nermal

  1. I love this bit:

    “I think that a lot of people are dirty and have diseases and kill birds, but no sane person talks about killing them because of it. It’s not like feral cats want to be dirty and catch diseases. It’s not like feral cats even want to be feral cats. They don’t even know that they’re feral cats. They’re just cats. A lot of feral cats would like to be pet cats. If they weren’t so scared they’d try to find a nice human to live with.”

    Very wise, Nermal. Nice to meet you. You are quite handsome, too! But then — I have a special weakness for brown tabby cats.


  2. What a pleasant surprise to find an article from Rochester’s friend Nermal. I missed the last comment on Rochester article so I hadn’t realized he had passed. The staff is missing him a lot I’m sure.

    Hope we will hear more from Nermal. So nice to see a new article I hope there will the occasional new one.

  3. I am still new to this sight. so i have no idea who “Rochester” was, but i think “Nermal” is a cool cat…….LOVE IT!!! Hope to hear alot more from “Nermal.

  4. He has a face a lot like my friend Monster who was born feral. Monster is addicted to shrimp. When he wants a treat, he stares at me, smacks his chops and licks his lips. I tought him to add a wink to it.

    My guess is Nermal was probably people once, rather than born feral. I’ve been working with a cat for several months now, that acts a lot like Nermal. I was sure he was feral at first, but he’ll let me pet him and purrs up a storm when I do, and he’ll let me pick him up for brief periods, under certain circumstances. He’ll come just inside the door to be petted, but gets very uneasy if he’s inside for more than about 10 minutes.

    When I was putting food out for a feral colony where I used to live, none of those cats ever got within petting distance, even after years of seeing me everyday.

    I noticed a deep scar on the mouth of the one I’ve been feeding lately, which kind of makes me wonder if he may have been kicked and abused, then either abandoned or ran away. It’s heartbreaking because he’s just naturally a very sweet cat, but because of whatever happened to him, he can’t quite adjust to the idea of trusting anyone completely enough to being a pet again.

    I know where I used to live, a lot of people in the neighborhood complained about the problems with the ferals, and the sad part is I can’t help but seeing their side of the story on problems with ferals to a certain extent. I think the problem is aggravated to some degree by the way cats naturally look at things. Because I was putting food out, a few members of the colony sort of staked out my place as their territory, which probably kept most of the rest of the colony out of my yard, and the ones that hung out at my place treated it better than they do “unclaimed” territory. The end result was the “unclaimed” territory owned by neighbors who didn’t put food out, caught most of the worst problems associated with ferals. From the cat’s point of view, since nobody owned that patch of land, they could use it as a sandbox or whatever. Cats are very polite, but they’re polite by cat rules and don’t understand people rules.

    Working with a feral colony can be more than a little discouraging. You can break your heart trying to help them, but it often feels like pushing sand against the tide. There are a lot of things about TNR I agree with, but at a certain point, it’s treating the symptoms rather than the problem. In the time it takes one person to round up a few feral kittens and find them homes, a hundred irresponsible pet owners have abandoned pets that haven’t been fixed. Treating the symptoms of a problem doesn’t work unless the source of the problem is being addressed at the same time.

    At the end of the day, it’s a people problem, not a cat problem. If a person has enough empathy to see the world through the eyes of a cat, maybe there’s hope they can eventually see it through the eyes of their fellows. Not all people are dirty and carry diseases. Some of them are actually quite nice.

    Thanks for sharing the pencil.

  5. Welcome Nermal! I am sorry to hear about Rochester. He will be missed. I am looking forward to your first article.

  6. Awwww, he is so cute! I loved Rochester’s articles and was saddened when he died. I hope Nermal has a long and happy life, and shares lots of stories with Itchmo’s readers!

  7. Hey beautiful nermal, welcome to the fold :) Your auntie and dad are examples of loving, responsible people.

    When people a. stop the commodification of animals, and b. enact legislation to make mandatory the spaying/neutering of cats and dogs, there will be fewer ferals. It saddens/amazes me that people can dump animals they deem too demanding, or feel are no longer “cute”. And cats really do belong inside where they’re safe and warm.

