8. What Do Your Neighborhood Cats Want and Need?

Well, what do your neighborhood cats want and need?  Will you help?  Every Kitty! Every City!  What will your response be?

Actually, feral cats, hard strays, and strays are so easy to get along with.  They ask very little of you.  Snowball and Tangerine, both feral males – yes, they were real ferals who were born outside to a feral mother.  The father, of course, was from a nice neighborhood, but he had places to go and things to do.  Actually, that sounds a lot like too many human males, but that takes me down another road, or perhaps another alley.

This record is straight from conversations with Snowball and Tangerine.  You will recall that we had previously neutered and vetted them once we’d learned about TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return).   Both had survived outside as feral cats for five plus years.  When it came time for another vet visit – yes, ladies and gentlemen, we have a file folder for every cat we’ve TNRed (that is ALL of them) and we keep track of vaccinations and any other medical needs.  There, I said it!  Yes, we named each one of them so they would never be forgotten.  They are all remembered even to the Rainbow Bridge.   To our surprise, but not to our vet, we discovered both of these were FIV positive as many feral males are.  In short, FIV for cats is analogous in many ways to HIV for humans, but cannot be spread to humans.

Snowball and Tangie missed an early evening nap just to tell me everything.  Of course, there were a few bits and pieces they filled in later.  Imagine, missing an evening nap!  Those are the most extraordinary cats.

I recalled seeing a teardrop down Snowball’s left cheek when he softly said, “We didn’t ask to be born and be forced to live among you.”  Snowball continued: “Then Mom, she was just Mom to us since no one had named her yet, said she had to visit her sister was was having some babies of her own in a short time.  Then came the shock – she said she loved us dearly and that she always would, but that she didn’t know when she’d be back.”  Snowball went on: “Mom continued to speak and said she’d given us the finest training over these eight weeks and we had what it took to survive and live a long time.  And then — she was gone and we never saw her again; but she remains forever in our hearts.”

Snowball and Tangerine began to summarize what they’d been taught by their mother and learned from other feral cats.  Tangerine said, “We are feral and stray cats and we have a right to live too.”  Both expressed their inborn fear of nasty children. Especially noted was the plea of “Please don’t try to hurt us.  Please don’t harass us or chase us.  It’s stressful, and we may run out in front of a car or a soccer mom’s van.”

Snowball said that they wanted very little from humans when he said, “We just want a nice meal and safe and dry place to sleep.  We have a right to exist.”

He continued, “If you don’t like cats, we will try to keep from bothering you.  It seems some people didn’t get their cats fixed, so we were born.  Or we got lost, or someone opened the door and then didn’t search for us.  For other owners, some just abandoned us when we cost too much to feed and give proper veterinary care and we became ‘strays’ or ‘hard strays’.”

“And now we have to make a life for ourselves.  Life on this planet already has enough cruelty in it.  Why do some want to add to the amount of cruelty already there?  We have feelings too.  We have a right to exist.”

So, with that, both quickly dropped off to sleep curled around each other and off to my left as I sat on the floor with them with my hand gently soothing them for a time.  Rest safely – you are now sanctuaried here with us.

5. The Little, Tiny, Baby, Girl Cat / Human Male DNA Flaws / Sanctuary

Greta is our little, tiny, baby, girl cat.  Now, I have no idea where that name came from.  It does not befit my sense of dignity and self-respect.  What I suspect is that one of my other cats whispered that phrase in my ear when I was sleeping – isn’t that called subliminal programming?  I would hate to think that any of my cats would be so sneaky.  Of course not!  What was I thinking?  Nevertheless, when I asked Clyde about it, he just began rolling around on the floor and said something about the great catnip toy I’d given him.

Well, it happened!  I was talking with some of my guy friends and I blurted out something about “… my little, tiny, baby, girl cat.”  These guys were speechless.  They began looking at the floor and started talking about how seasonal the weather was.  Then, they looked at their watches, looked distressed, mumbled something about being late, and they rushed off.  Such things are still a mystery to me.

Now, the facts in chronological order.  Greta was TNRed on 04 August 2010 and later returned to where we found her.  Then days later, we were shocked on the morning of 18 August to find her inextricably entangled in a chain link fence.  She had her head through one opening, her left leg through another opening, and then she apparently turned her head to reach up to unentangle herself.  As a result, she caught a tooth on the fence wire and she was helplessly hanging with her back feet barely touching the ground.

