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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 barbecue 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.

sunshine2The 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. Then 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 the 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 lives 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?

sunshine3I learned later that colonies of cats could start with just two displaced cats. Many times these cats were someone’s pet. The adopter or guardian probably had good intentions of getting them spayed or neutered but life happened; or maybe they thought their cat going to stay indoors so there was no need. It's natural for cats to mate — if they are not spayed or neutered they will find a way. If they get out or are let out because of behavior associated with mating they will wander in search of a mate, some don't find their way back home. Once cats become part a colony, the kitten production begins and it does not end until the cat dies or is spayed. The reproduction numbers are staggering. This is how Sunshine and so many like him came to be.

sunshine5Sunshine and his family were all spayed or neutered, the reproduction cycle stopped and Sunshine's story has a happy ending. We still have their first children, Cinder, Frick and Frack 14 years later.

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