    We miss Rochester a lot, but we’re looking forward to your insights Nermal. :)

    p.s. I have Itchmo on a feed.. when I didn’t see any new posts for three days I started to panic.. I love this site!

  8. I think we are going to really like Nermal! He looks just like a rescue I had about 20 years ago I named Nermal. It broke my heart when I had to give her away but I was young and stupid enough to give up both my cats for a boyfriend!! I swore NEVER AGAIN and have stuck to that! I’d send the man to the pound first (and have!

    I shed a little tear for Rochester but I think Nermal is going to fill those huge pawprints just fine!

  9. Nermal-You are a very smart cat. I would love to hear what you think about the Chinese rounding up Beijing’s cats to get sent to death camps before the Olympics. Apparently the Chinese think they are “cleaning up” the city by doing this. And here we are – sending our country’s most talented athletes over there to support their economy (even moreso than we already do).

  10. My deepest condolences on the loss of Rochester. Most of us have known the loss of a beloved fourlegged family member and understand your grief.
    Nermal how am I ever gonna call you that since Rochester called you the SLB. Your first post was good and I think as time goes by they will get better and better.
    Boycott the Olympics , Boycott China and Chinese products. (remember they sent us the poisoned gluten etc for pet food) FREE Tibet and the cats.

  11. My sincere condolences on the loss of Rochester. My thoughts and prayers are with his companions.

    Welcome to Nermal.

  12. Nermal,………………….wishing you a purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrfect life. Welcome aboard. Now, let’s make the world a better place for all animals. Cat wisdom can change the world !

  13. When people a. stop the commodification of animals, and b. enact legislation to make mandatory the spaying/neutering of cats and dogs, there will be fewer ferals.

    Mandatory spay/neuter, where it’s been tried, had not reduced the number of feral or abandoned pets. Trap-Neuter-Release, and low-cost spay/neuter for pets, does.

  14. RE: “Mandatory spay/neuter, where it’s been tried, had not reduced the number of feral or abandoned pets. ”

    Where has it been tried?

    RE: “Trap-Neuter-Release, and low-cost spay/neuter for pets, does.”

    Doesn’t that refute your previous statement? If spay/neuter is mandadatory, there shouldn’t be any pets to perform the proceedure on, regardless of the price.

    The feral problem is caused by people abandoning unaltered pets. And, while it’s not in me to refuse food to a hungry cat, nature has its own way to deal with over population. The population of any species, in any area, can never be greater than the food supply available to support it. So while I won’t advocate refusing food to hungry cats, I’ll make the observation unlimited feeding of ferals contributes to population growth. For as long as a feral colony has members able to reproduce, the population of the colony will always be equal to the availability of food to support it.


    “Realistically, over 12 years, one unspayed female, with all her unspayed female offspring, reasonably can be expected to be responsible for over 3200 kittens if there is no human intervention.” (end quote)

    Realistically, you aren’t very likely to find a food source able to support that kind of population growth, but you get the picture. One unaltered feral, or the introduction to your colony of an unaltered stray, can undo even the most unrelenting TNR effort in no time flat.

    Even if you could magically trap and spay/neuter every one of an estimated 80 million ferals in the US, even at thirty dollars a pop, it would cost well over $2 billion. The resources aren’t available and the two bil doesn’t account for the kind of man power that would be required to do the catching in the first place.

    So, while TNR does work in isolated examples where resources and man power are available, in terms of the big picture, it’s like putting a bandaid on a broken leg.

    And, by no stretch of the imagination do I mean to belittle anyone making the effort in spite of the odds. Save the ones you can and my hat’s off to to those who do. All I’m really saying is TNR isn’t the be all, end all, solution in terms of the big picture some folks would have us believe it is. It can’t be, because it doesn’t address what causes the problem in the first place and even under perfect conditions is not 100% effective.

  15. Nermal is very pleased and excited by his warm welcome to Itchmo. He is also grateful to the people who posted condolences for Rochester, who truly saved Nermal’s life and will always be close to his heart.