When I saw her, I immediately lifted her back feet off the ground so she wasn’t hanging.  A neighbor came out and I asked him to get a heavy cutter to sever the fencing around her.  It took four cuts to remove her.  Nancy had already gotten a cat carrier from the house and Greta and I were on the way to our vet.  Fortunately, he’s less than a half mile away and took us in immediately.

She couldn’t support herself on her left leg.  Subcutaneous fluid and steroid injections, rest, observation, speculation that a kitten could heal more readily, an overnight stay at the clinic, and hope were combined as the treatment.  We picked up our little, tiny, baby, girl cat (Greta) the next day.  She was still having difficulty in trying to stand and move.

We had already decided to sanctuary her – there just was no way we could return her outside.  We did not know how she would heal, but we knew she’d be safer with us inside the house.  She was and is – and she appears to be fully recovered.  Greta is still a kitten who pounces on any available cat tail and chases the other cats around.  However, they do appreciate the breaks her long naps give them.

Head butts, love bites, and kitty kisses to all – except those speechless guy “friends.”

Now we just talk about the weather and “guy” stuff.  Strangely, none of them have ever asked about that little, tiny, baby, girl cat.  Well, life goes on.

4. This Feral Cat Colony Caretaker & The Vacuum Effect

My addiction to cats – did I say “addiction”?  I did not. Clyde sneaked in when I stepped out and he wrote it.  Well, he is a keen observer of the obvious.  How do cats know these things?  Ah, oh, well, what I meant to say was my deep and abiding concern for feral cats began with Snowball.

There are those days when I feel overwhelmed and I have to remind myself that feral cat commitment is forever.  Then, like so many, I take on more work.  Our ferals grace and enrich our lives in a way that’s beyond explanation; our hearts are touched and we can’t stop.

When I get discouraged, my cat Snowball snuggles close and purrs.  Then he moves in even closer.  He puts a paw on my arm and reminds me: “To the world, you are just another person.  To a rescued cat, you are the world.”  He always seems to know just when to do that; I do not know how.  Snowball’s story is the first post “Some Beginnings With Neighborhood Cats” on NoBadCat.com.

As I said in a previous account, the sacred moments in our lives and those of our cats are precious.  We hold those moments in our hearts with a love that’s ineffable.  Those moments give us needed strength and compassion.

We also need to remind ourselves of this truth.  We are their caretakers, not their owners – this is the deal between us and them and nothing abrogates or transcends that.

Now, where was I?  Three weeks ago, we sanctuaried the three ferals from our backyard colony.  Snowball, Tangerine, and Stripes were clearly bonded to each other and they were bonded to us.  Of course, it’s Snowball’s fault.  He head butted my hand one day when I was feeding him.  I just could not resist petting him.  I had no self-control.  Well, I could not help myself and neither could Nancy.

Snowball and Tangerine are both twelve pound males who are at least five years old.  Both are FIV positive, but are asymptomatic.  These three were isolated for three weeks in Nancy’s “study” to acclimate.  We introduced our indoor cats to them one at a time and it went well.  There were a few hisses from the indoor cats, but the three sanctuaried cats did not respond in kind.

Now then, the “feral vacuum effect” which we’ve all read about or heard about is real.  All it took was a few days of no cats in the back yard colony.  Then, other cats began showing up.  First were two all black cats.  They seemed to be a mother and one of her kibs.  Then, yesterday, a very large cat (mostly black and a little orange) appeared in the yard.  As we begin the TNR process, we have decided to give them character names from Shakespeare’s plays.

This week is our first TNR of one of the “vacuum” cats.  These vet visits include neutering, Rabies and FVRCP vaccinations, and left eartipping.   Both Alley Cat Allies [Alleycat.org] and Neighborhood Cats [Neighborhoodcats.org] strongly recommend left eartipping.  In addition, each feral cat receives Revolution, a brief physical exam, ear cleaning if necessary, and anything else our vet may telephone us about.  We are grateful that the Rockford, IL PAWS subsidizes much of this.

We give our male ferals a full 48 hours for recovery and our female ferals a full 96 hours for recovery.  We sometimes wonder if that is enough time.

We want to be sure that these neighborhood cats be fully recovered from sedation as well as eating and drinking again.

