Trapping an injured feral cat wasn’t actually on my schedule on January 27, but it fit right in.
A concerned person shared a video of this cat limping badly down the street, almost looking as if she was balancing on her two front paws and dragging her hind legs. I saw the message and realized the cat was actually quite close to me, and had walked into a wooded area along a creek that I am very familiar with. (Initially I wrote up the story referring to this cat as a male, but looking at the cat’s build I was pretty much convinced the cat was female. And she is!)
This video was taken and shared by Carlee, the concerned neighbor who called about this cat until she found the help the cat needed. I have her permission to share here.
I went to add my trap to one that a volunteer had already set, which was in front of the houses where the cat had been walking down the sidewalk. Carlee showed me where the cat had gone. In these photos, you’ll see the slope, and the opening to the ceramic pipe that she crawled into above the stream, and her paw prints through the snow.
I’m not scared to climb up or down hills but this was loose rock with ice and snow and very little to hold onto. I wanted to set the trap as close as possible to where the cat was, but there was no level spot near there and the ground was covered with snow and ice. Carlee and her son and I scanned the area and found the garage a few feet from the top of the hill had a clear spot under an overhang and right in line with where her pawprints had disappeared over the hill.
I asked Carlee to heat up the canned canned chicken and tuna and I set the trap. She and her son went back indoors, I decided to sit in my car for a while. The sun had gone behind the hill, it would soon be dark, and a very cold night was forecast. I didn’t want to hope the cat would come out because chances were she would not. She had to be exhausted and in pain trying to walk on two hind legs that were injured or possibly broken, and it could be she went into her hiding place when it grew dark and stayed there overnight for safety.
On the other hand, I have my best luck trapping cats at dusk. It’s a biologically natural hunting time for cats, when diurnal, or daytime, animals are still active finding their last meal and nocturnal, or nighttime, animals are just getting up and are hungry, so there are twice as many chances for a meal. Even for a cat with two injured hind legs who won’t be hunting, biology rules.
As I pondered all this and kept glancing in that direction I prepared an update to send to Margo and share on the post that sent me there.
But within 10 minutes a little black and white face popped up over the edge of the hill, looking right at the trap!
My heart skipped a beat! I was sure she’d come up for the smell of the chicken and tuna, but would she actually go into the trap?I quickly pulled out my DSLR with the telephoto lens and started snapping photos.
She walked toward it, sat down halfway there and looked right at me.
This was one brave cat with a strong will to live, and she was going to check her risks before going any farther.
She knew I was there, and she knew I was watching. She could still get back over the hill to her safe spot even if I came running toward her. She may have been chased before. She may have seen traps before. She might be a socialized cat accustomed to humans. She was probably judging my actions as much as I was judging hers: Would I stay where I was? Could I be trusted to keep my distance long enough for her to get to the food and eat it? I sent her as many promises as I could, I would keep my distance, I only wanted good for her, I knew she was hurting, but I knew she was strong and brave. The trap might be scary, but the food was good, and at the end of it was help for her.
After a minute or so of this exchange, she got up and continued on toward the trap. My heart settled and most of my doubts slipped away. And I would keep my promise to stay keep my distance and let her do what she needed to do. I wanted her to do just that. When we learn to trap a cat, that’s the vow of trust we make.
But my heart did a flip flop again when it looked as if she had walked right into the trap, but it turned out she had walked along behind it. She made a few tries to get to the food through the trap, then turned around and headed back to the front of the trap.
And she confidently walked right in, almost looking as if she was walking normally.
Then the legs crumpled again, but she was at the food.
Except the trap hadn’t tripped! I could see the trip plate was behind her front paws, and they held her torso above it, and with her awkward positioning because of those injured hind legs, she was way above the trip plate.
Well, most cats I trap trip the plate as they settle into the food and lower themselves down onto their chest, or when they turn around to leave, but I was in the car trying to figure out what I had on hand to try to make the trap close from a distance.
She did shuffle, turned a little bit and pulled her hind legs up behind her and moved closer to the food, and hit the trip plate. But she didn’t stop eating. Usually when cats hear the gate closing is when they realize they are trapped and start to freak out, but she didn’t pay any attention.
I let her eat what looked like most of the food, then I got out of the car and started to move toward her. She turned and looked at me again. I tried to send her positive vibes so she would stay calm.
As I drew closer she turned around, sat up and looked at me, really unexpected behavior. I still didn’t want to frighten her as I came toward her and eventually she started to cower so I gently laid the cover over the trap.
I left her there to calm down and went back to Carlee’s house to let her know we’d trapped her, then we got her into Carlee’s basement. From there she went to the Homeless Cat Management Team clinic where she’d be assessed.
Two broken legs
When she was examined and xrayed, it was clear she really did have two broken legs, the tibia and fibula of both hind legs, and that the injuries were about a month old. And this was when she got her name—the veterinarian said “yowza!” when she saw the images, and so they added “meow” to give her the purrfect name.
All of January was either bitter cold with a good bit of snow and ice, and even soaking rains. How did she survive when she could barely walk? What horrible pain she was in! She definitely has a strong will to live.
But what do you do with a feral cat who would need to be confined and treated for a couple of months, if the surgery could even be done at this point? The surgery itself would be tricky with shattered bones and pins and plates, and a lot of pain afterward as well. And she did seem more along the feral end of behavior. How would that work for her?
HCMT found a veterinarian at Ebensburg Animal Hospital who felt the surgery was possible, and since it was clear to everyone this cat had worked very hard to stay alive and done very well despite her injuries, and showed all indications she intended to continue with this, that the surgery would be done.
So, Tuesday, February 8 she went to Ebensburg. They decided to do one surgery on Wednesday and the other at the end of the week, but were able to do them both on Wednesday. I will update on her condition as she progresses.
Make a donation to support HCMT
The surgery cost $5,000, and HCMT was able to raise the entire amount in about a week, but donations are always welcome. HCMT can only offer to help cats like Meowza because of a regular flow of donations even when there isn’t an urgent situation.
Here are two ways to donate:
And you can also go to www.homelesscat.org/donate-to-hcmt.html to find other ways you can support cats like Meowza.
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