    Nermal is also gratified to see a lively discussion about the plight of feral cats, a subject that is very personal to him. He has asked me to send this message along to help clarify his position.

    In his first post, Don suggested that Nermal might have been an abandoned pet rather than a wild-born cat and pointed out that in his experience with cat colonies, no wild-born feral showed an interest in interacting with him. Nermal’s a little sensitive about his lineage (apparently, to a feral cat, being wild-born is the cat equivalent of having ancestors arrive in America on the Mayflower) and insists that he is a true feral, born on the island and raised in the wild. He reminded me that I have seen some of his family members (although not recently – mortality rates among ferals are very high because of predators), and pointed out that to this day many of his behaviors are indicative of a life in the wild. For example, he never drinks directly from a water bowl. He sticks his paw in the water and them licks the wet paw. This is a common behavior among ferals here because there is no standing water on the island… only a fast moving stream. He has many other behaviors that would seem to suggest he was wild-born.

    Perhaps the most compelling evidence of “feralness” was his condition when we first met him. He was so small that we believed he was a kitten. That belief was reinforced when he started to grow rapidly after we took him in. His first trip to the vet was a shock… we couldn’t believe that an animal of that size was actually “mature”. Our vet, who puts up with a lot from us, showed us that he couldn’t possibly be as young as we originally thought. Over that first year, Nermal continued to grow… not just to get heavier but actually to grow. This would seem to suggest that he never had the benefit of regular meals. Although it’s remotely possible that he was abandoned as a kitten, we think it’s unlikely because an abandoned kitten would never have survived his first year without the support of a colony.

    While it’s true that in a general sense feral cats in colonies do not interact with humans beyond taking food from them, individuals that have been driven out of colonies… mostly sexually mature males… have a more pragmatic approach to their relationships with people. As Nermal pointed out, desperation can make you do things you wouldn’t otherwise do. I think Rochester’s presence was crucial in convincing Nermal that it was possible to make that transition. Nermal observed Rochester’s interaction with us in a way that can be best described as fascination. In fact, Rochester was legendary among the island’s cats, and many ferals would stop by to take a peek at him. With his unusually large size and his supreme confidence, I can only imagine what they thought of him. No feral cat seriously challenged him… he was indeed ruler of all he surveyed. Nermal’s not an idiot, and I think he realized that being Rochester’s protegé had distinct advantages. I don’t think he viewed his transition as moving in with humans. I think he viewed it as joining a very exclusive cat colony… so exclusive that it had only one other cat in it… sort of like being adopted by a powerful king.

    While Nermal might have a native’s natural pride of place, it doesn’t really matter to us, his family, whether he was wild-born or not. He’s certainly a pet now, and a very fine pet he is. He’s not the first feral we’ve adopted, and quite probably is not the last. While cat colonies tend to behave in a particular pattern, individual ferals are as varied in their capacity to change as individual people are.

    I think that Don is right when he asserts that current strategies addressing the large and growing problem of feral cats are inadequate. I don’t think it’s possible to enforce mandatory spay/neuter policies, and t-n-r is woefully underfunded and undermanned. That said, I don’t think that meeting the challenge of reducing feral populations has a one-policy solution. I think that each colony has its own parameters that must be carefully evaluated, taking into account the size and general health of the colony, its impact on its particular habitat (some folks rightly point out that certain colonies are ideal for rodent control), the resources available to devote to colony management, and always always always the most humane method of addressing the issues surrounding a particular population. For example, a population that is riddled with FeLV and FIV infected animals is a recipe for continuous suffering and death and a danger to domestic pets. Heartbreaking as it might be, the kindest thing to do in a situation like that might very well be capture and euthanasia, done with the utmost care and compassion for these unfortunate animals. Other colonies might be good candidates for t-n-r and rigorous monitoring.

    Quite honestly, I’m not particularly worried about the cost of thoughtful management of feral cat colonies. I’ve had more than fifty years to watch government at every level spend money frivolously and allow so-called public servants line their pockets, so the idea of devoting $2 billion to feral cat populations doesn’t even make me raise an eyebrow. My concern is with creating an infrastructure that makes good decisions based on the characteristics of a particular colony, and not the knee-jerk decisions of uninformed politicians.

