Case Study #11: Maravel + Neelix - pregnant, sick, feral
Maravel + Neelix (a.k.a. Maralix) is a feral love story of epic proportions.

Maravel was one of the first cats we neutered from this colony. At the time, he was completely feral so he was returned to the forest. In the year that followed, he became one of our regulars at the feeding station, and got sweeter and sweeter. He had a persistent upper respiratory infection and was always sneezing and congested. In May, 2016 we decided he was ready to come in, have his URI treated and hopefully find a home.

We watched Neelix get pregnant again and again, but it took us a year to finally trap her. She was pregnant again at the time, and gave birth to her last litter of kittens in our care. When her kittens were grown up, we spayed Neelix and moved her to our Feral Recovery Ward with plans to return her to her home in the forest.

Neelix wasn't enjoying her stay at TK HQ, and when Maravel came in (along with another feral, Sloaney), I thought she might feel safer if she spent her recovery week with them.

We were blown away by what happened when Neelix was reunited with Maravel.
The only way to solve the root cause of cat overpopulation is to change perceptions about feral and free-living cats. Maralix has introduced thousands of people to feral cats, proving they are worthy of compassion and that they have value. The more we show that these invisible, unwanted cats have value, the closer we get to a society where spaying and neutering is the rule, rather than the exception.


  • The biggest unknown was whether we could find them a home together. Neelix was so happy with Maravel, but she would be happy returning to the forest too. Maravel loved Neelix, but he was much more adoptable without her.
  • Would Neelix ever come around and enjoy interacting with humans?
  • If Maravel's URI was chronic would we be able to find an adopter willing to take that on?
  • We aren't a shelter, so the only way we are able to find adopters is through social media and our livestream. Very few people watch adult cats vs kittens, so we knew our audience of potential adopters would be much smaller.


We brought Maravel in as a companion for Sloaney, another feral from the colony who had been our first pregnant feral foster mama. Maravel had been trapped and neutered in 2015 when he was still quite feral. Poor Maravel had persistent Upper Respiratory Infection (URI) the entire time we had known him. He had also become pretty open to petting and interaction, and we wanted to see if we could treat his URI, so the time seemed perfect.


We did intake exams on Sloaney and Maravel, and both did extremely well. They were obviously scared and nervous, but showed no aggression and responded positively to ear cleaning and petting. Both of them had horribly itchy ears from ear mites.


Since Sloaney and Maravel did so well on intake, we decided to introduce Neelix to the group. Neelix was in our Feral Recovery Ward after her spay, and we had been working with her to determine if she might be open to socialization. She had been quite fearful, but had been showing tiny moments of progress here and there. We hoped she would benefit from being with ferals from her colony who were enjoying interactions with humans.

We were amazed at the instant change in Neelix. She felt safer, more confident, and actually started to play like a kitten. When she had physical contact with either Sloaney or Maravel, I would be able to pet her, and she even purred and rolled over for belly rubs one glorious time.


We took all three in for vet exams, and started Maravel on antibiotics, ear meds and fluids. Sloaney got ear meds. Neelix had her spay incision checked because like many of the ferals from this colony she was having a mild reaction. All three did exceptionally well at the vet, as long as we were careful to keep their faces covered as much as possible.

Our awesome Snuggle Crew volunteers signed up to do daily socialization sessions with them. During sessions, snugglers give treats, snuggles and play. Each snuggler has their own approach and style, and the goal is to have positive (and safe) interactions with each cat based on where each cats is in their socialization.


We did 4 weeks of doxycycline for Maravel's URI, with no improvement. Very discouraging, but we went back to the vet and decided to try him on a six-week course of a different antibiotic (Zithromycin). To my surprise, he improved significantly within the first week. He still blew clear snot bubbles and sneezed in Neelix's face, but seemed much less congested and much more comfortable overall.


Adoption was going to be a huge challenge. We love to adopt in pairs, but there just aren't homes available for pairs of adult cats, particularly if they are former ferals still needing socialization, and even more particularly if they have special medical needs like Maravel.

Sloaney had a fantastic application come in, and we decided to adopt her out on her own so we could try to find a home for Neelix and Maravel together, since they were so bonded. Sloaney was more independent, and is thriving in her home.

