A year ago at this time I met a group of caring people who were trying to get an increasing number of abandoned stray and feral cats in their neighborhood under control after a neighbor had moved away and abandoned three unspayed female cats, Charm and Scarlett, and a tabby cat whose three black kittens we chased and finally caught later in the summer. Through all of us working together and doing what we could several cats were spayed and neutered and several adopted to good homes, kittens were fostered and adopted, neighbors were organized and educated and a feeding station maintained at an office building for a few of the cats too feral to come inside. People are still keeping watch over the cats they see outdoors to determine their status: owned, abandoned or feral and a huge disaster of kittens having kittens last spring never happened.
Charm was the one who brought us all over to her street, though, because she had hidden her babies, and we certainly didn’t want a repeat of what has happened in other neighborhoods—kittens hidden away until they are past the age for socialization, and by the end of the summer possibly having kittens of their own.
She had been taken in along with Scarlett by Jenn when Jenn’s neighbor one November day put the cats outside, got in his car and left, and never returned, witnessed also by Missy who worked in the office building across the street from her office window. Charm, Scarlet and the tabby cat were unspayed females. Jenn had taken Charm and Scarlett into her basement just to keep them off the streets, but come spring an intact male managed to get inside and Charm escaped, and went about what unspayed female cats tend to do. She continued staying around Jenn’s house, and gave birth to five kittens in a box on the back porch at the beginning of April.
About that time Missy contacted me about finding a foster for Charm and the kittens along with low cost vetting. But fostering quickly became a search when one morning Missy saw two unneutered male cats after Charm, and then saw Charm moving her kittens off the porch and had no idea where they ended up.
Charm was more than happy to greet us, but would not divulge the whereabouts of her kittens.
Charm lived up to her name. She sat on the front steps of the house where she was fed and gave birth as if she owned it, and greeted all visitors. When I went with Dr. Michelle to meet the rescuers and Charm, I sat down on the steps and Charm immediately came over and settled down on my skirt, then leaned in and looked up at me.
Dr. Michelle helped to look for kittens as well, and Charm totally appreciated a neck scratch. Charm had obviously been nursing recently and didn’t seem upset in any way so we were hoping that meant her kittens were safe.
The family has four active children and their antics didn’t bother Charm one bit.
The five kittens would have been about four weeks old and that’s when mother cats often move their kittens to a new place that may be larger or more accommodating to teaching little ones the skills for living outdoors, since that’s where mom is currently living. She may have also moved them because of the male cat that was literally on her back. A male cat will sometimes kill kittens they find and mate with the female cat to be sure of spreading his own genes around.
We searched under all porches, in piles of junk, under parked cars, inside garages and sheds, behind bushes, any place that a female cat might think was a good place to stash five growing kittens. Charm often followed us or watched with interest. Mother cats can find the strangest places, and not all of them safe, so searching for kittens is a time-consuming, dirty task requiring several flashlights. We also talked to as many neighbors as we could find and had neighbor kids helping us as well.
Charm spent a lot of each day on the front porch of the house so the kittens were probably within a house or two. By the weekend Jenn had found where they were and simply picked one of them up. We spent a sunny Saturday catching the kittens who became Higgins, Zorro, Splash, Samwise and Crayola.
We were trying to guess where the kittens were by watching Charm’s activity—sleeping on the front porch most days—and where she headed when anyone saw her leave. I borrowed a trail cam so we could try to follow her activity and narrow down where she went when she left. They seemed to have been sighted several times through the week, but not until Saturday did Jenn get a good tip that they were actually under the porch where we’d first looked Friday a week previous, two doors down from Jenn’s house. She looked to see the kittens on the patio and in the grass. Here they were where we thought they’d been all the time, though she likely moved them more than once as she’d only the day before that begun to sleep on the back porch instead of the front.
