A frightened gray tabby cat came from seemingly nowhere to chose a building where Portland cement was manufactured as his safe place. In the middle of farmland and woods he could have been a lifelong barn cat or been dropped off there by someone who thought a cat might enjoy life in the country, though it was obvious this was not the cat’s idea of a good time. He wasn’t neutered but he lacked the typical scars of life as a tomcat, yet he was frightened of people and unfriendly in a way that indicated he hadn’t had much contact with people, and it likely wasn’t pleasant.
He nonetheless caught the eye of one of the men who worked there, someone who had rescued other cats and who wasn’t concerned about the cat’s fears and attitude, but provided food and as much companionship as the cat would have. Neither asked anything from the other in return, but grew accustomed to each other in time, and even shared a few pets at the food bowl.
One morning months later in late November, however, that workman, Jim, came in to work to find the cat lying in a partially frozen puddle, barely moving, obviously injured. He’d been there for a while and no one else had taken any notice. Jim scooped the cat up and took him home, but without a lot of resources he wasn’t sure what to do. One of the rescuers who is also a foster, Lynn, works with Jim and had also been keeping an eye on the cat and Jim, and when she heard about the incident she called the Frankie’s Friends clinic in Tarentum and made arrangements. Jim immediately took the cat to the clinic.
The cat was christened “Puddles” and was not looking good. The leg was fractured and the fracture was not new but partially calcified and beginning to heal incorrectly. From the break, the cold and the time in the puddle he was very weak but he was hostile and hard to handle. He had a cast put on the fracture when he was neutered and blood taken when he was under; he tested FIV+, and he needed a lot of care while his leg healed. Because of his hostile nature and the FIV results he would stay at the clinic in very skilled hands for his best chance of healing and surviving the ordeal. Those in the rescue group immediately began donating money to support the care for this homeless and injured cat regardless of his attitude.
Puddles was a difficult patient to say the least. He had a great appetite but was definitely not accustomed to being indoors, let alone in a cage, made a mess of his cage and would not use his litterbox so began to develop sores around the injury on his leg. The cast and then the splint needed to be changed frequently and then wrapped in plastic to keep it clean and dry, and the leg and Puddles needed to be bathed regularly. But everyone was understanding of his attitude and gave him the compassionate care he needed. In most other circumstances he would have been euthanized for the level of care he needed, the possible complications from his FIV and the difficulty of caring for him when scarce resources are needed for other patients, but for as long as he was healing and not suffering, he would receive whatever care he needed. People cheered him on with every photo posted from the clinic, Puddles with the heart-shaped nose.
Eventually he was well enough and his leg healed enough to go home. It was hoped he’d mellow out a bit when he got out of the cage and into a room where he had some space.
Lynn knew who to ask. “I think Jim took Puddles home thinking he wouldn’t make it much longer and just wanted him to be warm and not freezing and all alone,” Lynn said. “Jim had told me that he would adopt Puddles and give him a home, so I again asked Jim and he still wanted him.”
To help Puddles adjust to being an indoor cat, Jim built him an enclosure inside a spare room in his house that had steps to a window so Puddles could see outside, and he and Lynn went to pick up Puddles at the clinic.
“Jim put his hand into the crate, Puddles sniffed Jim’s hand and Puddles let Jim pet his head. Of course then Puddles hissed!” Lynn remembered. “I do think Puddles remembered Jim.”
And just as hoped, Puddles wasted no time learning to enjoy the comfort of indoor living in a home where people loved him. Lynn received regular updates from Jim at work and a photo of Puddles in his room, and shared them with the group. Puddles went home with Jim on March 6 and on March 11 Lynn excitedly posted, “Jim just stopped in. Puddles is adjusting wonderfully. Jim had built him an enclosure to put him in until Puddles felt safe, and Puddles doesn’t even use it. Puddles is running to Jim when Jim enters the room. He gives Jim head butts, wants neck scratches and cries for Jim when Jim leaves the room.”
“Jim only had him in there a few days because Puddles was doing so well,” Lynn said. “I think by a week, Puddles was actually crying for Jim in the morning to come to visit and feed him. Puddles would even follow Jim to the door when Jim would leave the spare room. He was doing so well that he had the run of the house when Jim was home. He was letting Jim’s wife feed and pet him a bit and Puddles was even making friends with one of the two cats Jim had in his home.”
But a morning just a few weeks later Puddles wasn’t around when Jim went to feed the cats. He found Puddles in his crate in the spare room having trouble breathing. It was completely unexpected and Jim called Lynn to ask what it might be and what to do, but in that short conversation Puddles passed away. It was March 28, just a few weeks after he’d joined the household.
A necropsy showed he had cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the heart muscle that prevents the heart from pumping blood efficiently to circulate the body, and congestive heart failure, blood clots or sudden death are often the result. It’s not uncommon in cats, and it’s often congenital, a defect of the heart from birth. In all the handling he’d had during all the months at the clinic which were so stressful for him, anesthetics and sedatives, there was never a sign of a cardiac issue, his heart rate was strong and regular under anesthetic and out, he never showed a breathing problem and no other typical symptoms of cardiomyopathy.
It could have been he’d had the heart disease all along and as he grew more ill and less able to care for himself he looked for comfort and found the building and the care he needed. Perhaps he waited until he finally had the security and comfort a home of his own and people who loved him until he finally had to give in to the disease. At least he knew he was loved, for however short a time it was, and others followed his story and cheered him on.
Read other stories in my Rescue Stories series.
This is “Blog the Change Day”
This is the day we pet bloggers affirm that we are working for the good of all animals and show support for people helping animals in need each 15th of January, April, July and October. We write about a cause near and dear to our heart and hope readers share their comments and ideas. I couldn’t even begin to share all the rescue stories that pass by me every day from all the people out there on the streets who rescue ill and injured animals and provide spay/neuter and veterinary care for cats who are homeless through no fault of their own.
Puddles’s story embodies the immense and selfless task of helping homeless pets, especially homeless cats, simply because they need it, not because they are cute or photogenic or adoptable or even make the news. They just need love and care, and they get it from those who don’t question the need. This is something we should do for all living things.
Read the good stories and the sad stories and know it’s all to do good for animals.
Browse some rescued cats and kittens!
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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!