The cats have made an occasional appearance in various posts, but they've not been introduced yet. So here's the herd:
First, there's Licorice. He turned up as an abandoned half-grown kitten in someone's garage, and we took him in. This was shortly after we'd adopted a kitten who died at nine weeks, so we had a lot of new kitty stuff and no kitty to go with it. Licorice was a sweet boy at first, but later developed some odd emotional problems. For one thing, he wants to be the only cat in the house and goes bonkers when he's cooped up for more than a few hours indoors with other cats. Consequently, he's the only one of the herd who goes outdoors on his own. Indoors he has a vile temper. Outdoors, he's a sweetheart.
Belle (a.k.a The Princess Belle) was the runt of a litter that was being passed around my husband's school. Everyone wanted the bigger, healthier-looking kitties, so the teeny one came home with us. She may weigh about as much as a paper clip, but she packs a pile of energy in that pint-sized body. Some mornings she rockets around the house, doing banked turns two feet high in the corners. With her light weight, she can get herself into the oddest places -- like on the top shelf of my closet. She's got the softest fur ever, like bunny fur.
This handsome boy is Wild Bill. He was the survivor of a pair of kittens that were born to a stray mama kitty in our back yard. We caught the mama and got her fixed, and took in Wild Bill when he was about ten weeks old. That's just on the edge of the period in which kittens can be socialized, and Bill was probably third-generation feral. He's a gentle boy, but not even remotely a cuddler. He thinks human touch is kind of creepy. We kept feeding and caring for his mother, but sadly she vanished the winter after we took him in.
The next three are all from a litter that was born in our back yard to yet another stray. There were four in the litter, but something got into the nest and killed one (probably a tom cat or a raccoon). Their mama, Toast, is a beautiful tortoiseshell that we think was born outdoors to a cat belonging to some renters across the street. They left, leaving the half-wild kitties behind. By the time Toast found food at our house, she was visibly pregnant. I kept feeding her, hoping to keep her around where I could take care of her and the kittens. That May she had her litter under the Japanese Aralia bush in the back yard. The neighbor's nosy kid discovered them when they were just over five weeks old (the kid who is not supposed to be playing in my yard, mind you), and said his mom was going to have the Humane Society come and get them. So before the neighbors could interfere, I trapped Toast and got her spayed, rounded up her babies, and brought them indoors. My intention all along had been to tame and foster them for later adoption. Foster and adopt out. Uh huh. That went well.
So here's Gizmo, who was the biggest of the litter. She looks just like her mommy. She's also got a weight problem. She gets diet food, carefully measured, and we make sure she gets exercise, but she's still a big kitty, so the best we can do is make sure she's healthy. But she's a pretty girl and a sweet cuddler, preferring to sleep by my feet at night.
Gizmo's sister, Sprocket, is a gorgeous calico with a cute little face. She's the shyest of the bunch, and always runs and hides when people she doesn't know come to the house. She likes petting best if she's up at human level, like in the cat tree or her hammock, or here, on top of the bird cage. When she's there, she lets out a little "queek!" that says, "Okay, pet me now!"
The third in the litter is my darling Edison. The first time I met him, before his eyes were even open, he hissed and spat at me. I thought he'd be a fighter like his daddy Bruiser (who looks a lot like him), but he's a sweetie. He's the goofy little brother of the trio, a bit of a runt when he was little, though he's bigger than Sprocket now. He was born with several bone deformities in one leg, and had surgery last summer to correct most of the problems. Of all the kitties, he has the loudest voice, and trumpets away like anything when it's feeding time.
Last summer, a starving ginger tabby with one bad eye arrived at the outdoor feeding bowl. I thought at first he was a feral boy, but after working with him a bit, I found I could pet him and he'd purr up a storm. This was no feral -- this was an abandoned cat. When I could handle him safely, I picked him up, put him in a cat carrier, and took him inside. I took him to the vet to get him fixed and get his shots. His bad eye was abscessing, so that had to be removed. We named him Odin for the one-eyed king of the Norse gods. We had intended to find a home for him, too, and may still, but first he has to learn to use the litter box and only the litter box, not the bed and not the couch. Now that he's well-fed, he's a lot fluffier than in this picture, taken shortly after he had his stitches out.
So that's the herd. In addition, we've got one lone finch surviving from a small flock, one very bossy lovebird, and one guinea pig who was a literal roadside rescue. We also feed and look after Toast (probably the most spoiled stray cat ever, with her own bed and a microwaveable bed warmer), and two stray toms Bruiser and Murphy (who will, one of these days, get fixed, too). They do keep us busy.