Charm was very friendly so Jenn sat with her after feeding some canned food. She messaged that she had managed to capture two kittens just by picking them up when they were eating and they seemed friendly enough. She put them in a carrier in the shade and Charm kept watch.
Goopy eyes and a little hissy but they were interested in food and Jenn could pet them.
Trouble was the porch had a low clearance and a pile of dirt and debris in the center, and the kittens were behind that. No one could really crawl in. “Hoping to lure them out with mom, food and toys so we can grab them instead of having to trap,” I posted on Facebook as I arrived there and took a few photos.
I looked at the area and decided on a plan to keep the kittens from possibly running off if we tried to grab them and to keep them from running back under the porch: Use black plastic fencing I sometimes used as display material to surround the area and pieces of cardboard and old window screens to drop behind the kittens when they came out.
I had also found the cage I’d used to initially foster kittens. The last time I’d used it was for Mimi and the Four in the first three weeks they were here. I went home to get it and also digging tools in case I had to dig my way under the porch, extra dishes, wire and a few other sundry items I just might need. Giuseppe and Mr. Sunshine knew what was up when the dishes came in the house.
I set up the cage inside the perimeter. I hadn’t been sure the kittens were eating food yet so I wasn’t sure canned food would work as a lure, plus Charm regularly nursed them. But since the two had been caught while eating we set out food around the porch in a path that would direct them away from the porch. The sun was overhead and too hot to put Charm and the kittens in the cage, but we would do that as soon as the sun moved enough, later in the afternoon. Right then it was about 2:30.
And we waited. If you’ve never tried to trap cats or catch cats in any way, my main word of advice is “patience”. It’s going to happen in the cat’s own good time, not yours. Jenn has four children and their friends were around, so I could be preoccupied photographing the kids, the backs of old garages, dandelions in the grass, and peeling paint. Honestly, I enjoy all that, and someday they’ll be nice paintings!
No sign of the kittens until about 3:30 when all three came out at once. Jenn kept the kids busy at that end of the yard, and though the kittens had been spooked by the cage they were there, and they were hungry. I refreshed the food and went off to take more photos of apple and cherry blossoms, then came back about 4:00 to move Charm and the kittens in the cage, now in shade.
The tuxie and the buff kitten came out and played and went back under, but were now curious about their mom and siblings in the cage. When the tuxie came out alone again and began to eat I dropped the piece of cardboard between her and the porch opening, picked her up, went to the cage and put her in. Yes! The buff kitten came poking out a few more times and I let Charm out of the cage to lure her kids out personally. The buff kitten came out to his mom and started to nurse right where they stood, but I reached down and picked him up and put him in the cage too. Yes!
But the darker orange kitten had been the least active and appeared the least often of all of them so we knew we had a wait. Charm wandered around and looked bored. I photographed more peeling paint and the kids got tired and hungry. Charm thought she might leave but instead I picked her up and put her back in the perimeter. Instead of her kitten coming out to her, she went in and nursed him under the porch. No! It could be hours, after dark, until he was hungry enough to come out again. I looked under the porch, he was fully engaged in nursing but out of reach and behind the pile of dirt. Charm came out. I put her in the cage and I decided to see if I could dig him out. That was when I realized the “underneath” was far more than the porch, it was also a crawl space under that section of the house, which was an addition. I knew the other kittens had been too easy. I had the feeling we were headed for disaster. We couldn’t leave him alone, and Charm couldn’t be in two places at once. My phone battery was dead so I decided to go home, feed my cats, feed myself and make a few phone calls for ideas. “Got two more, still missing one–way under the porch, under the house! Thanks to Margo for meeting me back there with traps and ideas!”
Margo agreed to meet me back there as did Missy who was bringing traps for the male cats she’d seen. We could try with a kitten trap, or we could just stand around and brainstorm.
But when I got back, Jenn had just captured the orange kitten! She said he came out on his own, she dropped one of the window screens behind him, he got tangled in the perimeter fencing and she got him! Margo and Missy helped her open the cage and the whole family was inside!