  16. Hi, I am currently trying to integrate a semi-feral cat into our home of 2 other cats so I read this interview with Nermal with much interest. We debated when we first found this cat whether to just trap-neuter-release her or to try to make her a house pet. Trying to make her a house pet won out. It has been a slow-go with this new cat. She seems to trust my husband, but not me as yet. But we are still trying. After we can get her to trust a little more, the next challenge will be to get our other 2 to accept her and vice versa.

    I look forward to reading more stories by Nermal.

  17. Nermal’s auntie,

    It’s been awhile since I did any reserch on ferals. Here’s a search string:

    I sort of spot checked a few links on the first page, and while opinions seem to vary somewhat, the general consensus seems to be that much after around 12 weeks, max, unless a kitten has been handled by people, it typically will never become completely socialized to people. Of course, there’s a lot of misinformation on ferals out there, and some of what I read struck me as being less than accurate. For example, one site recommended wearing gloves and feeding through bars of a cage. Personally, I’ve never found baby cats, even fresh wild caught, to be so dangerous as to make such precautions necessary. Since the whole idea is to handle them as soon as possible, as much as possible, in order to get them used to people smells, the glove and cage bit strikes me as the wrong approach. Kitten hisses can pretty much be ignored.

    From what I found, the more gently the kittens are caught, the more quickly they tame. The more scary things a person does to catch them, the longer they stay frightened of people.

    There was one kitten I wasn’t able to catch, and although she practically grew up on my back deck, arm’s length plus 18 inches was the closest she would ever let me get to her. We were friends, but the distance rule was unbreakable after she grew up feral, or maybe semi feral would be more accurate. The whole being petted and smooshing with people thing is something they have to be exposed to at an early age.

    At the same time, cats do things for cat reasons, and about the only thing for sure is they don’t read books about what they’re “supposed” to do. In the last year I’ve seen articles about cats that chase bears, attack Avon ladies, go surfing, just to name a few. In some ways they’re like little drunks. What they decide to do doesn’t have to make a lot of sense when they decide to do it, it just has to be something they want to do at that particular moment in time. In any case, I didn’t mean to sully Nermal’s noble feral linage, but as a rule of thumb, if a cat will allow petting, etc., it’s usually a good indication there was at least some socialization with people when it was a kitten.

    In a way, those of us who love ferals are almost as bad about their feral pedigrees as the worst cat fancier at a show who has hung some long and ridiculous name on their pet. Too funny.

    Anyhow, I think you make a good point on the health of feral colonies. In some ways I almost wonder if that should be the primary concern, rather than TNR. If the trend toward spay/neuter continues, there may eventually come a time when viable, healthy feral colonies become important to the survival of the species. Not that it’s likely to be an issue any time soon, but who knows what things will be like 50 years from now. Since it really isn’t feasible to get anything close to 100% spay/neuter in a colony anyhow, it might make sense to give some thought to keeping the strongest, healthiest members of a colony intact. There are tests available for a lot of the common genetic problems, plus the most dangerous cat diseases. If breeding can’t be stopped altogether, perhaps some focus should be on shading the odds in favor of as healthy a gene pool as possible.

  18. Don Earl, it’s funny you mention your friend, “Monster.” My cat, Aria, also looks just like Nermal. When we first found her, we almost named her…”Monster.” LOL! She was tiny, but she was FIERCE! LOL!

    Nermal is a beautiful cat and has such a great PURR-sonality! I look forward to hearing more from this amazing cat! ;)

    ~The Lioness

  19. Dear Don, Nermal loved your post, and agrees with many of the points that you make. He says that it’s true that the touch barrier is the hardest thing to overcome, but asserts that it isn’t impossible. His first story for Itchmo will be about a feral we once knew, whose story did not have as satisfying an end as Nermal’s did. He hopes that you’ll read it and want to discuss it with him.

