Feral Colonies in Iowa

by Sara Durbala
(Amana, IA)

Fur-Baby Mama:

I live in the Amanas in Iowa and our 7 villages have a lot of stray cats. I feed and vet all of them that show up.

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friends holding cats on laps
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We've had some beautiful cats show up, but I was truly shocked when Maine Coons started showing up at my door!

We have a neighbor with 2 male Maine Coons that just showed up one day about 4 years ago (they are vetted and neutered).

Then a kitten showed up in a tree last year with a broken jaw (I took him in and vetted him)

Now a 1-year-old female orange Maine Coon has arrived in the last month (I also took that cat in and had to shave the poor thing down it was SO matted: think softball-sized mats and sores on the skin from them).

So we now care for 4 Maine Coon cats, plus about 15 other feral outdoor cats (all vetted and spayed/neutered). One of the greatest joys of my life has been getting to know these gentle giants. I absolutely adore Maine Coons!!

We even rescued one from Mt. Vernon, IA for my dad, he has become such a big fan of them! Maine Coons integrate so well with our 4 other indoor cats, that taking them in was no hassle.

We are so lucky to have such a big variety of cats here--you wouldn't believe what shows up out here!

We have a few of the standard (but very beautiful) orange marmalade cats, 2 English tabbies, a few black cats (all very large cats), a tuxedo, a Bengal (!), a 1/4 Savannah/tabby mix (he weighs 30 lbs and lives inside with us), the Maine Coons, a Russian Blue, a piebald tabby, and what appears to be a shorter-haired Maine Coon/English tabby mix. Quite the cattery!!

All have shown up at our doorstep over the last 3 years (9 of them lived here in the barns before we moved in and they are family now).

It is a real joy to not only improve their little furry lives (we built padded cubbies and feeding stations into the 3 nearby Amana barns with the permission of the Amana Society and built a nice shelter under our porch with individual padded cubicles for them), but we are also improving the Amanas by reducing the gnawing and digging rodent population that would otherwise decimate the 150 year old historic buildings.

Evidence of what the groundhogs and moles have done to the foundations of these old buildings can be viewed by the casual observer. If you drive through the Amanas, you will see many buildings braced by 2x4's driven into the ground.

You will also see many buildings have had the foundation braced by concrete. This is all because of the digging rodents tunneling around the foundations of these old buildings.

It causes the ground to collapse where their tunnels and burrows are, which causes the foundations to shift and settle, making huge cracks and cave-ins of the walls.

There has been a huge difference since we started feeding the feral cats! They have essentially wiped out the rodents in our area.

And they now stay closer to the old buildings in the villages since they are fed near them and have cubbies strategically placed inside the empty ones.

You'll notice that even the Meat Shop has a few cats prowling around outside and ducking in and out of the old storage barn nearby! So it's a win-win for everyone!!

And these cats are some of the happiest, most pampered feral cats (not to mention fattest!!) around!

Brings Back Memories
by: Bill Christenson
A wonderful story. It's fantastic that you have the desire to help these cats and can follow through on it. You're right about coonies. They are wonderful additions to a family. Look at Dumped in Maine Coon Rescues for a look at our little guy.

I lived in C. R. and went to the U many, many years ago and have spent a lot of happy time in the Amanas. Have some great memories of Sunday dinner at a couple of restaurants.

One was owned by a well known major league ball player from the Amanas (can't remember his name) It's sad to hear about the deterioration of buildings in the the Colonies. They were always so substantial and beautifully maintained.

Thank you for your story and for all you do for the cats and community.

by: Fur-baby Mama
I appreciate your comments! I love all critters, but cats seem so under-appreciated in the countryside, I tend to spoil them a bit more!

Just an update--we just located a colony of cats left over from the Brick Haus in Main Amana. There's about 15-25 of them, so our new project (on top of our ongoing ones) is to get these guys vetted/vaccinated/fixed and get them some substantial cubbies.

Right now they live in and out of an open garage. The people in the house next to the now-closed Brick Haus restaurant have taken over feeding and care of these poor kitties, but appear to be a bit overwhelmed.

So my kids and I have started helping them out with their charity work.

They have at least 3 Maine Coone kittens about 8 months old (2 gray tabby striped and 1 mostly black w/white on its chest) and they are probably the healthiest looking of the cats, but all of the cats are in pretty good shape.

One has some nasty bald spots behind his ears, but we've discovered he has ear mites and are treating them accordingly. It should clear up soon. :)

I just started feeding them the day after I discovered them and have been taking them wet cat food and unsalted/unflavored baked chicken and high quality dry cat food to try to bulk them up a bit and see if we can improve their coat condition.

They all appear to be getting used to us now. I hope that by the end of spring, we'll have their lives much improved.

We also found 3 more cats by the woolen mill, but they are extremely healthy and after some investigating, we located their beautiful cat shelter built behind the main office and their feeding station.

So someone is already doing a fabulous job with those kitties.

I always told myself that when we moved into the country finally, I'd do what I could to help out the strays as they came my way.

I knew the amanas had a lot of cats, but had no idea the sheer number of kitties out here. And many of them are well-cared-for farm or house cats.

But the number of strays that are underfed and sickly is fairly astonishing, especially around the town of Main Amana.

So I've taken it on as my pet project to try and improve the health and lives of these cats and as a result it has improved one of the Amanas greatly and I look forward to doing the same in the larger village.

So I'm proud to be able to do my part--and I can't believe how many Maine Coones there are out here!!! I can't wait to watch these 3 new ones grow up!!!

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