I know that you are not cats, but if you have ever had surgery, even “minor” surgery with sedation, you know that recovering from the sedation and the effects of the surgery takes some time.  Why would it be any different for our neighborhood cats?

Next, I will tell you about our little, tiny, baby girl cat – Greta.

Head butts, love bites, and kitty kisses to all!

3. The Sacred Account Of Adam & Eve’s Pets

THE SACRED ACCOUNT OF ADAM & EVE’S PETS
I know that some of you have read fragments of this factual sacred account. It was originally written in the ancient language of Ugaritic. Of course, those who love the Felis catus would have a special appreciation of the truth of this translated ancient text. My cat, Clyde, likes this particular English translation. He likes to read it to me even though I have heard it dozens of times. Of course, I believe everything Clyde tells me and he has never steered me wrong. He was right, you know, when he said that every life should have nine cats.

Most recently, he picked a warm early autumn evening when the sun’s rays were shining brightly through the western family room windows. It was almost their early evening naptime. He, his two sisters, Hunter and Hope, and I settled down comfortably. They almost seemed to be laughing, but they snuggled close to me and to each other and purred to keep me comfortable as they awaited those eternal words once again.

After licking his left paw, Clyde, with his usual affection, pushed his favorite catnip mouse over to his sister, Hunter. After a pause, and with great solemnity, he began to read “The Sacred Account of Adam and Eve’s Pets.”

Adam and Eve said, ‘Lord, when we were in the garden, you walked with us every day. Now we do not see you anymore. We are lonesome here, and it is difficult for us to remember how much you love us.’

Then, God said, I will create a companion for you that will be with you and who will be a reflection of my love for you, so that you will love me even when you cannot see me. Regardless of how selfish or childish or unlovable you may be, this new companion will accept you as you are and will love you as I do, in spite of yourselves.’

Therefore, God created a new animal to be a companion for Adam and Eve. Moreover, it was a good animal and God was pleased. And the new animal was pleased to be with Adam and Eve and he wagged his tail.

And Adam said, ‘Lord, I have already named all the animals in the Kingdom and I cannot think of a good name for this new animal.’

And God said, ‘I have created this new animal to be a reflection of my love for you; his name will be a reflection of my own name, and you will call him DOG.’

Dog lived with Adam and Eve. He was a companion to them and loved them. And they were comforted. And God was pleased. And Dog was content and wagged his tail.

After a very short time, it came to pass that an angel came to the Lord and reported, ‘Lord, Adam and Eve have become filled with pride. They strut and preen like peacocks. Moreover, they believe they are worthy of adoration. Dog has indeed taught them that they are loved, but perhaps too well.’

And God said, I will create for them a companion who will be with them and who will see them as they are. The companion will remind them of their limitations. Therefore, they will know they are not always worthy of adoration.’

So God, in His great eternal wisdom, created CAT to be a companion to Adam and Eve.

It came to pass that Cat would not obey them. And when Adam and Eve gazed into Cat’s eyes, they were reminded that they were not the supreme beings.

And Adam and Eve learned humility.
And they were greatly improved.

And God was pleased.
And Dog was happy.

And Cat, well, he didn’t give a shit one way or the other.

Then Clyde, with great reverence and solemnity, closed the book. Soon he, Hunter, and Hope curled up to nap. It almost looked like they were smiling, but I’m not sure.

2. When a pet cat dies

“Rainbow Bridge” 1
> Dedicated to the many cat friends that have “gone to the rainbow bridge.”

Note: This is the best effort I have seen trying to bring comfort and peace of mind to those who’ve had a loved and loving pet die.  So, I pass this along to you without apology.  They are forever in our hearts.  Most of you will understand and will read it many times over. – NoBadCat

“Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.  There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.  There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.  The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together…. ”

Author unknown

 

1 Although the author is unknown, I want to give credit to:

http://www.crittercamp.biz/RainbowBridge.html

Critter Camp is the only licensed, registered, 501c3 non-profit, 100% no-kill, all volunteer, exotic pet sanctuary of its kind in the U.S. Check it out.

Forever in our hearts - One Bad Cat & Kyle

 

1. How It All Began – Beginnings with Feral Cats

Thus begins my understanding of both domestic cats and community cats.  Not everything is in chronological order, but then, every account has a beginning, a history, and some interruptions and digressions.

