A friend sends an email to ask what she should do with a cat who’s been hanging around her porch, another about how to introduce the stray cat she’s decided to take in to her current animal household of cat and dog. Sometimes it’s a request for an affordable place to get a cat spayed or where to find low-cost veterinary care. And sometimes I happen to mention that I know something about cats and someone says, “You might be able to help me!” It’s been like this for decades, but in any and all cases I’m glad to use the information I’ve learned in my years of rescuing cats—and other animals too—to lend a hand to others who just need information or a connection made with services.
Walk into a store and come out with a good story
I went to a small health food store at about 8:00 in the evening to purchase two supplements for my cats’ raw food. The clerk, who happened to be the store’s manager, helped me find what I needed and what would be the best deal between brands and quantities.
I rarely tell people I’m purchasing these things for my cats unless I want to explain why I’m looking for a specific dosage or formula, which is rare. I usually do my shopping this way, a few errands just before stores close so I spend the least amount of time at the effort.
But for some reason I decided to mention to the manager that I was purchasing these particular things to add to my cats’ raw food which I’d be mixing up that night, possibly because I appreciated the manager’s service and the contents of the store and thought I would probably come back to purchase other things as well.
“You know cats? You can probably help me then!” All conversation about supplements pushed aside he told me about the cat he and a few other store owners had heard meowing behind the buildings all afternoon. “It just broke my heart to hear it meow like that, I couldn’t stand the thought it was so scared or maybe even hurt.” He had even called his wife as he explained they both love animals very much and would do whatever they could for this cat, but didn’t know what to do. The hairdresser next door was out there looking as well and saw it but couldn’t catch it, but at least they knew it wasn’t hurt.
I explained that I could help him with this. I had a humane trap and I’d be glad to help them trap this cat.
Putting everything down that I was to purchase he led me out the front door of the shop to talk to the hairdresser next door and asked what she knew and then told her we would try to trap the cat. We went back through the store and then out the back door where a few from the hairdresser’s shop, a couple who were doing some electrical work in one of the stores, and a woman from a medical clinic in the next building had also gathered. The shops are in a small strip mall with a one-lane road behind and a steep hill rising up to houses on the edge of the road. Everyone mentioned having seen and heard the cat and they had cans of tuna in a box where the cat could either eat safely or they’d try to catch him. There was no sign of the cat, no meows or rustling or anything.
The woman from the medical clinic was concerned it might actually be her cat. She drove an hour from a rural area across the state line in Ohio, mostly interstate driving, and she’d heard meowing on the way in. She had a 10-week old kitten that was black just like the cat they’d seen, and she was afraid it might be her kitten, even though he didn’t go outside. She had seen the cat around her car in this parking lot but not connected anything until she heard it meowing a little later, and she tried but couldn’t get near it. No one was home at her house right then so she couldn’t find out if it was her kitten until she got there.
I explained to everyone about how I would trap the cat. Since all the businesses were closing I would come back early the next day and set the trap and they could all take turns checking it, and for now we’d put a can of tuna in the place where we’d set the trap the next day. I told them about HCMT and how and why we rescue cats like this, and the cat would be safe. If it was meowing, it was not feral, and so likely it would be adoptable at some point.
The next morning I went back, the food was uneaten, and no cat. I asked the health food store manager and he hadn’t heard anything, so I went to the medical clinic. It turns out the cat rode home with the woman in the wheel well or undercarriage of her car. She didn’t see the cat before she left, but when she was driving she heard meowing again. She got home and heard meowing, put some food near her car and eventually the cat came out, but ran, then later the food was gone. Her cat was safely in the house. She had seen the cat again that morning before she left, but no meowing on the way in.
She lives in the middle of nowhere so either this cat traveled very far for a lost cat, or was dumped near her or actually in her yard; possibly it was following the smell of cat food cans or bags in her trash from her kitten. I told her the cat was socialized and likely friendly but scared and to put food out in the same place each day and take it away at night, and the cat would get used to the habit and it might come to trust her, or she could just trap it more easily that way. She said she’d keep it if she could catch it. I asked her to let me know what happened and I’d be glad to see that she got help trapping if she needed it.
It’s likely the cat had been around for a while but she didn’t notice, and because she works 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. her car would be warm right about the time the night started getting cold. If her car was familiar enough the cat may have quit wandering the evening I was there and found the car it knew and climbed up into the undercarriage. It had been around during daylight, but disappeared when darkness fell.
I don’t always take people at face value, especially where cat things are concerned, but she seemed sincere, and there was no way for me to find out and check. But I hope by now this woman has two little housepanthers looking out her window when she gets home.
The miracle of neutering
At the beginning of December a friend I’ve known for years and who adopted from me way back in 1992 messaged me on Facebook about a friendly male cat in her neighborhood she’d decided to take in. She took him to her vet and aside from fleas and earmites he was healthy and tested negative for the two bad ones, got rabies and FVRCP vaccines. He wouldn’t be neutered at her vet until December 22, but she felt bad that he was out in the cold and she wanted to bring him in before neutering. How would she introduce him to her current dog and cat?
