I recently learned that one of the local cat-people I have met through the Community Cat Coalition is a famous author! She has written a book that tells the story of some feral cats and TNR. The book is The Tribe, by McCarty Griffin. Sadly, it's only available as an ebook from Amazon, for $3.99 (or free to borrow for Amazon Prime members) - I wish I could have a real-paper copy (how do you get the author to autograph an ebook?!)
The story tells the tale of a colony of feral cats who live on an abandoned farm. They scrape by for many years by looking out for each other. After several years of having the farm all to themselves, they must figure out how to respond to an ambitious young couple who moves into the farm house. Thankfully for the cats, the couple have a heart for animals and start a TNR campaign.
McCarty's writing style is pleasant and easy to follow. The story unfolds by alternating perspectives from the voice of the cats to that of the humans. Getting the cats' and the humans' perspectives on TNR adds a compelling level of tension to the story. How do the cats interpret and respond to the humans trapping, neutering and releasing of their colony-mates? I also found that getting the feral cats' perspective really added a sense of balance to the depiction of TNR. Knowing that the author was a proponent of TNR, I feared the story might over glamorize it - thankfully, my fear was not realized.
I especially appreciated that the author boldly tackled the difficult subject of terminating unborn kittens in the TNR process. To me this is one of the darker, more emotionally difficult elements of TNR and so for her to wrestle with that topic really added an element of integrity to the story.
Here's a short sample of the story, as told from the cat's perspective,
Tia was one of the few cats left who clearly remembered the time when two-legs had lived on the farm. "He lived in the big wooden den, didn't he? I was barely out of the barn then."McCarty tells me that she wrote The Tribe for her children. Being one who doesn't like reading about the death of animals, I appreciate knowing in advance if there's death, and thankfully in this story, the only critters that die are a few voles that end up being kitty lunch, and even that event is not graphically depicted. However, even with that said, there are moments of great tension in the story.
"Of course, the tribe was much smaller then." Tia's eyes seemed to fix on some faraway place as she reminisced. "We stayed in the barn and hunted the mice the black snakes didn't get. Times were much easier then. Less mouths to feed. Then, the old two-legs was carried away in a great white beast, with a flashing red eye and a wail that raised the fur. After that, the younger male two-legs came by at times to walk around, looking for what I never did figure out. Sometimes, strangers just stopped long enough to throw someone from their beast like Daca, so far gone with kittens she birthed them that same day, right there in the open part of the den. She was so frightened and kept howling for the two-legs to help her--the same two-legs who threw her out without a backward glance."
Bella listened absently to her musings. She had heard the story of the tribe's origins many times over the long seasons of her life. The tribe had grown great in numbers since the first few cats had lived in the barn, with more kittens born every spring, and the addition of terrified strangers dropped from rumbling beasts, who were taken in and made one of their own. Occasionally, a sickness took some of their number, or a beast such as the black dog from a few years back, who had killed many of the tribe until he disappeared as mysteriously as he had come. At times, one of the tribe would find an old cat lying with eyes open and dull with death. Through all of it, Tia and Bella endured, having outlived nearly everyone.
"We better get back to the barn," Tia said. "Dark's setting in and Sidda swears she saw a coyote trotting through the outer fields last week."
The Tribe is a great short adventure story about feral cats, I thoroughly enjoyed it. After finishing the book, I found myself wanting more. I suppose now I'll always wonder what happens to all the characters after the story finishes. Maybe she'll write a sequel!
This was my first time using an electronic book reader and I wasn't all that impressed. Laura was gracious enough to let me commandeer her Kindle so I could access the book. Maybe I'm a closet luddite, but I much prefer real paper books. But, I'm not hear to review the Kindle, so, back to the book. In summary, The Tribe is a wonderful read! I highly recommend it for anyone whose interested in reading about feral cats and TNR.