So they came home with me and became my next fosters, in the bathroom.
And of course, Charm too. Charm was the happiest kitty on earth! She was so happy when Missy and I settled her into the bathroom that she just laid down on a pile of my slippers and kneaded them and purred. She ate a little and then laid down by her foods.
Some of the kittens’ eyes looked really nasty that night but not that afternoon. Most had goopy eyes, but I didn’t see any extra discharge, no sneezing or nasal discharge, most of the goop cleaned right off the first night and I decided I’d clean them again the next day.
Charm looked into the tub and checked on her kittens, their bellies were full and they were all safe indoors so she decided to take the night off. She finally settled down next to my feet, kneading the air. She would not sit on my lap though, not yet.
The kittens were pretty hissy that first night but the next day whey were way less hissy and eating well.
I wiped eyes a few more times and snuggled them, and guessed the tuxie and the calico were girls, the other three boys. The tuxie and calico were distinctly different sizes than the boys, short-haired and petite. The boys were very fuzzy and feel much more substantial.
Charm had not nursed that night and the next morning her mammaries felt swollen and hot so I put her in the tub with the kittens and they readily nursed three times at least during the day, sitting up, lying down, walking around, however it would happen.
Charm was spayed at the end of May because she was going into heat again, and she was also losing large chunks of fur. All those hormonal changes can be tough on a young kitty, and she only weighed five pounds. She and her kittens got extra supplemental nutrition to take the burden from Charm, who never lost her sweet disposition. The kittens spent the next four weeks growing quickly and were all spoken for before they went to be spayed and neutered at the beginning of June.
So Charm joined the household to await her special person.
Charm had an interesting way of exploring the house. Basil and Bella became close friends with Charm, with crazy antics they so love to perform, Basil and Charm chasing each other, and Bella and Charm spending hours together at the big north window and at the basement door. Charm had escaped out the bathroom window twice to my shock and dismay, but once she was spayed and her kittens were all adopted she had no interest in going outside, only observing it.
And then one day…
…she arrived. As Charm put it, she chose a human.
Yes, it’s true! Of all the humans who have come to this house to see me (because, of course, that’s why they come here), I have chosen the most wonderful human of all.
First, she was besotted with my charming photo, in the basket, which I carefully planned to catch the eyes of all humans possible. Apparently she was swept off her paws and couldn’t wait to meet me because within hours she arrived here on Tuesday this week, in the late afternoon, when I had just finished a nap and was observing the wildlife through the basement door. My current human, who is perfectly serviceable but who has a habit of collecting other cats so that I will never receive the amount of attention I deserve, let me know the woman had arrived.
With dignity and aplomb, I strolled to the front door and stood to watch this human walk down the sidewalk toward me, and, well, whether I intended to impress her with my Charm-ing purr-sonality or I was overcome with recognition that this was the human for me, I flung my tail in the air, and twitched that special pale orange tip in anticipation.
As soon as she entered, she was mine. She was actually on the floor next to me in minutes, and then we proceeded to move into the kitchen where I could parade around on the table and teach her how I like to play and be petted. I did all my cutest things for her just to be sure she looked at only me and not any of the other cats in this house, and there would be no doubt in her heart that I was to be the one to live with her for the rest of my life. I took a moment to tell my human this woman was the one, then went right back to curling upside down in a box and batting my person with my paw. She took several photos of me, and then, when I was sure she was totally possessed with me, I returned to my wildlife watching from the basement.
Charm was adopted by a very wonderful person who was indeed besotted with the photo of the sweet tortie in the basket! Michelle is the woman’s name, and she was moving at the end of the month so Charm would join her for her first night in her new home—their new home.
And Charm really did all the things she described above, including running up the steps when I told her that her visitor was here, and walking directly to the door and eagerly greeting her, totally focused on Michelle from the moment she came in. I have never seen such a wonderful meet and greet, or a cat who spent nearly 40 minutes with a total stranger!
