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Pumpkin and benign neglect

 

This winter we rescued and inherited a feral kitty, with the help of a local rescue group that has a Trap-Neuter-Release program. They trapped, neutered and were about to release, as he was deemed to be too feral and hostile to be sheltered. This may sound cruel, but it’s not. Many feral cats do not take well to shelter life, take forever to socialize, and are difficult to adopt out, making their stay at shelters much longer than most, and stressful to boot.  Feral cats outdoors often form colonies, often assisted by volunteer caretakers, that allow them to live out their natural lives without the trauma of forced ‘rehabilitation’. 

 

 

 

 

However, we were in the thick of a brutally cold winter, and as far as we could tell Kitty had no colony and his life on the streets was no picnic. I don’t know how many times we watched him limp to the front door into his heated box suspending his injured or frostbitten paw, or show up with an eye swollen with a gash, or watch him try to gulp down food before it froze. (In the end we worked out a system where he’d get his meals in small chunks).  He was cautious, colorful and notoriously hard to trap. Until we did, and took his terrified self over to the vet.

 

 

 

 

Upon hearing he’d be back on the streets, we promptly asked that he be returned to us, and set him up in the guest room in our basement. For about three days we didn’t see hair nor hide of him. He stuffed himself flat under the pillow on the bed, and you’d never ever know there was a cat there.  Eventually he emerged and stayed on the windowsill of the room, hissing furiously when we brought him food and water.  But we had an unusually busy winter – father was rescued out of Libya, brother had an unfortunate appendectomy, grandmother passed away, exams had to be written, new jobs found, etc. etc. and we didn’t have a lot of energy to dedicate to Kitty.

 

So we pretty much left him to his own devices. After about a month or so in isolation in the room, I began leaving his door open for a few minutes each night so our curious and hostile resident cats could meet him.  Our ‘special’ champion and patron saint of weirdoes was the friendliest, his sister cautious from a distance, and Alfie surprised us all by hating him on sight. The reason I was surprised is because she too is a feral, one that took a couple of years to get socialized, and I thought she’d have some sympathy and understanding for his plight.  Evidently she did not, and took to chasing him back to his room if he ever ventured a paw outside it.

 

 

 

 

Eventually the door was left open longer and longer, Pumpkin went exploring further and further, and finally he wormed his way into the household with virtually no help from us. His early explorations were fraught with peril – he’d slink out one paw at a time, ears flattened, ready to bolt back to his room at the first sign of trouble, squealing with fear and often being chased back by Alfie, who’d whistle like an angry teakettle. But Pumpkin was nothing if not persistent, and Alfie must have gotten tired of playing ‘vigilant guardian’, because now he prowls the house freely, often naps on furniture, eats pretty close to everyone, and lets us walk within two feet of him provided we are not looking at him.

 

This picture was taken last week, when for the first time he walked into our bedroom while I was reading in bed, and plopped down for a spell.  I betcha it won’t be long until we’re kicking him off the bed at bedtime. 🙂 And that’s my story of how we pretty much ignored all socialization advice and let the cats do their own thing. And how I’m becoming a crazy cat lady one rescue at a time.

 

 

 

 

P.S. As to why we called him Pumpkin – once upon a time this winter, we were leaving our house and got onto a busy highway which is two blocks away. We live right on the edge of town, and this highway while close to our house, is still pretty rural looking. As soon as we turned the corner, we saw a curl of orange on the side of the ditch and immediately assumed the worst – that Kitty had met a car. This is not improbable, as I’ve seen him almost get smoked by buses and cars more than once while navigating the icy neighborhood streets.  We circled back for a closer look, but the curled shape looked too familiar against the white snow. We practically had to get out of the car to see it for what it was – a rotting, squished pumpkin.

 

 

 

Captured!

Catching the kitty that lived on my porch through -30 C (-22F)  temperatures has kind of consumed my spare time for the last few weeks. Well, that, and my birthday on Monday, and the midterm that I wrote, and the holidays of course. 🙂

But kitty took precedence. Even though he came and went a bit sporadically, he was usually on the porch waiting for his meal when I came home from work.  After watching him shiver and huddle on the yoga mat, we got smart and bought an outdoor heating pad which we enclosed in a lovely big box with styrofoam inside, and draped with a blanket to keep snow off.  Then we got a second heating pad as a side wall, and kitty moved in pretty permanently. We probably would have gotten a third and fourth heating pad as well, but finally, finally, kitty deigned to walk into the cat trap that was thoughtfully placed there by our perennial favorite cat rescue group – The MEOW Foundation.

