Sunday, May 19, 2024
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Rescue Story: Anne Shirley is Rescued and Up for Adoption!

tortoiseshell cat at abandoned house
Anne Shirley is waiting.

Several weeks ago a woman I’ve worked with before concerning cats contacted me about another cat she had seen and begun feeding on her walks around her neighborhood. This was an adult tortie who decided to settle on the porch of an abandoned house a few doors down from where the woman lived.

While she says she’s not a “cat person” or even an “animal person”, not growing up with pets at all, she could see this pretty tortie likely had no home, and was hungry too. In the memory of her beloved pap who had cared for and fed cats outdoors, she began feeding the tortie as she started out on her walk each evening. Soon, the kitty was waiting for her, talking to her, and coming almost close enough to touch.

She contacted me to ask what she could do for the girl. Another rescuer had brought a winter shelter over to help her stay warm at least. She felt so bad the kitty was living on a filthy porch at an abandoned house when it was pretty clear she wanted more out of life than that.

tortoiseshell cat at abandoned house
Her home base.

And then, as she was able to come even closer to the kitty, she saw that she was wearing a black flea collar. Did she belong to someone? She had heard that the house had contained animals and that many had been brought out of it at one point, and we speculated the tortie might have actually lived in that house. In any case, we needed to find if she was lost or if she actually was someone’s indoor-outdoor cat. She posted the cat’s photo on Nextdoor and Facebook where she was shared widely. One person in her neighborhood said the cat lived a few streets away, or at least was seen there regularly. This didn’t amount to much as no one ever responded. Others mentioned lost torties, but, reminiscent of when I took in Sienna, none of them were a match.

Let’s get her off the streets

So we discussed plans for bringing the tortie in and finding her a home. There was no room with anyone to foster her, so she had to stay there until we found a place for her to go, even if that was to go directly to a rescue or shelter. And while the kitty was talkative and came close to her, she was not confident about picking her up or handling her in any way, and she didn’t move to eat her food until her caretaker walked away, so trapping would be the best solution to handle her safely.

tortoiseshell cat at abandoned house
Anne Shirley is waiting for her caretaker.

When would we do this? We really didn’t know, but I was concerned that she might not be spayed and, it being kitten season, might be pregnant. And the woman was going away and just couldn’t leave the tortie girl without being fed so it would be as soon as we could find a place for her to go. Her brother is a cat guy and has trapped and rescued a number of cats, and safely surrendered a few to a shelter in West Virginia, the Marshall County Animal Rescue League. Here in southwestern Pennsylvania we know that shelters in West Virginia are generally pretty bad places for animals because many are still the equivalent of the old dog pound with no intention of looking for an adoptive home for the animals they take in. Shelters, rescues and individuals have regularly taken animals out of those places just to give them a chance. But several shelters throughout the state have been completely changed by a lot of hard work and they are caring and safe places to surrender pets if necessary, Marshall County being one of them.

I remembered some pretty horrible things about a shelter by that name a few years ago, and indeed when I looked it up posts from 2015 came up, protests outside the shelter and letter-writing campaigns decrying the high kill rate at the place. But then the news stories that the old place was shut down and new people had redesigned the shelter and made it into an open door shelter with lots of resources for the community and its pets.

tortoiseshell cat at abandoned house

She checked with all the rescues around as did I, and then called the shelter and explained the situation. They said they had space and many resources to find her a home if she was socialized. If not they would do their best to find the right situation for her. She would be fully vetted. It sounded good, but the important question is just what they do with unadoptable cats, or if cats are adoptable but are not adopted? I told her to ask if they had a foster program for adult cats because she was coming right in off the street, and if they would give her a chance, weeks, months, to settle down and get ready for adoption. And what they would do if she wasn’t adoptable. The person said they had a program in the shelter for adults because most foster homes were full of kittens, and many cats had gone through the shelter socialization program. Cats who were feral or could not be adopted went out as working cats on various farms.

Planning to trap her

Below, the porch where she had been living.

As we came down to the week before she would be going away, we planned to start trying to trap early in the week. We discussed her caretaker trapping on her own, or me going over there or perhaps calling in a few others since I was in the middle of buying a car and feeding Denise’s ferals and was plenty busy already, and didn’t want to let her down. She texted me on Tuesday and said the kitty was sitting on the steps and she was going to go down to feed. I said I’d be right over with the trap and trapping stuff. I put it in the back of my new car, put on my Goddess tee so Cookie could guide this tortie into the trap, and off I went.

me in my Goddess tee
Me in my Cookie Goddess tee.