All we could do was wait and continue to work on Neelix's people skills. I made several videos for people to share, but it took more than two months for a viable app to come in. People applied from the US and other provinces in Canada, but I thought it was too risky for Neelix to travel. We needed a local home.


Follow Maralix's adventures in their forever home at Maralix: Take A Chance On Me

In the interest of time, here's my long-winded adoption announcement:

Maravel and Neelix have been ADOPTED! Our once feral lovebirds will be growing old together, whilst being adored by the most wonderful humans.

OMGOSH, #TINYVILLAGE, WE DID IT!!!!! This makes 16 adult ferals we’ve brought in from our feral colony and adopted into wonderful homes. Nine of those sixteen came in because they were injured, sick and/or pregnant and needed help. <3

This furry tail ending was so unlikely I have no doubt it would have been impossible anywhere else. Together, we’re making these “impossible” furry tail endings possible, and with each new success, we make it a little less impossible for the next special needs ferals that end up in a rescue or shelter.

According to Alley Cat Allies, virtually 100% of ferals admitted into shelters are euthanized because they are considered impossible to adopt. We are going to change that statistic by proving even the most impossible ferals are worth saving, one feral at a time!

Most ferals are purrfectly healthy and happy in their outdoor environments, and aside from being spayed and neutered (and hopefully fed), have no need or desire to become pampered pets. The ferals we bring in are either injured/sick/pregnant and need help, or become socialized in the forest through our daily visits to our feeding station. We don’t advocate rounding up every feral and putting them in a shelter so they can be adopted out, but we are trying to prove that injured/sick/pregnant adult ferals can be cared for and can live exceptional lives with humans. Euthanasia is not the only option. <3

More about our work with ferals, and the shocking things we’ve learned:

This furry tail ending has been WEEKS in the making, and I need to long-windedly thank some awesome people for making it happen:

Two wonderful chatters applied for Maralix, one a 32 hour drive away in the US, and one 23 hours away in Winnipeg. Both understood what Maralix needs and would have been exceptional homes, but Neelix wasn’t ready for long distance travel. Taking her out of her crate to get through airport security would have been impossible, and it would be very difficult for a new adopter to handle her on an extended road trip.

I contacted a fantastic group called Pilots N Paws to see if it would be possible to send Maralix on smaller, private planes to avoid airport security and crowds, and they were so helpful. I learned it isn’t safe to fly small aircraft over the Canadian Rockies, but that if we could get them to Calgary, they would fly them the rest of the way…. for FREE!!!

SO amazing. Of course, smaller aircraft are more weather dependent, so we were faced with the possibility of delays in Calgary. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be a big deal, but I was concerned the extended stress would be too much for Neelix. I was concerned she would arrive at Marlene’s having reverted in her socialization, and I would have been too far away to help. There were just too many risks and unknowns to make it a prudent plan for our very special circumstances, but we are so grateful to Pilots N Paws for the life-saving service they provide!

Marlene, the applicant from Winnipeg, was completely supportive and understanding throughout the last few weeks, as I worked through plan after plan to try to get them to her. We came pretty close a few times, and then….

We got another application. From another chatter named Jacquie, who lives nearby and understands what it will take to give them the BEST LIFE EVER! I told Marlene, and she immediately replied that she wanted me to do what was best for Maravel and Neelix. I know she was heartbroken at the thought of not having them, but am so grateful she loves them enough to let them go to a home that eliminates our travel problem and a huge amount of stress. So, if you see Marlene in chat, please give her a big virtual hug and tell her thank mew. <3

Maralix’s adopters Jacquie and Bob will be creating a facebook page in the next few days, so we will all get to see what happens next as our honeymooners get to experience life in a home for the first time. They will be leaving next week, stay tuned for details.

Our awesome snuggle crew played a HUGE role in this furry tail ending. They made sure Maravel and Neelix were entertained, loved and stuffed with treats almost every day of the 76 days since the two were reunited. That’s a LOT of snuggle hours.

So, WOW. Thank mew so much to the many wonderful people who made this possible. We are thrilled, and SO grateful. Beyond words.

Three days after they were reunited


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