Author's Animal Antics is a new regular blog feature here at Sarah's Book Reviews where I'm very excited to have some fantastic authors come and chat to us about their pets. I'm thrilled to introduce the lovely Laura Stamps as my guest today...
I may be a lusty slut and an erotica novelist, but I've also been involved in feral cat rescue for over 30 years. Seriously. This SexWitch loves her furbabies!
When we built our house next to a state forest I quickly discovered the forest was not only the playground for the neighborhood's outdoor kitties but also for feral cats and strays. Before we moved to the new house I had helped a friend of mine (also in feral cat rescue) socialize and find homes for all the ferals living in the field behind the condo complex where we had lived for over a decade.
So when we built our house I had to laugh when a feral mom and two female kittens showed up shortly afterwards. Sometimes I think ferals publish an underground newsletter that list my current address. I know my husband Wes believes that (much to his dismay *lol*).
In fact, I wrote about that feral mom (who later became the Queen of the large colony she started with that first litter). Those notes became a book of award-winning poems called "The Year of the Cat," which was later nominated for the "Pulitzer Prize" in 2005. Within a year that tiny cat family of three grew to a colony of 21 cats and kittens. What can I say? People have a bad habit of abandoning their cats in the forest, most of them unneutered males. Yeesh! I spent a year getting all of them fixed and socialized. Then I found homes for almost all of them. The remaining three cats I kept for myself, and four years later they spend their days sunning on my back porch and thinking of themselves as my outdoor kitties. Which they are now. ;)
As you know if you've read my interviews, I started out in the writing biz 23 years ago as a poet, but have been a novelist for the last 17 years. There were many things I wanted to accomplish with my "The Witchery Series" trilogy. Primarily, I wanted to show people what modern-day Pagans are really like since we've received so much bad/false press the last 2000+ years. Yes, I really am a Witch, a Wiccan Faery Witch (just a fancy name for a SexWitch). So that trilogy of novels is full of real spells, chants, and rituals from my personal spellbook.
I also included vegetarian recipes and many of my cat care secrets from three decades of feral cat rescue. I made two of the characters in "The Witches of Dixie: Book One of the Witchery Series" cat ladies (Mirabella and Ravena). Mirabella specializes in adopting black cats and those who test felv+ (feline leukemia positive). Unfortunately, everyone in feral cat rescue tangles with feline leukemia. The good news is only 30% of those who test positive die young from the disease. The rest go on to live happy healthy lives for several years or more.
I thought I would include a few excerpts from that novel, which contain some of my fav cat care tips for the taming, care, and feeding of feral cats.
Excerpt from "The Witches of Dixie: Book One of the Witchery Series" by Laura Stamps (c)
"Mirabella section" (pages 41-42)
September is the month for hurricanes. The season titters to life in May and burbles through the summer, dwindling by late November. But September trembles as the peak month, a time when angry lows swollen with moisture hurl themselves off the African coast, swirling across the Atlantic with a frantic eye for the warm waters of the Gulf or the Southeast’s tepid shores. This is also the season when the garden releases a final sigh and bows its frilly head.
In the Deep South, September tap-dances as a month of contrast. The atmosphere churns fiercely, while impatiens, lilies, and zinnias quiet their riotous colors.
Because I live with six housecats and welcome any hungry feline wandering into the yard, my friends and neighbors call me the Cat Lady. All my housecats are black or mostly black, all feral strays I slowly tamed with yogurt and bits of meat. Black cats are my favorites, their velvet coats glimmering like onyx pearls or glossy crows. Incredibly friendly, they’re quite curious, and most are devoted to warm laps and a brisk chin scratch.
Usually the last adoptions from rescue agencies and shelters, black cats are often burdened with the lingering threads of silly superstitions. Knowing this, who could resist a homeless black cat?
All my cats tested positive for feline leukemia when adopted, a plague galloping wildly through the streets of this area. Fortunately, the disease is no longer a death sentence. Some positive cats thrive into old age, never manifesting a single symptom. Others throw off the cancer after a while, remaining negative and healthy for a lifetime.
The strength of the immune system holds the key to this feline mystery, so every day I add L-lysine, colloidal silver, Vitamin C, and Echinacea to their food, keeping them spunky, strong, and rambunctious. Committed as I am to organic foods and a holistic lifestyle, I consider the defeat of feline leukemia in my cats an incessant and worthwhile quest.
"Ravena section" (pages 174-175)
First week of September, and Ravena places a chair in front of the sliding glass door, where she can see the gaping hole leading to a woodpecker’s nest deep in the trunk of a dead oak. The opening grows each day, the busy work of tiny beaks.
Trees shake their emerald hair in a breeze while sunlight scatters its blazing coins across the grass, and a stray cat laps the last bite of dinner from his bowl on the patio.
When Ravena had been married for six months, her husband, Odell, found a stray kitten behind the dumpster at their apartment building and brought it to her. She adopted it and has rescued feral cats ever since.
Sometimes only one cat appears. Other times she cares for colonies of feral cats, doctoring their wounds and illnesses, practicing the trap/fix/release method until she finds good homes for them.
After so many years of this, Ravena believes she possesses a natural talent for taming and socializing feral cats. Or maybe it’s just that her unconventional methods work particularly well.
While most allow a feral cat plenty of space the first few weeks, she persistently stalks a stray, drawing it closer and closer, using soft words and food to calm the cat’s fears. Sometimes she sings a Goddess chant to it, invoking all the faeries to help her in this quest.
“Great Lady Bast, ancient Goddess of Cats,
grace my voice with your sacred dance.
Faeries of the air, stream, flame, and tree,
lead your precious cat-child to me.”
The first day or two she backs away from the food she leaves, so the starving cat might eat in peace. But after that she stands a few feet from the food bowl, inching closer each time, forcing the cat to tolerate her presence.
This gentle but aggressive strategy maintains her edge, allowing Ravena to slowly move the cat beyond its comfort zone, using food as her primary tool. Soon Ravena stands next to the bowl, singing or talking softly to the cat so it might associate her voice with safety and good things to eat.
That’s when she touches the cat for the first time, while it munches a meal. Often a feral cat’s first experience with human touch, it will bolt, dashing away in terror.
But it returns for food the next day, and Ravena continues to touch, her hand remaining on its coat a little longer each time, building trust, until her fingers travel up and down the cat’s back, its tail shoots up, and it runs to her when she calls, as anxious to be petted as fed.
Seated before the sliding glass door, Ravena laughs as each of her calico cats competes for her lap. It’s hard to believe these three were once skittish ferals she claimed from the wild with chants and faerie spells.
Thank you so much for visiting today Laura! Laura Stamps is an award winning author with a huge number of published works to her name. She wrote the popular Witchery Series and her current novel A Vampire's Kiss the first book in the spin off series The Manigault Vampires is currently being released as a monthly serial.