For over a decade I have cared for a feral cat colony. To be exact I care for about 50 cats. Most have been spayed or neutered for the exception of those that have been wise to the traps.
I've built shelters for them. They have 7 acres of land to roam. For the most part I can only get within feet of most of them and that's okay with me; I respect their birthright as free spirits.
They have been teachers, mentors and many times salvation to me when I got lost and felt those hopeless and helpless times in life.
It's demanding; it can take a lot out of you as much as it can offer euphoria and joy.
I've rescued abandoned feral kittens as young as a week old when the mother never returned from a hunting expedition due to traffic or predators or unkind human beings.
I rescued one 4 week old kitten back in November when it got cold. I found Tarja laying on her side. Her body was cold and there was no sensation of breath against my hand when I placed it on her belly. But in those times rescue kicks in and seems to cloud the mind and you act rather then react.
I rushed in the warmth, wrapped her in a wool sweater of mine and fixed this emergency mixture of corn syrup and a little warm water and slowly gave her a few drops at a time. I was pretty certain she was not going to make it but within an hour and half she was up and walking around.
I had Tarja for 4 weeks. Three times during then she nearly died but I was always able to help her back. In the middle of the night in late December I got up and again she was lying lethargic and hardly moving. I fixed more of the corn syrup ad gave her some but this time Tarja didn't seem to have the strength to fight. She died several minutes later in my arms.
She was not the first I lost nor will she be the last; as a feral cat colony care giver you only have so much control over what happens to these cats and do as you might, sometimes you lose ad other times you win (2 one week old kittens I rescued are now 3 years old and live with my sisters).
When I feel like so little matters in life I just need to look into the eyes of one of these cats and I am reassured. When there seems to be no one around that understands I can sit with them, pour all of me out and let go of fear, insecurity, and the tears and they understand.
Feral cats keep me grounded. They remain a major part of my lifeline and they have taught me to be a better person, to give without asking for anything. They have become some of my best friends, confidantes, and family.