Feral cat populations around prisons are fairly common. People with unwanted cats will "dump" them there knowing that the inmates will at least feed them. And why wouldn't they? Who doesn't want a furry little friend? I personally think it's fantastic to have unwanted cats being tended by men and women in prison. I look at it as a form of rehabilitation. It teaches responsibility. It also gives people the opportunity to love something that will love them back. Even though the incarcerated are being "punished" for their crimes, they are still human beings. They need hope. Hell, we could all use a little hope.
Okay, okay, I'll cut to the chase since this is a super long blog.
My friend Sonya Reed who is incarcerated at the Women's Death Row Unit in Gatesville has tamed a feral cat. And this is a problem because the prison has to control the cat population. There isn't an official policy, but there isn't a humane society in Gatesville, so when the feral cats are trapped, they are euthanized. There isn't a trap and release program in effect. But, one of the Wardens has agreed to let me pick Sonya's cat up once she is trapped. She will be taken to a local vet who will test her for Feline Leukemia and HIV. If she is negative, I will have to find this cat a home. She will need to be fixed and vaccinated. This costs dough that I don't have right now. If the cat is positive, she will be euthanized. I agreed to pay for the testing. If taking this cat will make Sonya feel better, I'm going to do it. November 5th marks the two year anniversary of Khristian Oliver's execution. Sonya is down and for good reason. She can't keep the cat, but she wants it to have a chance at a better life.
This story has just begun.
To read the history of Sonya 's cat that she wrote and that I submitted to the Readers Write section of The Sun Magazine, it follows below. It's called "The Best Feeling in the World."
It wasn’t an easy decision to feed the silver and white feral cat. Prison cats live such short lives, succumbing to disease, cars, razor wire and the periodic trapping by the prison guards for euthanization. Once you finally form an attachment, they’re gone. She was just a tiny scrap of a cat, terrified of everyone and everything, but she looked so much like my last cat on the outside, Sweet Pea, that I couldn’t help but tempt her to my cell window with a little food. I named her Violet.
It’s a lot of stress transporting my own serving of food from the chow hall and sneaking it past the pat-searches, but I do it, twice a day, every day. I have to constantly fend off the cat haters and bullies in my dorm who just need something to direct their anger at. When I defend Violet against these women, it makes me appear more fearsome than I really am, but I would do anything to keep her from harm which is hard to do when only one of us is in a cage. I’ve watched in agony when her belly grew round with kittens, then worried myself silly over every scratch and cut as she fought off the tomcats, opossums and skunks who tried to get at her babies. I grieved with her as she paced and cried for days after the well-intentioned but misguided yard crew took them away at only four weeks. I too lost a child to this place, and while I never got to mother the baby girl who was taken from me, through Violet, I’m getting a taste of what motherhood feels like.
It took forever for her to trust me. I’d stand like a statue at my window, week after week as she ate the scraps of food I’d brought her. At first, she’d dash off at the slightest movement. Then she graduated to eating on the sill with the window closed. Finally, I’d open the window as slowly as I could, cooing her name over and over until she’d stay. I endured many scratches and bites as I attempted to pet her fur, first just her tail as she jumped down from the window, then her back, and as we became more dependent on one another, she’d allow me to scratch the little spot under her chin.
Now, when I call her name each morning, she comes running across the field as fast as her little silver legs can carry her. She leaps into my window, her eyes intent on my face, purring and rubbing against the bars. Her willingness to trust has reawakened my ability to love. And it’s the best feeling in the world.