A tribute to the feral cat that changed my life

Chloe was a tortoiseshell cat that lived in my neighborhood for at least 4 years. She was a feral community.

She shifted her territory at least twice and was fed by several people. One family had named her Brownie.

On Christmas day 2018, she passed away in my garage after a complicated surgery for a prolapsed rectum. She had no chance of survival without the surgery.

We did our best for her, and since then, I have learned more about helping sick outdoor cats. It took nearly a week to trap her in a regular trap.

Since she passed, I invested in a drop trap for cats which can be useful and sometimes faster when needing to trap a specific cat.

Chloe was an excellent mom cat. In the spring of 2017, she had 5 kittens, presumably in my yard.

On a rainy day in May, I looked out the window to discover kittens hiding in the old cat house in our yard! Chloe moved them there to get them out of the rain.

She was one of the yowling cats in my yard in February of that year, and I didn’t know her name was Chloe then.

Kittens in the cat house
Kittens in the cat house

She cared for her kittens well. Once we knew she was in the yard with them, we put out cat food for them. Even after the kittens were eating cat food, Chloe was still catching food for them.

I tried to socialize the kittens outdoors, but Chloe’s influence was too strong. They avoided me as she did. When the kittens were about 2.5 or 3 months old, the kittens were trapped and moved into my garage for socialization.

It was very sad hearing Chloe cry for them. She looked for them a few times a day for about 2 weeks. But I didn’t want 5 more neighborhood cats if they could be socialized.

We kept 1 of her kittens and named her Nacho.

Chloe’s last summer was kitten free. She was free to be a cat and not have to worry about raising kittens. We don’t know what caused the prolapsed rectum. She was loved by many in the neighborhood, and she is missed.

Chloe is the feral cat that changed my life.

Because of Chloe, my social skills improved, and I met neighbors!

I have met several people in my neighborhood and have improved my social skills. When the kittens were discovered, I finally got brave enough to go door to door to find out if she belonged to anyone. Knocking on doors pushed my social skills to a new level. Who wants a stranger coming to their door? No one! I wore cat t-shirts to try not to look like a salesperson.

I met Wes, who had been feeding her for a couple of years. We exchanged numbers and have been texting about the neighborhood cats ever since! He told me that her name was Chloe.

Eventually, she moved on from my yard down to the next block. Maybe she was following her boyfriend around. That’s what I called the orange/white cat that was very fond of her after he was neutered (his original name was Big Balls).

I’d still see Chloe occasionally. In the last few weeks, when I was alerted that she needed vet care ASAP, I met the other ladies that had been feeding her, and traps were placed in their yards.

And once I learned how to do TNR, I met two others. A lady asked me to help with just one cat that was getting into her garage and trash. She only knew of one cat, but I ended up trapping 9 feral cats behind her garage! The cats had made a trail through her yard.


Because of Chloe, I learned how to do Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).

I had heard of TNR back in 2011 when we took in Buster from the yard. Buster was missing the tip of the ear. The vet explained that he had been through TNR, and that is where his ear was “tipped.”

When Violet brought her kittens to the yard in 2014, she was friendly enough that we were able to take her in and find homes for 3 of the 5 kittens, keeping the ginger twins Jake and Elwood. So, we stopped putting out food in the yard and didn’t need to do TNR.

Chloe was too feral to bring inside. So, I learned how to do TNR.

Through Alley Cat Allies Feral Friends Network, I met Linda. She and her son taught me how to trap the cats safely. They trapped the kittens for me. And then Chloe was trapped and spayed a few weeks later.

Because I learned how to do the trapping, many other cats in my neighborhood and of friends have been neutered. That summer, I was able to do TNR for Chloe’s Boyfriend, another female cat and one of her kittens, and Other Buster 2.

These were all cats that started to show up once cat food was available in my yard. My friend also used my traps to get 4 cats in her neighborhood fixed (she trapped, and I did the transport).

Chloe with her boyfriend
Chloe with her boyfriend

In the TNR season of 2018 (all seasons but winter) I did TNR for 22 or 23 cats (sadly, at least 2 of the teenage cats were hit by cars after they were neutered). And one of my friends borrowed my traps in 2018 to trap cats in trailer parks. TNR was new for her too!

One of the cats from 2018 was Chloe’s yowling partner from February 2017. The rumor is that he’s been living as a stray for more than 10 years! That’s a lot of kitten-making years! He is the cat I named Fluffy and stayed a couple of extra weeks after his neuter surgery in my garage.

He had a bad tooth, which my regular vet removed, and his fur was quite mattted, so Humane Ohio shaved out the mattes at my request. But it wasn’t warm enough to let him out until some of his fur grew back.

He also had to be treated for tapeworms and was in rough shape. He decided not to come back to my yard after that experience. Sadly, he died in the summer of 2021 (he lived indoors with a cat guy down the street during his final months).

Because of Chloe, I learned that I could foster a cat.

The cat we named Other Buster 2 (his name is a different story), was neutered in the summer of 2017. He eventually became friendly with me. In December 2017, he showed up with a bite on his foot. He wasn’t good at being a stray cat, so I wanted to keep him as an indoor-only cat.

Unfortunately, he tested positive for Feline Leukemia Virus. We had 8 other cats at that time, so we didn’t want to risk it spreading to them (the vaccine isn’t 100% effective). I fostered him in a space separate from the other cats for 4 months while trying to find a home for him. I wasn’t successful, but Leuk’s Landing was able to take him in! He’s now happy and content living in one of their foster homes.

Letting him go to another home was heartbreaking for me, but I survived, and it was the best choice for his long-term happiness. You can watch my Other Buster 2 video series here. Below is a video of Chloe “turning into” Other Buster 2.

Because of Chloe, cats in my neighborhood have access to food and shelter

We upgraded the outdoor shelter for the current cats in our yard to a small shed. We put some straw in insulated dog houses for them in the shed. Midnight and Pork Chop are the current outdoor cats. Charcoal, the other regular outdoor cat died in January 2022.

In summary, Chloe was a beautiful neighborhood cat. She changed my life as she was the cat that got me involved with TNR, meeting neighbors, and helping other feral cats.

Is there a cat that changed your life? If so, in what ways?

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Heidi Bender is the writer and founder of the Joy of Cats. She enjoys sharing cat information and providing helpful cat tips. She considers herself a cat lady and currently cares for eight cats.

4 thoughts on “A tribute to the feral cat that changed my life”

  1. Fortunately, we now live in a community that has adopted TNR as municipal policy and whose shelter is “no-kill” (meaning, in reality, that people with cat concerns are referred to the ACC in a neighboring community, which is open intake).
    Two locations ago, we lived in a neighborhood where there were many free-roaming cats. Several people fed them, but no one got them vetted, innoculated, or spay/neutered, so we took it upon ourselves to do so and in the years we lived there, we were able to get almost every cat this basic care. We adopted many and some adoptable kittens were adopted out by a rescuer/adoption advocate.
    Never think that outdoor cats are fine on their own. They are not. They deserve and need our help. Please get involved. For a comprehensive list of links: http://www.bestfriends.org/resources Please keep this URL for future reference. It can and will save innocent lives!

    • Good site you’ve got here.. It’s hard to find excellent writing like yours nowadays. I truly appreciate people like you! Take care!!

  2. It sounds like you have helped many cats! That’s wonderful! The Best Friends resources look good too. Thanks for sharing it!

  3. Still as true on 9/3/2022 as it was when you originally posted, Heidi. Thanking you for walking the talk and putting caring into labors of love advocating and acting for cats. Every one deserves respect, protection, comfort, best care, and LOVE.


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