Greetings from cat rescue land! Happy 2018! One of my New Year’s resolutions is to blog more this year, so please hold me to it! I’m starting the year with a harrowing, if optimistic, tale for you. Perhaps a tale of a tail? 🙂
A couple of years ago a petite, young tortoiseshell appeared in the parking lot across the street, looking frightened and out of place. Her ear was clipped, indicating she’d been trapped and spayed as a feral, and her eyes were so huge and innocent I decided to call her Margaret Keane, after the famed artist of paintings of big-eyed children – and often cats as well!
Where she came from I had no idea – did someone relocate her or did she just find me? It didn’t really matter as she immediately captured my heart. (You’re not supposed to have favorites among your ferals any more than you’re supposed to have favorite children, but she has definitely been mine.) Within months she was there waiting for me every morning, and would run up to me when my trunk opened and I started fixing her breakfast, weaving in and out of my legs and purring. She eventually let me pet her, and even pick her up for a few seconds. Our bond grew strong. “Someday,” I’d tell her, “I’ll bring you home with me. Until then I’ll take good care of you.”
I knew that bringing her home was unlikely to be anytime soon, because I [ahem] have a full house these days, with the two kitties I actually chose, and those who came to me sick or injured… and then stayed. And stayed.
Not that I mind; all are precious to me and are endlessly entertaining. Especially Big Mike, whose leg was shredded by a predator and took six months to heal. By then of course I was infatuated. Here he was this morning, in my granddaughter’s chair, waiting for a hand-out. So hilarious.
But I digress.
It’s been hard to keep my promise to take good care of Margaret these last six months or so. She had a comfy shelter tucked into a tall hedge in the parking lot, until the shopping center owner decided to denude the hedge of all its lower branches up to about five feet, and trash her hiding place. After that, I bought a small dog house for her and put it discreetly on city property, just on the other side of the sidewalk in a wild area. One cold morning in early December I arrived to find it had been removed without notice by the city. (I don’t even want to begin to rant about that.) Since then she has had to find her own shelter, even when nights are bitterly cold.
And then a week ago… she disappeared. For the next two days I checked for her anxiously and often. It’s not uncommon to lose cats in that ravine – it’s happened many times, including just recently with sweet Freda the Russian Blue who disappeared. If sickness and cold don’t get them, a predator might. But not my Margaret. Not this time. My Saint Francis shrine got some extra prayers those days.
Margaret finally reappeared at morning feeding time, but my joy was mitigated by the fact that she looked terrible. Sick around her eyes, moving slowly as if she were in pain. And she would not come near me, so I could not examine her. For two more anguished days, she remained beyond my reach.
Finally on the third day, I brought a carrier with me, in hopes I could coax her into it. It was a good thing I did. As I prepared her breakfast she came close enough for me to get a good look at her. Lifting her back leg to lick her backside, I saw a horribly gaping wound, which had been hidden under her tail. About the size of a silver dollar, it was very red and very deep. With trembling hands and feeling nauseous, I baited the carrier with sardines, and to my amazement she walked right in. As I covered it with a towel, and she stared at me with angry eyes, I whispered to her to trust me. I knew it didn’t look like I was taking care of her, but I was.
I sped to Adobe urgent care, where I would end up spending most of the day. They repaired the deep laceration under her tail, which was consistent with a predator attempting to grab her there, hoping to have her for dinner. Somehow she escaped with her life, and her tail.
I set up a dog crate in the second bedroom and carefully put her, in her carrier, inside it. Groggy, she peered out of it cautiously – perhaps looking to see what fresh hell she was now experiencing. I’ve learned in six years of rescue work that even a friendly feral can turn hostile, even violent, after realizing they’re trapped, so I gave her plenty of space.
But it was not so for Miss Margaret. By the next morning, she was out of her carrier exploring, and surrendered quickly to my touch. More than that, she seemed to crave it, rolling over on her side as my arms encircled her, purring as if she were home at last.
Home at last? Oh dear – be careful what you wish for. How I would LOVE to keep her, but I absolutely cannot. The realization of this makes tears threaten. She is supposed to heal quietly for a couple of weeks, at which point the doctors say I can release her back to the ravine. But how can I? It’s a dangerous place – one suited to the more feral cats I feed. But Margaret is… special.
So I’m in a serious quandary. No room at the inn, and few options for a semi-feral who might not bond with anyone else. (When Maggie went to check on her for me, Margaret got very agitated and tried to climb the walls of the crate.)
It’s a tough one, but I have two weeks to ponder the answer. I do think Margaret has had enough of the outdoors, and would like a warm and safe place to sleep.
Saint Francis, help me discover the right path for this sweet kitty so I can keep my promise to take very good care of her… even if that doesn’t include adopting her myself.