Reader Casey Post writes:
Every morning when I feed my outdoor ferals, I check their shelter just in case someone has vomited on the blanket during the night (hey, mouse parts happen). One morning, I see two eyes looking back at me…a small brown tabby with an ear tip! Long story short, he’s not feral, he’s super sweet and in need of a dental. The vet says that he’s already missing teeth, but she needs to extract one more and clean up the rest. She estimates him to be around eight years old. I named him Virgil.
Not long after Virgil’s appearance, another strange cat is spotted from afar – a black and white. But this cat melts away as soon as he sees me. I start leaving food out by the front door for him, hoping to get a better look to see if he’s a neighbor’s cat. Eventually, I get a glimpse – and see that he too is ear tipped! Now I live on a dead end street, so I figured that Virgil had been dumped (I did post him as found everywhere, called around, no one recognized him or claimed him) and the chances of TWO strange ear tipped cats appearing in the neighborhood at the same time reinforces the idea. So I set my trap out next to the now-familiar food dish for a couple of days, then one day put the food dish IN the trap – success! I caught my black and white.
But this cat is not outgoing and friendly like Virgil. I set him up in a cage until I can get him to the vet (it’s the weekend, of course) and one day he meows at me! Okay, not feral. But definitely doesn’t feel comfortable with me touching him. Our vet appointment comes around and I plan to just scruff him (now named Gary, just to have something to call him) and pop him in the carrier (top loading – oh yeah, you want that if you’re alone with a difficult cat). The plan was sound – the room was closed and closet shut, pillows stuffed around the bed so that an escape would not result in a cat hiding under there, everything going great. Until I actually put a hand on Gary – he explodes in terror, clawing my arm. It’s okay, I’m not going to let go, just.need.to.get.cat.in.carrier. Focused. Determined. Bleeding. No yelling, no panic, just blood, it’s okay, it’s only two feet to the carrier…but no, it was not to be. He’s in a panic and I’m clearly going to kill him, so uses those claws to dig into my arm and swing around enough to BITE. Hard. That’s it, I dropped him. Couldn’t help it. Calmly exit room, wash out injuries thoroughly, bandage up, call vet to say that we’re going to be just a little bit late…
Now Gary is loose in the room, but with nowhere to go. So I give him somewhere to go – the carrier. I make it the only safe spot and continuously and slowly herd him towards it. Eventually, he goes in and I get the door closed and latched. Hooray!
Off to the vet. Vet gets a warning about the whole “will bite if you try to scruff him” thing, so vet is aware. He does try it, gives up, goes for sedation. Then more sedation. This poor cat really is convinced that death is coming for him from people handling him. Her. Vet discovers that Gary is a female! Also that she has less than wonderful lung sounds (I thought she might be asthmatic, but vet thinks URI – especially since she’s got a squinty eye, too). We get blood drawn, test for FIV/Feleuk (neg/neg), and get her microchipped while she’s out. Vet would like chest x-rays, but that’s a different building and they would have to sedate her again and that’s too much for one day, so at a later time. We get a Convenia shot (not something I’d normally go for, but with a cat whom you absolutely cannot handle, this is your best antibiotic choice), treated for parasites, and a nail trim (just in case). The vet sends me home with “let’s hope this is all she needs”.
This is where Gary is now -
This is our “taming cage”. Her carrier/safe place, her litter box (right by the door so I can clean it, a Kuranda so she can get up a level and see out the window, a toy, her water. The carrier door is tied open so she doesn’t jostle it and accidentally close it to shut herself out. A fearful cat with no place to hide is not good. The whole set up is on top of a desk – setting it up ON TOP OF SOMETHING is very important – a cat on the floor feels much more vulnerable than a cat up on a desk. And I can shut Gary in the carrier to clean the cage safely for both of us (or transport her to the vet again, if needed, without bloodshed this time). I have a cardboard scratcher for it, but haven’t worked out where I can hang the thing, yet. The best place is between the Kuranda and the water bucket, but that would result in cardboard bits in her water. Still working on that.
This photo was taken through the bars – and no, she’s not drugged up with sedatives here, her tongue just does that. Virgil’s does too (which I had attributed to his poor dental state), but now I wonder if they’re related? Gary’s teeth are decent, according to the vet, so the tongue thing may be a family trait.
So right now, I’ve got one very friendly and one not-so-friendly cat that I suspect came from the same household. I’m going to have to assume (for now) that Gary is a friendly cat who is just terrified out of her environment and having lost all that was familiar. My goal is to help her realize that this is a safe place, that she doesn’t have to be pointy bits of death at me. I want to get her URI cleared up and get her healthy. If she cannot be “tamed down”, then she can go back outside and join my little feral colony (there is a means to acclimate her out there for a few weeks before releasing her, so she knows that this place is now “home” and the ferals can get used her presence and she to theirs).
But *someone* transported her here to dump her. Which makes me think that she’s not normally a violently fearful cat. So I’ve got two Feliway diffusers going in the room, I’m spraying Spirit Essences “Scaredy Cat” over her carrier’s top grate four times a day, and I make sure that she sees me petting and brushing Virgil (and him loving it). I talk to her gently and I can even reach in with a soft brush to brush a little of her (but she’s not thrilled with that, yet, but she just flinches away, no lashing out or growling). I’ve also started adding L-lysine to her food twice a day, in case the URI is herpes-related.
If anyone has any thoughts or suggestions for us, it would be appreciated!