Wednesday, July 24, 2024
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Rescue Story: Nomad, Wandering No More

tabby cat on lap
Nomad shows off some of his best features.

Can a longtime intact male cat change his stripes and move indoors with other cats and dogs? If your name is Nomad and you are fortunate enough to be rescued by a person who fell in love with just the photos of your jowly tabby face and XXL multi-toed paws, and then her husband wants to keep you just as much, and they bake cakes you can eat and other food you can steal, and you can sleep anywhere, any time, in any position, it just might be a successful transition.

And it didn’t even take that long!

tabby cat
Nomad needing help–look at that thumb!

On June 8, 2013 a member posted in the rescue group, “Can anyone here go to Turtle Creek and pick up a friendly, intact male, tabby polydactyl? He is injured, sounds like a facial abscess and needs to be seen by a vet at some point.” Turtle Creek is a very small semi-rural town east of Pittsburgh.

Nomad-before2The person offered to help pay and that he just needed to get to a safe place. She explained a co-worker had been feeding the cat but was now worried about the cat and couldn’t do anything about the medical condition.

At that point his name was still Tommy, and the initial photos pictured a large tabby cat with a cauliflower ear and at least one large paw visible with a few extra toes.

A rescuer named Debbie Christy Nicola, the same person who now has the kittens Cookie and Jelly Bean and mom cat Maggie May, offered to go and get him. On her first try she didn’t see him, on her second visit to the site, trapping was not necessary. He was already very friendly.

But his wound was frightening, and this next description is a little messy. “Has a large swelling about 3 inch in diam at the jaw line, then it is raw from there to his ear. When he shakes his head watery blood sprays out. We wiped his face with a clean, damp wash rag and you can hear the fluid squirting out,” she reported when she had him home. It looked like the classic abscess from what was likely a bite, and that likely from another cat. “Tommy” would be headed for the HCMT clinic in Tarentum first thing the next morning.

But in the meantime he was acting as if he’d always lived indoors, drinking milk and eating cat food and purring and not minding being handled at all. And, “I just spoke to my husband and we’ll foster…my plan is once he’s here for a while my hubby won’t be able to give him back. Hehe!” They were hooked already.

Debby took him to the clinic the next day and he was assessed by Lindsay Joyce. “He’s looking a bit rough but nothing noticeably crazy,” she said. “A fighter, I’m gonna bet $ he’s going to be FIV+ but that’s just a guess. However it does appear as though most of his canine teeth are going to need removed. One is majorly broken and other have root exposure etc. Has a penicillin shot on board and is a nice kitty,” Lindsay pronounced. He would rest in his cage at the clinic until his “test/neuter/clip&clean/vacc/deworm/flea treat” the next day.

And then he got his name, and we all know that’s when the hooks really settle in deeply.

“I’m thinking of calling him Nomad. It’s better than calling him Noname (my husbands idea, who by the way has offered his den for the recovery!! I’m slowly luring him with cat #3..will he bite?),” Debby posted, meaning of course, that her husband should want to bite the bait that was luring him ever closer to adopting this big cat with the big personality.

Lindsay reported back after his surgery the next day. “Arnold Slick (from Turtle Crick??) or ‘Nomad’, FIV positive, FeLV negative, ear mites/fleas treated, dewormed, given rabies vaccine & is on abx. Puncture at right jowl with deep pocket, drain placed. Neutered & 3 canine teeth removed, he gets to keep one! Very friendly guy. Waking up nicely,” all in all, except for the FIV+ diagnosis, a good report for a cat who was obviously never going back outdoors if some people had their way with him.

“My husband asked if we get to keep him if we foster him while he recovers. Hehe…my plan is working,” Debby said.

Just a few days later we saw the first photos of him in the house.

tabby cat
Nomad on his green blanket.

“Well, now that I’ve been rescued I spend my days eating, cleaning my fur and sleeping on the king size bed in the middle of the green blanket. I like the green blanket a lot…I mean a lot! Nomad.” Where did that scarred up testorone-laden tomcat go?

Then a week later he showed his appreciation of sweet things, which would become a serious habit. “SOMEONE ATE THE TOP OFF THE CAKE!!! Clue in second picture.”

tabby cat
Who nibbled on the cake?!

His reaction? “The cake was for me.”

tabby cat
“The cake was for me.”

By August, “Well, life has changed for Nomad. He’s a big boy, that’s a 24″ dia. table.”

tabby cat
Nomad claims the table.

Of course, you know that Nomad’s wandering days were over.

A cat with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, or FIV, can easily and safely live with other cats. The virus is not spread by sneezes or sharing toys and litterboxes, but by deep puncturing bites to another cat, something a neutered cat with one or two teeth isn’t likely to deliver. It is not at all transmissible to humans. Over the years the illness will take its toll on the cat’s immune system, but cats can live well into their teens without experiencing any deficiencies. It’s just not the death sentence it used to be, so Nomad could safely live in the house with the resident cats and the many fosters without any worry of spreading it.

And Nomad showed no signs of aggression. There was no real period of adjustment. Everyone simply accepted him as the king he obviously was, and a benevolent, and generous, monarch he turned out to be, breaking into catnip stores and dragging food away from the kitchen. But he does provide feline leadership when necessary.

tabby cat
Nomad breaks into the stores of fabric and catnip for catnip kickers.

