Well, actually about six.
One morning I saw a wild, scrawny, tuxie boy in the yard. Completely feral. Perhaps about half-grown. I put out food for him on the porch and went inside so he could eat.
And his two brothers turned up at the dish, each scrawnier and more scared than the other. A tabby boy with a skinny tail, and an orange brother. Except for the coloring, like peas in a pod, the same cat just painted different colors.
The orange brother ate about twice, and then disappeared.
Tabby brother stuck around long enough to get a name, and took off, leaving us with Loper. Over the years I worked at approaching him, and got to the point that he’d let me touch his head. Briefly, in the right circumstances.
Then they started with the construction work next door, and he vanished. I think they destroyed his sleeping den. But since the neighbors were all madly meeting, I spoke with Gail-from-around-the-corner and discovered she’d been feeding “Oliver” as well, and now he’d moved onto her porch. And she had recently progressed to the point of getting to pat his belly (!).
So now we are sharing custody, as it were. Sometimes I see, and feed, him every night on the front porch for days at a time. Other times I don’t see him for days, and assume he is staying with his other mother. My current guys appear to not care at all about who goes sitting on their porches, bless them. The boys just walk past him, or sit with him at night, staring out into the yard.
In the meanwhile, though, poor Wolfie moved out of the house because Sisko arrived and bullied him. The tolerance doesn’t seem to include my poor scaredy cat, sigh. So I had to start feeding him out on the back porch. And since there was food out there, a stray orange cat turned up, and he gets his dish too. Since there are regular meals here, he has moved into the basement.
It took me weeks to remember about Loper’s shyer brother, but as soon as I did it all clicked. He is still the same Loper-shaped boy, just painted dark orange. Somehow he lost half his tail over the years. He is utterly feral. We are negotiating him waiting on the bottom step while I put out his food. He is not sure that is a good idea.
Last night I was feeding the cats at midnight (“Last Call!”), and checked the front porch. Someone was on the chair, so I got a plate of food and catnip and went to feed Loper.
It was TOBY. I haven’t seen the boy for at least two years. He didn’t run off, and let me put down the food. I didn’t attempt anything more.
But, hey! All the Feral Brothers are back!