I cautioned her about him coming in contact with her cat after just coming in from the outdoors—even if a cat tests negative and appears healthy there could be any number of things they could be carrying, even just an upper respiratory infection, but that could pass to her other cat. Other things could be more serious. And behaviorally, a slow introduction is the best idea, letting him stay in quarantine and get used to the sounds and smells of the house, so the two things work together. But until he’s fixed he may spray so she wouldn’t want him in the main part of the house and suggested a shelter in the garage. Alternately she could build him a straw filled shelter in a protected place outside and he could stay toasty in there until his appointment. I also offered to see about getting him an appointment sooner so she could bring him right in and start the process sooner.
She thanked me and said I’d mentioned a few things she hadn’t thought of. She wanted to make sure everything was done right to help make it successful and she’d call her vet and see if she could bump up the appointment.
A week or so later she told me she’d tried to take him in but she wasn’t sure he wanted to be in. She had him in a spare bedroom, stayed with him a while and played with him, went to bed and then heard him meowing at 2 a.m., looking out the window and jumping up onto things, so she put him outside at 4:30 a.m. He was on the porch and in his insulated house. She brought him back in to eat but he only ate a bite, finishing it all when she put him and the food back outside. She was glad that he had used the litter box and was still friendly. But she just wasn’t sure about him in with her cat and dog, and already her cat was hissing. She really didn’t want to take him to the shelter.
I told her about the magic of neutering, and how she’d be surprised how different he would act once he didn’t have his hormones telling him what to do. Her cat would feel different about him once he wasn’t reeking of feline testosterone too. It would take time to integrate, but if she felt she needed to surrender him I’d help find the best place and manner of surrendering him.
She understood and thanked me for responding so quickly. I could tell she was very worried about whether or not this would work after the experience the night before.
The next time I heard from her was just after Christmas when she messaged, “I’m excited to write you and tell you that the neutering went well and, it did make a hell of a difference…I almost can’t believe it’s the same cat.”
Ah, success. I was shocked the first few times too, but now recommend spay or neuter as the first step toward good behavior, or socializing a cat who’s a little on the feral side. He has not begun integrating yet, only sniffed with her cat Lucy under the door. She would do the introduction very slowly and in time she was sure it would work out. I gave her a few more tips on introductions. With his reaction to being indoors and her cat’s reaction to even seeing him outside, she had almost given up. But I’m glad she asked, and that I could help her.
I don’t run out when a cat needs something, I don’t spend days trapping, and I don’t foster very much, three things that used to be a part of nearly every day. Instead I sit here and answer a lot of questions, give directions or make arrangements. This way I can probably help many more cats than if I was out on the road or had every inch of space in my house filled with cats.
If you read about Butterscotch in the HCMT calendar who was hit by a car, when Carol found him she tried to decide the best place to take him: to one of the emergency clinics or to our clinic which isn’t always staffed. But that’s usually done by texting and messaging, something she couldn’t do while driving, so she called me to see if I had any idea if there would be someone at the clinic or if she could meet someone there, something she and others have done. And contacting those who would be at the clinic or could meet her there is not always simple or straightforward. So I stayed on the phone with her as she started her journey, and knowing that we had a mini clinic for fosters that night messaged someone I knew would be in touch with those at the clinic, who in turn did contact them and make arrangements for Carol to take Butters directly there. I stayed on the phone with Carol, not imagining how hard it would be to be alone with this gravely injured kitten who seemed to be having seizures and breathing difficulty. Butters had a long road to recovery but he’s doing well, and Carol is truly a hero for taking care of her colonies in difficult areas, and giving Butters love and therapy in his recovery.
I play that type of role for many people who are not in our group but need to get an appointment for a clinic, or find out which vets handle feral cats, or who have cats who need to be trapped and need help. Rescuing has so many elements, and I’m glad to have knowledge I can share to help people who want to rescue and the cats they are rescuing.
And a few times I’ve even helped to rescue dogs too, because many people who rescue cats also rescue dogs and know dog resources, and some of the contacts at shelters and rescues are the same.
I sometimes laugh at the idea that I’ve finally made it into management and can sit around and organize the work instead of actually doing it, but I’m glad it’s in this field and not in any other that I’d worked in.
But if you can’t be out there trapping cats or filling your house with fosters but still want to help, then gathering the knowledge that helps those who are rescuing and fostering and just being available to advise and direct is a bigger help than you can imagine.
And then sometimes it turns on you and you end up with kittens in your bathroom. The woman who trapped and initially fostered Jack and Diane had contacted me for information about trapping, the clinics, fostering and socializing. I knew she had planned travel out of the country for Christmas and if we couldn’t find anyone else to foster Jack and Diane, that I would. But kittens are their own reward.
Read other stories in my Rescue Stories series.
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.
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Art and Gifts Featuring Cats You Know!
HCMT/Pittsburgh C.A.T. 2017 Calendar from Portraits of Animals!
I designed and am publishing this calendar on behalf of these two organizations for which I volunteer and support. All proceeds of sales of this calendar after costs will go directly to our work Making Life Better for Cats Every Day of the Year. Price includes shipping. You’ll find a box to enter your address or special instructions in your shopping cart.
Each month features a cat and its story who we rescued through TNR or rescue from abandonment, neglect or abuse, offered medical treatment, fostering, socialization, and a loving forever home that met their individual needs.
In addition, each month is sponsored with an ad from veterinarians, businesses and individuals who support HCMT and Pittsburgh C.A.T., including five of the veterinarians who regularly take a shift at our clinics to spay and neuter plus pet sitting and pet first aid training so you have ready resources for services you and your pets can use right at your fingertips.
© 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!