I drove past the house when I got over there, and sure enough there was a tortie on the steps. I turned around and came back, and she was a little farther down the steps. I said hello to her, took a few photos, and she was not frightened by me but made direct eye contact and was talking a little in return. Then I went to the woman’s house and prepared her for our trapping experience.

We had initially talked about tying the trap open and feeding her in it to see what her reaction was. I choose that first in some cases because the trap itself may frighten a cat, and tying it open and watching the cat’s behavior can often help decide if the cat will or won’t eventually go in, if it wants nothing to do with the trap, or if it’s focused enough on the food that they just need to get accustomed to the trap. If it looks as if the cat will go in, then we just feed the cat in the trap, moving the food farther back each day, then set it when the cat gets to the back. If the cat takes off and chooses not to eat, I may choose to go right to a drop trap. After watching this cat, and how she acted with her caretaker, I decided to just set the thing and hope that, since she was pretty socialized and responsive and had a deep trust of her caretaker, she’d go in.

tortoiseshell cat at abandoned house
She watches us set the trap.

I was going to set the trap and let her caretaker carry it up the street and set it down, and lurk off to the side so I wouldn’t frighten her off. But it seemed better if I managed the trap and the tortie didn’t seem bothered by my presence. We shuffled the trap around so her food would actually be in the spot it always was but it wasn’t easy for her to get into the trap that way because of the steps and the grass, so ended up just setting the trap straight on to her at the foot of the steps.

Then we went far enough away that we could watch but we weren’t near, though she could see us. She came right down to the trap, but walked around to the back where the food was, as most cats do. She looked up at us with an accusing expression, then walked around the trap a few times. She was right, it was weird. It’s always interesting to see how cats react to traps. She had gone back to sit on the steps and think things over, but didn’t seem frightened.

I knew we were still in the kitty’s space even though we were two houses away, and that gave her hesitation about the trap, it was just one too many differences in her routine. I suggested we walk past her, have the woman interact with her a little, then we’d just take a walk around the block, get out of sight and hearing. We would only be gone minutes, though I hated to leave a trap unattended and this trap was not far from the street with other people walking and cars driving past. We stopped and the woman had the sweetest little conversation with the kitty, telling her it was okay and she should just go into the trap, and this was how she was going to find her new home. It was clear the kitty trusted her, but still sat on the steps.

tortoiseshell cat at abandoned house
Anne’s caretaker talking to her.

So we took our walk, about 10 minutes, and when we came around the last corner and came into sight of the trap, at first it looked as if she was sitting next to it again, but she was actually in it! I really couldn’t believe our luck. She started pacing and meowing when she saw us—I had carried the sheet with me and put it over the trap immediately. I carried her to the woman’s house, and into the garage we went, layering towels and a pee pad under her and slipping a small container and some water inside.

She resumed meowing when we lifted the sheet to check on her, especially when we talked to her. “You’ll be fine, kitty.”  “MEOW!” “Please eat your dinner.” “MEOW!” But she was okay, not frightened but puzzled. She would be fine, and probably also like Sienna, once she made the transition back to an indoor space she would relax and probably be handled.

What’s in a name?

We talked about a name for her. My first thought was Tootsie, kind of like Tootsie Roll and it’s a cute name. But after having met her it didn’t seem right. I knew there was some goddess who had a good name for her, but I couldn’t think of it or any others I liked, so I let it go until I got home and could hit the books and look things up. I left to feed Denise’s cats, and the woman watched over her until the next day when she drove her to the shelter.

I didn’t care for the goddess’s name either, but Anne as in Anne of Green Gables kept coming back to me as a name for her—abandoned, unwanted, but still social and talkative, and a red head, where torties have their ginger speckles. With the way she had conversations with us, I could just hear myself saying, “Anne Shirley, why did you do that?” And she would answer. So Anne Shirley it was.

Off to the shelter

Her caretaker had the chance to talk to a few people while she was there, including a woman who was there to adopt a second dog and loved the shelter, and another person who said they really worked hard for the animals and helped the community. It’s always difficult to just leave them there and often not know what happened to them, but we are both confident she’ll be fine in short order, and that her personality will attract someone who loves outgoing and interactive cats like her.

Another kitty off the streets. It’s a good thing.

Here’s where you can find her!

The shelter has her listed for adoption too—it was certainly interesting to see that familiar face. She looks a little scared but more bewildered, I’m sure it’s all been very strange for her. I had guessed her age as two to three at least because her face and body looked mature like an adult’s. The shelter has her listed as seven years old, so she would be in the mature adult category. Of course, I will follow her! And encourage you to go and adopt her!


screenshot of shelter cat
Tootsie Anne Shirley on the shelter’s Facebook page.

You can also find her on Petfinder.


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