One overcast early morning, my cat Clyde whispered: “Every life deserves nine cats.  Your life won’t be complete until then.”  He continued: “Let your meditation be ‘Meow’ as you focus on this touchstone of feline wisdom.”  I’ve always listened to Clyde; he’s never steered me wrong.

Now then, before there even was a Clyde, there was Clyde’s mother, Lexie (HRH Alexandria Regina), who is an old, wise mama cat.  She would spend countless hours teaching her third and last litter of kits, Clyde, Hope, and Hunter.

I remember Lexie talking to her kits into the long hours of one evening in early autumn as they lay around her.  Then, for some reason, that particular evening just slowed to a halt.  Everything was still.  It was 11:45 PM.  I moved in a bit closer to listen and I heard her say with an unwavering voice to her teary eyed kits, “Yes, my little ones, all cats do go to heaven.  If it were not so, I would have told you.”  Time stood still as those words of comfort were quietly engraved on my heart and theirs.  Within moments, they all began purring and snuggled together for a long and comforting nap until their usual 3:00 AM playtime.  Life has never been the same after that.

The sacred moments in our lives and those of our cats are precious.  We hold those moments forever in our hearts with a love that’s ineffable.  And – we are careful who we share those moments with.  One doesn’t throw pearls before swine. (Matthew 7:6)  But, let’s leave that discussion for another time.

Well, I got ahead of myself as I sometimes do.  There are so many memories and I have to pick and choose.

It all really began in the quiet late afternoon of an early winter day in 2006 as the western sun became an orange ball just over the treetops.  As we were nearing our Belvidere home, we noticed a white animal; it was a large cat crawling out of a wide opening storm sewer at the curb.  It was snowing lightly with large, lazy, fluffy flakes hovering above the ground.  Our granddaughter, who was with us, bestowed upon him the name of Snowball.  We know well after that time, that because of Snowball’s age and reputed wisdom (it’s a small neighborhood and things get around here) he was respectfully called the old, wise man, and many went to him for solace, advice, and thoughts about humans.  He’d survived a long time as a feral and knew more than the others.   He truly merited all the respect he received.  Snowball is with us.

We discovered that feral cats will present themselves to people who will help.  We just didn’t know it and we didn’t know that it would happen to us.

I’d never seen him before just as I’d never seen other ferals in the neighborhood.  Perhaps the new pair of glasses I’d gotten allowed me to see.  Or, maybe Snowball was one of the great gifts that have been there for years; I had just never opened this one.

It was a great wake up moment that captured us then and hasn’t let go over the unending months and years.  That moment was a gift in the midst of a normal and sometimes uneventful life.  A short time later, Snowball came to the back porch – actually it’s a 3′ X 3′ step.  He sat there with an expectant look (no, I’m not anthropomorphizing here); we didn’t have any cat food.  Well, who would?

Now, we had some warm roast beef from supper and some cans of tuna on a shelf.  Guess what?  He liked the roast beef and the tuna.  He ate as if he hadn’t eaten in days.  Go figure!

I will stop here and move many, many months later.  My cat Clyde (TNR #009) told me once again: “Every good life should have nine cats – it will make you more human.  And yes, Craig, Snowball was very hungry when he first appeared on your porch.  No one else had noticed him either.  And — no one had fed him so well.  He did look into your eyes and spoke.  You are forever in his heart.”

One man put it so well:  “Cats are a mysterious kind of folk. There is more passing in their minds than we are aware of.” (Sir Walter Scott)

I am thankful for all of you who take care of cats in a variety of ways.  Of course, we never own them.  Remember: “Dogs have masters.  Cats have staff.”

From those of you who volunteer at shelters, in TNR projects, and support others, there are often accounts of overwhelming difficulties, the stories of the love you have for all of your animals, and the unexpected sadness and tears of disappointment when things just don’t seem to work out.  Then there’s the stunning grief of finding one of your ferals out on the road – why do they have to cross the road anyway?  It’s of little immediate comfort at the time, but “All cats do go to heaven.”

Snowball is an old, wise cat.  He likes to remind me of an old saying.  He says it will keep my hopes up and a smile on my face.  “To the world, you’re just a person.  To a rescued cat, you are the world.”  I don’t think there’s any reward or honor which is greater than that, do you?

Please share with me some of your moments with your indoor cats, and your neighborhood cats.