A request was posted in the foster group for female cats under the age of two for a person who had no cats at the moment and wanted to keep a one-cat home. Normally we like to send cats who don’t want to live with other cats to homes like that, but Charm was in the age category, and I felt she was really ready to start looking, so I shared the photo of her in the basket just to get her in the mix. Within hours the woman wanted to meet her! I mentioned to her about cats who want to be only cats while Charm is friendly with other cats, and she understood, but it was because Charm was a tortie that she wanted to meet her. She had rescued a tortie cat and lived with her for 16 years, she showed me photos and I knew she missed her. Charm was the kitty for her, and we all knew it.
And she likes people, she greets people at the door and gets her pets, but I’ve never seen her focus on one person for that long, even ignoring me completely. It was when Charm left Michelle for a few seconds and came over to me for pets, crouched down and purred while I petted her head and kissed her, then went right back to Michelle, that I knew Charm was telling me Michelle was the person for her.
I was thrilled that Charm would have such a wonderful home with someone who would understand her energy and her prey drive in play, and who looked forward to doting on her and spoiling her with lots of affection. Charm fit in well here, much to my surprise. She has a strong personality, and was accustomed to being independent and surviving on her own. I really thought there would be conflicts, but it’s testament to her sweet nature that she accepted her position in the clowder here, never once acted aggressively toward anyone. But she is a high energy cat who needs a lot of play and interaction. With my regular five she would be fine, but I know I’m always going to be fostering to some extent, this house is small, and in time that may have started to wear on her. Already she had started to spend time alone and sleep elsewhere rather than with the rest of us, and I sensed she was feeling crowded. Charm and I will always love each other, and I couldn’t be happier that I had the time and the means to help her when she needed it. I also know that I can help many more cats this way.
I was actually at my exhibit on the Panhandle Trail the weekend Michelle moved and Charm went home. But thinking of that magic of the first day in a new place, and Michelle not having to spend it alone but with her new kitty who she couldn’t wait to have in her life, I knew I could find someone to take care of my booth for a while during the slow time early evening so I could come home to feed all my cats and Michelle could pick up Charm after all her moving work was done. If I felt I hadn’t spent enough time with Charm in the past four months I wasn’t going to make up for it now. So Deana watched my booth while I drove home and Michelle was on her way. We decided she would feed Charm as soon as they arrived in their new home so I would hold off on the feeding until after she left.
Charm went to sit at the door, which is not terribly unusual since she likes to watch the chipmunk show in the evening as much as any other cat, but she stayed there. And when Michelle arrived a while later after being stuck in traffic, Charm was still there.
Michelle came down the walk talking to Charm about coming home and Charm stood up at the screen and reached where Michelle placed her hand, as if Charm knew exactly what was happening.
When she came in the door Michelle set down the new carrier she’d bought and said she hoped Charm wouldn’t mind it too much and it wouldn’t be too hard to get her into it, opened the door and Charm walked right in. She was ready! But we had a few more things to take care of, like Charm’s veterinary records and food information so Charm came back out and a parade of black cats went in. Eventually, all was settled. I gave Charm a little hug and a kiss and told her I was glad I was the one who could help her on her way to Michelle, and that I’d had the chance to spend some time with her. She grabbed my hand in her paws and gently bit my fingers while she gave me her sidelong glance from big green eyes, then tipped her nose up so we could nose tap. Back into the carrier she went, Michelle thanked me for about the 40th time for the wonderful cat she was adopting, and off they went.
I wish all adoptions were like that. It was like a fairy tale, and Charm will go on to live a charmed life to match her name.
And Michelle felt a connection to her from the first time she saw Charm’s photo, and couldn’t wait to share their lives together from the first time they met. Already Charm has settled in, follows her around and helps her around the house, especially when it involves setting up a new cat tree that belongs only to Charm. Charm is pretty inventive with her own plans too, I’m sure she’ll discover!
