Beautiful young tortoiseshell Cate nearly lost her life as unadoptable because of her “feral” ear tip, yet people were willing to look beyond that, and convinced others to look beyond it for her sake, to see the sweet-tempered, friendly young kitty behind the frightened, injured exterior.
Northeast of Pittsburgh city workers picked up a cat from along the side of the road and took her to the local shelter. The tortoiseshell cat’s left ear was tipped, the universal sign of a cat who has been “TNR’d”, or trapped, neutered and returned to a caretaker who would feed and shelter her. She would also have had a rabies vaccine and might have even been registered somehow depending on where her surgery was done.
She had either been injured or she had one of several conditions that can cause a head tilt, but the shelter claimed they couldn’t examine her because she was acting out, swatting at people, and acting like a feral cat. She was due to be euthanized because the shelter couldn’t examine her, and she didn’t seem adoptable to them.
But someone who had seen Cate at the shelter knew that wasn’t the whole story and didn’t think the cat should be refused care or lose her life just because she seemed unsocialized and had an ear tip. She posted about the ear-tipped cat looking for someone could get her and explore her situation a little more. “Because she was ear tipped, this person was reaching out to anybody who does feral cat rescue because she was told the cat could not be handled and was going to be put to sleep,” rescuer and foster Lynne Choltko Cullieton said. Lynn shared the post with the group of rescuers associated with the Homeless Cat Management Team (HCMT). The group administrators tried to get the shelter to release the cat to HCMT, but the shelter was reluctant, concerned about liability issues and would not release the cat.
Lynn knew a board member at the shelter and emailed an appeal for Cate, and that person finally convinced the shelter to release Cate to HCMT. Lynn picked her up and made arrangements to get emergency veterinary care to explore the head tilt and any other injuries she may have sustained—after all, she’d been found on the side of the road.
The veterinarian found Cate was not fighting because she was feral, but because she was in some pain and was very frightened. X-rays showed she had damage to her cheek bone and the head tilt was likely a result of the injury that had caused that. Also, Cate was young, only a year and a half at most. “Just a baby,” Lynn said. There was nothing that could be repaired with surgery or treatment in part because she’d gone several days and the injury was healing on its own, anything for swelling or pain was past the point where it would help, so the veterinarian prescribed the feline version of bed rest—“just cage her and keep her quiet.”
“I took her home and at first she was really scared and swatting at me,” Lynn said, but, “I found out after just sitting with her that she was not swatting. She just was afraid and was having problems seeing and focusing so she was reaching to touch my hand. She never used her claws. Not even once,” Lynn continued.
So the feral cat was just coping as best she could, and not acting out or trying to hurt anyone. With unknown injuries to her face and neck and a distinct head tilt, it could just have been that she was seeing double or blurry images along with being in some pain. “I kept her caged for over a month and she became the sweetest thing, loving attention,” Lynn said. “I then released her into my cat room with the other fosters and she quickly became one of the gang. She loves other cats and their company,” she added.
As our TNR efforts reach farther beyond cats who are obviously feral or unsocialized to include cats who are somewhat socialized to downright friendly but for whom we can’t find even a foster home, ear-tipped cats stand a good chance of being very social, friendly cats ready to live in a home rather than classic ferals. It’s a quandary when we find a cat who is living outdoors, who is really friendly and would be a great pet cat has no one to foster until a home can be found. Because all cats should be spayed or neutered regardless of ownership they are given surgery and at the least a rabies vaccine, but then returned returned to the caretaker to live outdoors; the ear tip denotes that they have been TNR’d and a caretaker cares for them. These “friendlies” are cats who caretakers often continue trying to find a foster or permanent adoptive home, even as they are living outdoors in a colony.
“The shelter believed that she was feral because she had an ear tip. I was going crazy to explain that many of my fosters were ear-tipped, found to be sweet as can be and were adopted out to a loving home,” Lynn said. “Because Cate was ear-tipped meant that somebody cared enough to have her spayed and she could even be a cherished inside pet that had gotten outside.”
And look at her now.
“Cate is one of the first to greet me at the door when I come into the room,” Lynn said. “She LOVES attention and being petted.
“Her right eye has healed better then we had hoped for. Her balance is still off a bit and she will panic when I try to pick her up, but will come and sit on my lap any chance she can for rubs,” she continued. “I have been working with her by just picking up her front legs, and she is okay with that as long as her back legs remain on the ground. She has just a bit of head tilt still, but to look at her you would not know the hell she went through,” Lynn continued. “She is just a wonderful little girl.” Last week Cate received her final shots and got the okay to be adopted.
“She will make someone a wonderful pet.”
It’s typical that ear-tipped cats are treated this way in shelters, or not treated as the case may be. It’s presumed they are feral and therefore not adoptable, and if they’ve shown up in the shelter they may no longer have a caretaker either. It may be that cats are disrespected—in some areas shelters don’t even take in cats, only dogs, and if they do they aren’t required to make any effort to find an owner or adopt them out—or it may be that the shelter doesn’t have the capacity, the personnel, space, time, funds, to put all this effort into one cat. But working with rescues can change everything for cats and all animals who find themselves in a shelter. This experience with Cate, between herself and HCMT, the person who initially posted about her and board members and director gives Lynn hope that more shelters will look beyond the ear tip and assess the cat itself. “I will say the new board president does seem to care about all cats, even the ferals,” Lynn said. “She made a point to be there to meet me personally. I have given her updates on Cate. She seems to truly care.”
“Education is the key,” Lynn continued. “We are hoping Cate will be one of many that will be saved because this shelter opened their eyes to see that every cat deserves a chance. Cate had a fractured face and they wondered why she was freaking out.” She hopes that now the shelter will let HCMT know if they take in any ear-tipped cats so that rescuers from HCMT can retrieve them and assess their needs. (For reference, the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society informs HCMT when an ear-tipped cat comes in; HCMT searches for its colony, and if the colony can’t be found HCMT will attempt to integrate it into an existing colony or, if it’s clear the cat could be socialized to be adopted, will look for a foster home to socialize the cat.)
It’s one great example of a rescue organization helping a shelter take care of the animals it takes in, as well as reduce euthanasia numbers. “Cate is a perfect example of rescues working together.”
Cate is available for adoption through PittsburghCAT!
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We are overloaded with cute little kittens, but don’t forget the older kittens and adults!
Amazon Wish Lists
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. Pittsburgh CAT has a number of wish lists that include foods for feeding neo-natal kittens like KMR, and other lists that include the best kitten foods, adult cat foods, food and materials for feral cats, and preferred toys and litter.
Pittsburgh CAT Wish List: http://www.amazon.com/registry/wishlist/2IUQ0FQOL2I51
2015 Foster Cat/Kitten Wish List: http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/1A1HUNQ7J3DL/ref=cm_wl_rlist_go_v?
Winter Kitten Wish List! http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/3CZ6IYCKS2A7N/ref=cm_wl_rlist_go_v?
Fall Wishlist for Fosters/Ferals! http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/2TD3TQBOEMT1E/ref=cm_wl_rlist_go_v?
Food For Foster Kittens: http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/OJQIYGC91289/ref=cm_wl_rlist_go_v?
Our Groups Foster Kittens! http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/1D226142CCGZX/ref=cm_wl_rlist_go_v?
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
Browse some rescued cats and kittens—browse here or visit PittsburghCAT!
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