    Like you, we wonder about an adoption strategy that begins with cage capture. If you want to build a relationship based on trust, trapping seems a counterproductive way to go about it. Still, in cases where the goal is geared more toward colony management than the habituation and adoption of any one individual, trapping is probably a necessary evil. I’m sure that the cage and glove stuff is about protection from disease… rabies is a real threat in many regions and I suppose it’s quite foolhardy of me to give any wild animal an opportunity to bite me. But the thing about trust is that it’s a mutual arrangement, and I can’t expect an animal to trust me if I clearly do not return that feeling.

    While Nermal has become a wonderful pet, he definitely has some idiosyncrasies that can be traced to his life in the wild. At one point in his life, he decided to hitch his star to a small herd of deer. (it’s true. they even taught him to eat acorns, which is very bad for cats.) During his transition to pet life, he would often seek them out and interact with them. In doing so, he has actually picked up some deer behaviors. For example, I think most people who live around deer are familiar with their “chuff”. It’s a noise they make alerting other members of the herd to potential danger. When a deer chuffs to its herd mates, they freeze, identify the threat and move rapidly away from it. To this day, if someone in the house sneezes, Nermal freezes, drops to a scuttling posture and darts under the nearest piece of furniture. If one of us has a head cold, he turns into a nervous wreck!

  20. Nermal, you are one good-looking cat!

    You remind me of a good buddy I met one summer when I was about 12. I think he had a home at one time, but then all of the sudden he didn’t anymore. So I played with him and stole food from my house for him all summer long. Then it got to be autumn, and it got colder and colder out. I asked my mom to let him come inside and get warm, but she wouldn’t allow it. So I went up and down the streets around my neighborhood, knocking on doors, asking if anybody knew who my buddy belonged to, or if they wanted to make him their pet. Nobody could help me.

    When it started to snow one night late into the fall, my mom still did not want my buddy to come inside. So that night I sat on our porch with him, and held him on my lap and kept him as warm as I could as the snow fell some more and it got very dark outside. He was glad to be in my lap, I could tell, because he purred and huddled very close to me. I promised him I wouldn’t leave him alone in the cold that night, and I knew he trusted me to keep my word.

    So when my mom opened the front door and said it was time to come in for the night, I told her I couldn’t because I had to keep my buddy warm until it stopped snowing. Well, I must have been pretty stubborn about it, because my mom finally relented that night and she allowed my buddy to come in, although she was VERY clear about one thing: My buddy was not allowed anywhere in the house except our basement, and the arrangement was only going to be temporary.

    Within two weeks, my buddy was sleeping with my mom in her bed during the night. Hahaha! Cats are clever, and I bet you are, too, Nermal. Good luck with your new career as a columnist!

  21. JM,
    What a wonderful story! It’s a good thing you were so stubborn so that your mom let your buddy come inside even if she said it was “temporary.”

  22. JM, Nermal thinks you’re the greatest, and says that your pets are very lucky to have such a kind person for their friend.

    And kudos to mom, who obviously knows when she’s licked!

  23. While I basically agree with the downside of trapping a cat in a cage, we would not have our wonderul and lovely Macushla without one. Macushla discovered the two cats across the street from us came regularly to our door for handouts (we won’t talk about their owners). He ate three cans the first time we saw him. But as much as we tried, he was too timid (actually petrified) to come near us. Even if I put the food just inside the door…he would back off. Winter was coming in (New England) and we were getting desparate and then he showed up with deep scratches across his back (think it was one of the cats across the street). We had no choice then. We borrowed a cage and it worked (he was very unhappy to say the least!) The vet wanted to put him down because of the possibility of rabies and we said no way. He stayed in quarantine for six months in our home (like we were going to let him out??!!). Like Nermal, Macushla was so small we thought he was a kitten. Turns out he was somewhere between two and three. And like Nermal, he picked up some weird habits out there. Our two older cats have adjusted though I can’t say they love him but they tolerate him. He is the most affectionate and loving and grateful cat we’ve ever had. And we would not have had that without the cage.

  24. Are the folks that operate Itchmo OK? The main topics have been few and far between lately and I was worried about the site-owners.
    Anyone know? I hope that news is just slow right now and everyone is just fine!

