I got my first glimpse of Sunshine at the edge of our yard about a year after we moved to our new home in Jessup. I had never seen such a sad animal. He was so thin, and looked so hungry and sick. I approached him with some of my cat’s food as gently as I could. I watched him wander back into the woods and he must have watched me put the food down. That was the beginning of our relationship - one that was as rewarding for me as it was for Sunshine. One morning about a week after the first encounter, I saw him on the deck licking grease that had dripped from our barbeque grill. I started putting food there for him twice a day. Soon every day when the sun came up my new friend was there to greet me - he was my Sunshine.
The first friend that Sunshine brought to us about a year later was his girlfriend. We had not neutered Sunshine - he trusted me but stayed just out of reach. I didn't dawn on me to trap him. Shadow, Sunshine’s girlfriend, had their kittens under our steps. Like Sunshine, Shadow trusted us. We could handle the kittens when they came out from under ths steps while she laid calmly nearby and watched.
Until I meet Sunshine I knew next to nothing about feral cats. I didn't think about them, about where they came from, how they got here or the sad, short life most of them live. I guess most people don't think about those things. I discovered there were many displaced cats in our neighborhood that found their way to dumpsters, their food source. But how and why did they become homeless cats and why so many of them? It starts with just a few cats probably adopted from a friend’s cat that had kittens. The adopter had good intentions of getting their pet spayed or neutered but life happened, or maybe they thought it's going to stay indoors so I don’t need to put the cat through a surgery or incur the expense. It's natural for cats to mate - if they are not spayed or neutered they will find a way. The cats get out or are let out because of behavior associated with mating. Many times these cats wander in search of a mate and don't find their way back. They eventually get written off by their guardian and maybe replaced with another kitten. Unless the pet owner does something different with their new pet the same thing will happen. Once they find their way to a mate or a colony the kitten production begins and it does not stop until the cat dies. The reproduction numbers are staggering. This is how Sunshine and so many like him came to be.
Sunshine and his family were all spayed or neutered, the reproduction cycle stopped and Sunshine's story has a happy ending.