Rescue Story: Formerly Feral Sam

former feral orange cat
Sam enjoying indoor life.

The life of a feral community cat through the course of 20 years in a neighborhood where she has food and shelter available, and caretakers who keep track of her as she grows old.

~~~

About 20 springs ago, a litter of kittens was born under a porch that included a solid ginger tabby female. She was trapped and spayed along with her mother and the other kittens and returned under the porch to be fed and cared for by the person who lived there.

In 2014, for a reason known only to the ginger girl, she migrated several streets farther down the hill to my friend Peg’s front porch, showing up now and then for meals. Peg names all the cats who show up at her porch, and because ginger females are not so common she presumed the cat was male and named her Sam. Her left ear was tipped so Peg knew she had been fixed and had at least a rabies vaccine, and she appeared quite healthy, so no need to trap her then.

former feral orange cat
The first time Sam showed up on the porch.

Some time later Peg discovered a neighbor with whom she sometimes walked had been Sam’s caretaker and discovered Sam’s origin story. The name “Sam” can work for girls as well as boys, and Sam she remained, and she also remained on Peg’s front porch, deciding to stay  there full time, napping on the couch or sleeping in the shelter, sometimes sleeping under the rhododendron on the cool soil in the heat of summer.

former feral orange cat
Sam under the rhododendron.

In time Peg realized that Sam didn’t react to loud noises and likely had some hearing issues, though she seemed to be managing well despite that. Peg tested Sam’s hearing in various ways, making loud noises, talking loudly, and that led to another revelation about Sam. She snuck up near Sam, reached out and ran her finger down Sam’s side, expecting her to be startled. To her surprise, Sam wanted more of those pets, and started to purr. With that, Sam grew a little more friendly all the time, greeting Peg and enjoying pets, and really never leaving her little territory on and around the porch.

former feral orange cat
Sam on the couch outside.

Winter was coming on in 2017, and though Sam had done well enough all this time with her hearing issues, Peg knew Sam was in her upper teens. All sorts of other cats and animals visit Peg’s porch, and Sam was growing vulnerable as she grew older, and knowing Sam’s age she also wanted to get her vetted and see where things stood with her health.

former feral orange cat
Sam in her shelter.

Peg has two indoor cats she’d adopted years before, and while she had taken in some feral kittens or other community cats to foster for successful adoptions, it was pretty clear Sam would be difficult to adopt, if at all. Taking Sam in for her safety would mean keeping Sam permanently. She didn’t feel she had the space for another permanent cat, but little Sam convinced her that taking her in was the best thing she could do.

And so, one morning in autumn 2017, Peg picked her up and put her in a carrier for the ride to the second floor of the house. Sam took up residence in Peg’s office, settling in just as easily as she had on the front porch.

former feral orange cat
Tucked into her bed.

In the succeeding years, Peg also took in two other former ferals. Both she and another caretaker had been feeding Tommy, an elusive tabby and white male I’d been chasing for years, and in 2019 Peg befriended him in much the same way, got him into a carrier and took him inside. We got him all fixed up and he and Sam worked it out over some months and became the best of friends, napping together under Peg’s desk and obviously enjoying each others’ company.

former feral orange cat
Sam and Tommy share the bed.

In December 2020, we trapped a young cat who appeared to have a prolapsed uterus, which turned out to be a prolapsed rectum when examined at the clinic. F’Ave Tux, for Fifth Avenue Tux, needed surgery and recovered with HCMT, then was returned to Peg who released him. By the following spring he’d been following her around her yard and actually sitting on her lap, so she renamed him Stryder and he joined Sam and Tommy in spring 2021.

The three former ferals in such wide-ranging ages got along fine, even through Stryder’s terrible twos when he yowled and leaped around the room through the night.

Waiting for a treat

Sam was approaching the age of 20 this year. Her deafness had likely been caused by a lifetime of ear infections which persisted and her ears needed a lot of care. In addition, she developed some nasal discharge which became more and more persistent and was difficult for her to clean off, and she steadily lost weight. She could be “ornery” as Peg described, and needed a gabapentin to get through a veterinary visit, but she didn’t have any defined conditions. Last autumn Peg and her veterinarian discussed just keeping Sam comfortable, making sure she ate and drank and appeared happy as she drew near the end of her life.

Peg called me about Sam earlier this month, knowing Sam’s time was near, but how do you know when it’s really time? I told her Sam would let her know, and gave her some of the guidelines I’ve used, given to me by my veterinarian years ago, and told her to call her veterinarian and discuss the decision, including accommodations for euthanasia if that seemed to be the best decision for Sam. Sam’s veterinarian would be ready to see her whenever the time was right.

I got to see Sam for the last time on March 1, and though kind of emaciated and hobbling with a messy face, she came out when I came in the door and walked in my direction, as much of a greeting as she could give, enjoyed some pets and some photos, and spent quite some time with us. I’ve seen plenty of cats at this point, and knew she was near, but she was going to live every last moment to its fullest. Living most of her life outdoors as a deaf feral cat gave her an endurance that would be hard to take down. When she was done with us, she got some pets from Peg, then curled up again in the bed under the desk from which she’d emerged.

Peg let me know a few days later that Sam had passed peacefully at her veterinarian’s office.

former feral orange cat
Peg gives Sam some pets the day I visited.

It’s a wonderful world when one little ginger girl can live 20 years on her own terms in safety and health, finding what she needs at the time she needs it. It’s community cat care at its best.


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From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

4 thoughts on “Rescue Story: Formerly Feral Sam

  • March 30, 2022 at 7:54 pm
    Permalink

    Angel Sam was given the chance to live without litters and litters of kittens, and was treated with respect and love.
    Am sorry that she left this Earth, but everyone who knew her knows she lived a great life.

    Reply
    • April 1, 2022 at 8:40 pm
      Permalink

      It’s the least we can do, right? I’m glad I know people who will take this kind of care.

      Reply
  • March 28, 2022 at 7:43 pm
    Permalink

    Such a wonderful story! I’m glad that Sam got to live out her life with your friend. Sometimes it is just knowing that you are loved that makes a difference.

    Reply
    • April 1, 2022 at 8:38 pm
      Permalink

      Cats can be difficult to read, and feral cats especially, but it’s pretty clear when they know they are loved.

      Reply

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