  25. Cats become a member of our family in the same way as Nermal–they just come to the door, I open it, they come in, eat, and go to bed!!!
    I post “found” ads, call local vets and notify animal shelters–but they’ve all stayed due to lack of an owner showing up. When Sammy showed up at our door, I noticed a photo of a cat at the Kroger that looked exactly like him. So I called, the lady came over–but Sammy took one look at her and high-tailed it for the woods–and he didn’t come back until long after she was gone-later that evening, ’round suppertime. She looked at me kind of in a huff and said “That’s not my cat.” To this day I believe Sammy was her cat–but he didn’t want anything more to do with her. We had him for years until he died last April with cancer at the age of 18, 19??? who knows!! Welcome, Nermal.

  26. Nermal’s auntie,

    My cats used to go ballistic when I sneezed and still do a little bit. I don’t know if it’s a good guess or not, but I half suspect it sounds like a giant and terrible cat hiss to them. For that matter, some sneezes are loud enough to frighten people, let alone cats. What was really tough early on is laughter scared them. Try playing with baby cats without laughing!

    On cats and traps, I agree there’s no such thing as a one size fits all solution. Where I was, I put food on the back deck for the mom. When the kittens were old enough to eat food, mom would bring them up to teach them how to hunt cat food. Most of the time I could crack the sliding door and pluck them out of the food dish. That wouldn’t work for someone looking after ferals not close to home, where trapping is the only practical way to go about it, but I think the transition to house pet was a lot easier compared to accounts I’ve read when they’re trapped.

    One little fellow I tricked into chasing a string toy into the house. Since it was kinda, sorta his idea, he took to being people almost instantly. He was also in a bad way with fleas to the point the biting had caused sores. I gave him a bath and got rid of the fleas right away. At some level, I think they understand when something is done to help them. Other than being a little shy, that one was practically a house pet by the end of the first day. I talked a friend of mine into taking that one and they’ve been best buddies ever since.

    I understand Itchmo is taking a break from the daily updates, so it looks like it’s up to Nermal to take over the front page discussions. His writing career seems to be off to a good start so good luck to both of you.

  27. I had a brown tabby named Nermal when I was a kid. He WAS the cutest kitten in the world. I took in a “reformed feral” a couple of years ago. I think the only reason we were able to bond was she became pregnant and then almost died due to birth complications. I nursed her (and her kitten) back to health and now she’s extremely friendly to me, but not to strangers. Cats have their limits! Her brother is still feral and won’t let us touch him.

  28. Delighted to meet you, Nermal! I’m a nine year old black lady ex-feral. My mom was a beautiful pure white lady that someone abandoned in Discovery Bay, CA. She had to fend for herself for a a long time and she got pregnant with me and my two brothers. She taught us to drink water with our paws out of the Delta just like you, and to hunt and be scared of people. But when I was 4 or 5 months old, some people moved into a new house and their big red cat saw us in the moonlight from his bedroom window and told his human parents. His mom started walking him on an harness and leash on their deck and dock, and he was so handsome I finally decided to be friends with him. The food his mom put out was pretty good too. One day she just scooped me up and took me to her vet. But I was so tiny, the vet said I had to get bigger before I could be spayed so I got to live in the house with the big red cat and the little white dog and they named me Disco for where I was born. I love and trust my family, but when people visit I stay out of sight – I will never forget how people threw rocks at us and squirted us with water before I got my forever home.

    My mom and brothers were ‘fraidy cats’ so they had to be TNR’d. But after almost seven years of living outside in the colony, one of my brothers “adopted” the nice lady who took over the colony when we moved. He’s a house cat now too.

    Humans need to know we never forget the bad things that have happened to us and it takes a long time for us to trust you. Just don’t give up hope!

  29. Until my cats read this interview they didn’t know there was such a thing as cat candy. Now they are demanding cat candy.

    Okay, so, I got them some, and they are happy. Just a word to the wise… if you’re not going to get cat candy for your cats, you probably should make sure they don’t find the url for this article.

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