“He’s great with other cats in the house, but he doesn’t put up with any fights between other cats. If two of the females start hissing and howling he runs to the room, breaks it up by jumping in the middle and stands there like a cop,” Debby describes. “I’ll get to the room later (not as fast as Nomad) he’ll be in the center like an enforcer and the ‘fighting’ cats are crouched down on either side of him.”

It seems he considers the dogs no challenge, and they don’t bother him in any way. He likes people too. “He is the sweetest guy around. He plays with our two-year-old great-niece and is so patient with her.”

tabby cat
Nomad is pretty relaxed.

It’s guessed that Nomad is about 5 years old. Debby and her husband, whose name is Rich, by the way, have 2 dogs, Shelby, 13 and Obie, 9, both coonhound mixes from the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society.

Bobbi, a tabby and white cat, was their first rescue, appearing on the porch while Debby was away on business. Agent Orange is their big, long hair male, the second rescue, bottle fed by a friend along with Agent Orange’s brother.

Next came Callie, their tabico. She and a kitten came from the projects where the kids were throwing bricks at the poor girl. She went to a foster, raised her baby and then fostered 2 others. “She is a little nippy,” Debby said. “I was trying to socialize her and she is the numero uno foster failure.”

Next came Nomad from Turtle Creek, and then there are the flower girls, four kittens Debby fostered through the rescue group last year. They lost little Rose to a congenital birth issue that surgery couldn’t repair, but they still have Lily (pale gray and white tabby) Iris (black) and Daisy (tuxie).

Nomad is a favorite of the flower girls. “The flower girls LOVE him! They’re always trying to curl up with him. Poor guy he lays down and ends up with a minimum of 2 flower girls laying all over him.” Note: Debby sent me the photo below on June 13 so I replaced the one that had been in the original article.

tabby cat with black cat and tux cat
Nomad with Daisy and Iris.

Debby and Rich are still fostering other cats and kittens, two of them Cookie and Jelly Bean and another mom cat Maggie May and her kittens. It seems Ms. May is advertising herself once again and an unneutered male cat has been circling the house, causing Nomad to respond in the classic ex-tomcat manner, but Maggie May is due to be spayed this coming Sunday and that will likely take care of it.

tabby cat
Typical guy?

Living on a unique seven-acre hillside just outside of Pittsburgh’s South Side, Debby is retired from her career as an interior designer, but taking care of her yard and the woods around and her animals is a lifelong love. She grew up on a working farm, and along with that knowledge of the ways of animals and growing things, she also learned the “lady skills”—sewing, knitting, crocheting, embroidery and cross-stitch and more. She still puts those skills to use with cat beds and hammocks for the resuces, and also in making insulated shelters for colony cats. Debby was also one of the rescuers who helped with the Ford City trailer park spay/neuter clinic.

Her husband Rich is a contractor and carpenter, and together they completely remade the cinder block shack that was on the property into a spacious and elegant home.

Oh, and how does hubby feel about Nomad? As I was about to step out onto the porch Debby said, “Look, this is their typical thing.” See for yourself.

tabby cat on man's lap
“It’s a guy thing.”

 . . . . . . .

amazon wish list for kittens
The Amazon Wish List for our group’s foster kittens.

We may have dozens of kittens in over a dozen foster homes, many of them being treated for serious infections, but we also have adults like Nomad who just need a little tinkering to get them back on their feet. Nonetheless, that tinkering still costs money. The season has only just begun. Part of the mission with TNR is to not return the kittens and any friendly cats—once we’ve rescued them we socialize them and put them up for adoption through the ARL Foster Finder program or through FosterCat or Frankie’s Friends.

Many rescuers pay out of pocket for veterinary care and food but the costs of raising even the average litter of four healthy kittens is more than many people have, and many rescues have greater needs, like the kittens in this story. If you can help with just one purchase from the kitten wish list on you’d make some kittens and a rescuer very happy.

And if you’d just rather buy a gift card or make a donation, I have a reward for you, below—follow the instructions to make a donation to HCMT or Frankie’s Friends and I’ll send you a gift certificate to my shop.

Click here to find out how you can help homeless cats and get a gift certificate!

Treats For Homeless Cats And Caretakers

Can’t adopt? Foster! Can’t foster? Donate or volunteer.

There are so many ways you can help cats who need homes and care. You may not have room to adopt another cat, but can foster a cat or kitten for a few weeks. If not that, you can volunteer at a shelter or with a rescue, or donate. You do this because you love your cat, and by doing so you help all cats. No matter which of these actions you take, you help to save a life, and make life better for all cats.

  • Adopt one of the cats I’ve posted here, or from any shelter or rescue near you, or from Petfinder, to open up a space for another cat to be rescued and fostered.
  • Offer to foster cats or kittens for a shelter or rescue near you.
  • Volunteer at a shelter or rescue.
  • Find a group of volunteers who work with homeless cats and help them with their efforts.
  • Donate to a shelter or rescue near you.

If you can foster kittens or adults cats to help prepare them for a forever home, please run to your nearest shelter and find a cat who needs you! Anyone can help with this effort at any level, even if all you do is donate to a shelter or rescue so they can help to pay for the food or medications needed for their foster, or the spay/neuter/veterinary care during a clinic.

Need to know more? Read Fostering for Your Shelter and Fostering Saves Lives

Read more stories in my weekly Rescue Stories series.

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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.

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