I say again, it is a gift you give when you find a home for an animal, a gift both for the cat, to have a loving, caring forever home with a human who cherishes them, and for the human, an animal who is ready to love them and share the home they provide.
Whenever I rescue a cat, after the process of seeing them in need and deciding to help them, and whatever it takes to get them in, I always let myself run through the idea of keeping the cat with me. Was the cat meant to be here? Is that why I found the cat and caught her and have her in my home? Can I love a cat enough for her to learn or relearn to trust humans and enjoy living inside and put up with stupid human things like claw trimmings and kisses on the face, and then let her go to someone else without the cat losing the sense of trust we’ve developed? In Charm’s case—a tortie! A really wonderful tortie! Such a sweet kitty and we loved each other right away. Seeing my current household anyone would think I’m a fancier of black cats, and I am, but I spent 20 years with two wonderful torties, and because of that I love every tortoiseshell cat I see.
But the guesswork about whether or not the cat and I are meant to stay together is only a formality. If you’ve been reading The Creative Cat for any length of time you know how many times I’ve done this with stories dating back to the mid 1980s, how much work it’s taken sometimes to bring the cat to health and trust and home life, then found an excellent home for the cat, in whom my heart is invested, to live. In all the times I’ve rescued, fostered and sent a cat on its journey to a new life, I’ve never regretted their leaving instead of staying with me, and I’ve only cried happy tears to know they and their new person would one day have as deep and complex a relationship as I did with the cats with whom I already shared my life.
So Charm is living her “charmed” life, with her fairy tale adoption. After her dire beginnings she stood a chance of disappearing into the street life of far too many unspayed female cats, but people who cared watched over her and rescued her, and I was so happy to help and to foster this wonderful little tortie until her forever person could find her.
I was up late the last few nights Charm was here getting ready for the show, and one night, all other cats asleep, Charm found me in my studio and was very pleased to have me all to herself. We had a wonderful time playing and Charm rubbed herself all over me and laid on my lap while I was printing photos. It’s one of those moments I’ll remember.
And you also know from reading my rescue stories that I remember each of them, and many of the details of the time we shared together, decades later. Like all the others who’ve come before her, I will never forget little Charmee, and she will always have a place in my heart. It was nice to have tortie here for a while again.
I regularly receive updates from Michelle, just random photos of Charm with her lush coat filling out and looking healthy and very, very happy.
And thanks, too, to Pittsburgh C.A.T. for helping me from start to finish with veterinary care and food for her and her kittens and the opportunity to advertise them for adoption and use their adoptive services for Charm and all five kittens. Thanks too to Missy for visiting to help socialize the kittens, donating food and the baby gate, fan and other items, and being instrumental in Charm’s rescue. And thanks to Jenn, who lives next door to where Charm and Scarlett were abandoned and took care of them. Fostering and finding homes without that support would have been nearly impossible for me right now!
If there is ever any doubt in your mind that you could foster a cat, please put that aside and give it a try. Charm was rescued from abandonment, literally, and she and her kittens will not have to live the cycle of reproduction, hunger and suffering living outdoors without the protection of a human. And if there was ever a doubt that you could give up a cat that you’d come to know and love as I have with Charm, seeing your foster meet the right person—and later on hearing about how happy they are—will dispel any sadness or doubt. It’s matchmaking at its best, and the best gift you’ve ever given anyone, introducing a human and an animal and seeing the first moments of that forever bond between a human and an animal.
Read other stories in my Rescue Stories series.
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All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item. Subscribe to The Creative Cat Preview E-newsletter. Weekly schedule of features: Tuesday: Rescue Stories Thursday: New Merchandise And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!
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All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
Subscribe to The Creative Cat Preview E-newsletter.
Weekly schedule of features:
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Thursday: New Merchandise
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!
© 2016 | www.TheCreativeCat.net | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski
Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!