The Secret Life of Feral Cats
One of the highlights of my childhood were the biennial trips we took to my grandfather’s farm in Quebec. We stayed in a cabin by the lake that only saw inhabitants a few times each year, and smelled like mildew and spiders. Every day we would walk a mile up to his farmhouse, which smelled like horse manure and flies. I learned to feed and brush horses, chase the evil geese and feed the evil chickens, but my favorite part of the trip was when we first arrived and met the new crop of feral barn kittens. They were too young to run away from us in fear like their parents did, so we would scoop up a kitten each, name it, and cuddle, pat and feed it within an inch of its life during the two weeks we were there. I was always puzzled by my grandfather’s indifference to them, and his belief that unlike our city cats, they should be left to fend for themselves, not vaccinated or spayed, not fed inside and stroked, not named or collared. Sometimes we’d show up to find all our kittens had diseased, crusty eyes, and we would lovingly wipe them with warm wash cloths and try our best to make them cute. No matter how hard we tried, we could never get their mother to like us – she would creep in and steal her kittens back to their nest at night and we would wait until they wandered out to us the next day. Jason Houge’s photographs of the feral cat colony he is caretaker of with his girlfriend give me a glimpse into the lives of those kittens of my youth. They enjoyed a couple of weeks of spa-like treatment before they were thrust back into reality, eating barn mice and having babies, napping in the rafters and running at any sound or sign of humanity. You can see from his photographs that cats find a way to make the best of any circumstances, as long as they are free to sleep, kill and eat at their pleasure.