At the industrial job site where I work in North Dakota, most of my coworkers like the feral cats that hang around. They each have their own unique personality, idiosyncracies, and behaviors that we observe. How they fit in, socialize, and interact with other cats, other animals, and us.
When the site is not busy, we are able to put food out for the cats. We don’t want the cats hanging around when the site is busy, because we don’t want them to get run over by vehicles, tractor trucks, or heavy equipment.
The male cats seem to be the most wary of people, always acting like they think that someone is going to do something to them. Which is good, because we might have some oddball worker from another company who might do something mean to a cat, especially a feral cat.
The female cats seem to be more ready to accept food from us, and wanting for us to give them something to eat, whereas the male cats try to act like they don’t need our food. This all changes in the winter though when there is less natural prey for the cats and it becomes, very, very cold.
The smallest female cat at the site, is actually the most dominant cat. She does not hesitate to chase after and attack any other cat that is not doing what it is supposed to be doing, in her opinion. She is kind of like Judge Judy, she is always putting the other cats in their place.
In February or March of 2020, we noticed that the Judge Judy cat was becoming fatter and fatter, it became obvious that she was pregnant. We were glad that this happened when it did, because she would be able to give birth when it got warmer in May.
One or two of my coworkers asked me to try to find out when and where this Judge Judy cat had her kittens, because they wanted to take one of them home with them. When this cat became much, much smaller suddenly, and we knew that she must have had her kittens, she hid them so well, that we never could find them.
It wasn’t until late June, quite a long time to keep kittens hidden, that the mother cat brought her kittens out into the open. They appeared to be about six to eight weeks old. Several times each day, we saw this mother cat bring mice, other small rodents, and birds back to her kittens. She was a very good hunter. There were four kittens.
In late July, the mother cat was down to three kittens. We don’t know what happened to the fourth kitten. It could have been an owl, a hawk, or a coyote that killed her other kitten. At least her other kittens were getting bigger, so they would be less likely to be carried away by an owl or a hawk. Here is a photo of the three kittens at this time:
In the photograph above, the grey and white kittens were male, and the tan and white kitten was female. It became obvious for a number of reason who the father was. Each kitten was a mix between the father and mother cat, as you can see from this photo:
As winter was approaching, I was concerned about what was going to happen to these cats. At this job site, it gets down to -40 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. To be clear, I am talking about 40 degrees below zero degrees, and that’s not even including the wind-chill effect.
I thought about it, and I believed that if I could get some of these feral cats to come and sit inside of the office trailer to warm up when I was at work, that it might help them to not be under stress from the cold all the time.
In early October, it was already getting down to 7 degrees Fahrenheit. So I began tricking the kittens into the office trailer, by putting food just inside the door, then closing the door behind them. I even tricked the mother cat into the office trailer a couple of times. I didn’t listen to their complaints, and eventually they would calm down, and go sit down:
The female kitten, I named “Hannah Lee Duggan”, after the YouTuber Hannah Lee Duggan because their markings were exactly the same, white and tan.
The bad thing about inviting/trapping Hannah Lee Duggan inside of the office trailer, was that she pooped on the floor. You had to watch her the whole time. In order to not have to keep track of her, I picked her up to put her in a chair, and she pooped all over.
One day after having a few days off from work, when I returned to work, the two male kittens were nowhere to be found. This was highly unusual because each of the kittens always stayed together and played together throughout the day. At first, I thought that either a site worker did something to them, or an animal had gotten them. But after a few days of asking around if anyone had seen them, it became to appear more likely that these two male kittens had climbed up inside someone’s car engine, and had been driven away to who knows where.
This was very sad that the mother Judge Judy cat had put so much work into hiding, feeding, and raising these kittens, and now there was only one that had survived, the female kitten Hannah Lee Duggan.
I didn’t know how I was going to take Hannah Lee Duggan back to my house, because she kept shitting everywhere. I brought a cat litter box and cat litter to the office trailer to see if Hannah Lee Duggan would use the litter box, and she did. The next day I was going to bring in a cat carrier and catch Hannah Lee Duggan and take her home with me. Also, there was a fairly large gash on Hannah’s side, that I didn’t know what it was from, it may have been an owl or a hawk had tried to carry her away.
The following day, I had Hannah Lee Duggan inside of the office trailer with me. I kept her inside because I wanted to be able to grab her when I got ready to leave for the day. A couple of times during the day she had gone into the open cat carrier by herself, but I didn’t want to lock her in it too early, so that she could use the litter box.
Twenty minutes before I had to leave for home, was when I grabbed Hannah Lee Duggan to stuff her inside of the cat carrier. She didn’t want to go in, and she began shitting everywhere, on my pants, on my shoes, everywhere. I was about ready to give up, I didn’t need this aggravation, so in anger I grabbed her very forcefully with heavy gloves on, and shoved her ass inside the cat carrier no matter how much she protested. Once she was in, she didn’t have much to say.
Hannah did not have much to say on the nearly one hour drive home. I had already prepared another cat litter box with litter in the living room of my house, and I put the cat carrier with Hannah in it, right in front of the litter box for a few minutes before I let her out of the cat carrier.
She stepped out of the cat carrier like she wasn’t upset, stretched, and then she walked over to and under the sofa. I let her stay under the sofa for several hours without bothering her. Then I tried to get her to come out, because if you let cats get into the habit of hiding under furniture, that is what they will do for the rest of her life.
When I got Hannah to come out from under the sofa, she walked around normal for a few minutes, then she found something else to go hide under. I would only let her stay under something for a few hours, before I would try to get her to come out. I saw that she was using the litter box. She was using the litter box so much, that I had to clean the litter box at least twice per day.
After a few days of clean water and normal cat food, Hannah’s digestive problems seemed to clear up. Everything was a first, grabbing her and putting her on the sofa, was the first time that she had ever been on a sofa. Scratching her head, her neck, and her chin was the first time that anyone had ever scratched her.
Soon, Hannah realized that she liked being petted and scratched, and she was always coming over to me wanting to be petted and scratched. Then, she realized that she liked being held, and that she would much rather sleep beside me, or on top of me.
Now, Hannah is sometimes a nuisance, because she persistently wants to climb on top of me, kiss me on the mouth, and wedge herself up under my chin, kneading her needle-like claws into my neck.
This is quite a change for Hannah, not having to be afraid of coyotes, owls, and hawks trying to catch her, not being out in the wind, the rain, the snow, and the cold. She is behaving fairly well, not tearing anything up yet. I might try to catch her mother, the Judge Judy cat, we will see.