 

 

 

 

Food didn’t do it, either. He was too leery of the trap to be enticed by food, and circled it carefully, electing to go hungry rather than chance being eaten by crocodiles or whatever his kitty imagination came up with.  Plus it doesn’t help that food freezes in about two minutes in these temperatures, offering very little in the way of temptation in a short while.  It was a healthy sprinkle of catnip that lured him in, a substance that proved irresistible. Kitty went in, the trap went slam! and a mournful meow later, we had a very apprehensive prisoner.

 

 

 

 

 

Of course this happened at about eleven last night, and of course the vet where we dropped him off was clear across the city, and of course I’m exhausted today, but also quite elated that kitty will spend his first warm night inside, in… forever? The vet will neuter him, and fix up any cuts and injuries, de-worm him and vaccinate him, and he will go to the MEOW Foundation to recuperate. There they will determine whether he’s fully feral, or just shy, and will decide whether his future lies in being adopted or not.

At the very least he’s warm, fed and getting used to people, and while his empty box sits on my porch I sleep better at night not worrying whether he’ll get hit by a car today, get eaten by a coyote, or where in the world his latest injury came from.

 

 

 

A foundling

 

Foundling - header

 

Our neighbors’ cat got lost a few days ago. She must have got out in the morning as they left for work, and they spent two days doing what owners frantically do when their pets go missing, namely print flyers, talk to their neighbors and the neighborhood kids and spend hours walking around with cat food. She was an older cat who’s never been outside, and they were understandably upset and worried.

 

As professional cat owners we contributed a donation of a cat trap, moral support, cat food on our front porch and several walks around the neighborhood late at night, when the traffic dies down, and the night is still. So last Saturday night found us walking around the neighborhood around eleven thirty at night trying to spot one shy cat.  One shy cat was nowhere to be seen, but we did spot a very young cat sitting curled up on the steps of a townhouse.

 

We stopped to say hello, and the friendly kitten approached, gurgling something in cat and arching his back. He was very skinny, and allowed himself to be picked up without resistance, purring all the while. Offering to return him home, I knocked on the townhouse steps where the lights were still on, and asked the family who answered whether the kitten is theirs. 

 

“Oh no, no” came the answer.

 

“Well have you seen him around?” I asked,  “perhaps he’s your neighbors’ cat or anyone’s from around here?”

 

“No, no, he’s been around for a couple of days, but he doesn’t have a home” came the reply. “Perhaps you can take him?”

 

“Thanks, I sure can” I said. The kitten was not wearing a collar, had no tattoo, and was skin and bones.

 

The kitten was still sitting contentedly on my shoulder during this conversation, so we traced our steps home, got in the truck and drove to the wonderful 24 hr vet at the local plaza. The receptionist checked him for a microchip – none, tattoos – none, and said he can spend the night there, and be sent to the SPCA in the morning. She also mentioned that it looks like he has worms, his ears are dirty, his tail may have been damaged and he may be a barn cat, which would make him the friendliest barn cat I’ve ever seen.  Feeling like our good deed is done for the night we drove home.

 

A week later the vet phoned.

 

“The kitten you brought in is still here, any chance you want to take him?”

 

“Sure!” was my reflexive reply. No, we don’t need another cat, but over time we have fostered and adopted cats through a wonderful local shelter – The MEOW Foundation, and I was hoping they could place him for adoption on their website if we foster him at our house. Like many no-kill shelters they are perpetually running at above capacity, and they hardly ever have room at their facility. Fortunately they agreed, and the kitten arrived at our house that same night. He’s been cleaned and de-wormed and was looking wonderful. The vet staff named him Stretch which fits him wonderfully as he has a very long and lean torso.

 

Soon he’ll be neutered and micro-chipped and be ready to go to his permanent home. His incredibly sweet and affectionate nature will likely get him placed very quickly, but in the meantime he’s enjoying his place in the sun.

 Foundling - stretched

Foundling  - catnap

Foundling - sun

 

Oh and the neighbors’ cat? Was found under a deck of the house directly behind them. Luckily the cat didn’t make it far, and was spotted by a caring soul. Which is a great happy ending.