When our children were smaller, we allowed them pets that didn’t walk freely around the house, such as toads, turtles and gerbils. This way, they could show us how responsible they could be by taking care of their own pets.

In 2008, our family went through a terrible loss. Wanting something to help bring us closer together and try to move on from this ordeal, we agreed to take in two kittens that summer — barn cats we named Tiger (female) and Midnight (male). Instantly, they became part of our family.

A couple weeks after Tiger and Midnight came to our house to stay, the boys were walking the neighbour’s dog at the school and came across two abandoned kittens — black and white long hairs. They brought them home and seeing how badly they looked, wanted us to take care of them. My husband spent the entire afternoon in the bathroom with them, cleaning them, getting the fleas off them and making sure they had something to eat/drink. After the numerous baths, the water in the sink was red, so much blood from the flea bites. These kittens would not have lived much longer if my children had not rescued them.

Once the black and white kittens — Ringo and Black Jack (both males) — were a bit older, we took them all to the veterinarian for their first check up and shots. At this point, we were trying to live on one paycheque, but knew the kittens’ lives were important as well so spent our savings on their health. At one point, Tiger had an ear infection and we had to take her back to the vet to get that taken care of. All these kittens were loved by everyone in our house, and we kept them inside for the first year of their lives.

In the summer of 2009, Tiger became pregnant. We had wanted her to have one litter before getting her fixed — our personal choice. A few people were lined up to take her kittens so we felt good about it. After having her babies, we realized that Ringo was the father. Five kittens were born. Soon after the birth of the kittens, two died. One actually died in my hands as I held him close to my chest. Even though it was only a couple weeks old, it was still hard to go through. Then the third kitten became sick. We took him to the vet, another cost we felt had to be made, and hoped for the best. He died a few days later. My youngest son found him and I always felt bad about that. But the children had seen death before and he handled it very well.

The two kittens left were very healthy and were growing at a steady rate. We had two people wanting to adopt them, but after having lost three other kittens, we just couldn’t let them go. The boys kept asking, what if we let someone adopt them and then they died? They would have felt so bad if this had happened. And at least with us, they would have each other, as well as the other four cats who all got along. Ginger (male) and Callie (female) were the new members of our family. It was amazing how well these cats get along. Every day you could find two of them sleeping together, or two of them playing together.

At this point, we were back to two paycheques and took all the cats to the vet again. Shots, de-worming medication, flea medication, rabies shots…everything was ordered and all the cats were up to date. Then we started getting them fixed. This was another cost that we felt had to be made, since the cats had shown interest in going outside. We wanted to make sure they were safe and wouldn’t add to the feral community of cats by having more litters. One by one they were fixed. Except Callie. She is the last one to be scheduled for her operation, which should be soon.

This is the story of how we got our six cats — Tiger and Midnight were barn cats; Ringo and Black Jack were abandoned kittens; Ginger and Callie were kittens we could not let go after losing three others. And we could not see our lives without any one of them. They are all taken care of (vet bills prove this!), their five litter boxes are always clean, they always have food and water and they are all loved by the humans in the household. Isn’t that what having pets is all about?

Then during the spring of 2010, the visit from the Animal Control…

At this point, I was working a midnight shift and we had decided to let the cats out at night time only, and when I came home from work (at 5 a.m.) they would be let back into the house. I thought this was working well, but a few days when the weather was nice, one or two of the cats would not come home before I went to sleep for the day. I honestly didn’t think much of it, as their shots were all up to date and they’ve never gone further than the end of our street. They would spend lots of time in our back yard, as well as the forest behind us.

One day, while I was away at a conference, the Animal Control showed up at our door, asking if we owned cats that were licenced. Licences….the one thing we had not gotten for the cats. The worker said that someone had complained about our cats being on their property and he had to check things out. (Earlier we had heard from one neighbour who complained about our cats pooping in their flowers and chasing the birds at their feeders, so we assume it was the same neighbour.) The bylaw in our city states that we can only own two (of one species) pets per adult, meaning we could only own 4 cats (at least until our oldest son turns 18). That day, we bought 4 licences. Soon after, we bought collars (with bells) for all the cats and took turns with them going outside with the tags. We just love all our cats and cannot live without one of them, so getting rid of two would be difficult for all of us.

And a few weeks later, we got the phone call….

The next door neighbour of the people who called Animal Control called my house and left a very rude message, saying my cats were screetching in her back yard, preventing her from working at home. This was at 10:30 a.m. and all of my cats were sleeping at that point. We do not let our cats out during the day and we have made sure that they are inside the house before the kids go to school at 9 a.m. no matter what. And this has been working for quite some time.

Anyways, I confronted the woman and told her I didn’t appreciate the message she left on my machine, accusing my pets of doing something they most certainly did not do. I suggested that she watch for these ‘screetching’ cats and see if they have collars on, as all of my cats do have them. I also suggested that there are other feral cats that live in the forest that may explain their appearance.

Later that night, I saw three stray cats. One was completely black, one was black and white and another was orange. They were all large cats and looked like they were strays. A couple days later, I saw one of those cats jump onto that neighbour’s window ledge and then I saw another one on the front porch of another neighbour. Two nights ago, I saw two of those cats ‘screetching’ at each other. It’s now been five days since my cats have been let outside and they are definitely missing it. But, knowing there are strays (who look much bigger an scarier than my cats!), I do not feel good letting them out. On the other hand, they love to walk around outside and I feel like I’m keeping this from them.

What to do?

We have decided to try and ‘trap’ the stray cats, call the city to see if they will pay to at least have them fixed, then try and find homes for them. I realize this is a lot of work, but I would love to be able to let my cats outside once again and if this is the only way to make this happen, so be it.

We have spent so much money in keeping these cats healthy…..we’ve spent so much time taking care of these cats to make sure they know they are loved…..why do people have to complain about our cats and accuse them of things they aren’t guilty of? What did they ever do to these people? Nothing.