Saturday, March 29, 2014

The #Cat #Rescue Saga by Deborah Blake, Karen Rose Smith's guest post author.

I often post about our stray and feral cats, as well as the cats we've rescued and brought inside.  Cat lovers and animal lovers seem to gravitate toward each other.  Deborah Blake saw one of my posts and commented on it. I asked her if she'd like to write a guest post for me to share her experiences and she agreed.  This is her Cat Rescue Saga.

From Deborah--
Some time ago, I read Karen's post of the loss of her rescue cat, Lance.  LANCELOT--The Stray Cat Who Adopted Us    It really hit a chord with me, because I have a long history of "accidental" cats.  I left a long message in response, detailing a few of my rescue cat adventures.  Apparently it touched a chord in return since Karen asked me if I could do a guest post about what I like to refer to as "The Furball Gang."  (I have five at the moment--I no longer have to worry about the dust bunnies...because the dust cougars have eaten them.) 
I have always had cats that were either adopted from shelters or scooped up from barns (including two six-month-old "brothers" that were so feral, it was months before we discovered that they were, in fact sisters, as well as one tiny gray kitten that I literally crawled underneath a cow to pick up because he was the only gray one and by golly, I wanted a gray one.)

 "Cats have been with me through some of the darkest days of my life; through illness and loss, loneliness and fear." 

And then, of course, there were the ones that just showed up.  When my stepdaughter was three, someone abandoned two tiny orange kittens across the street from our crappy apartment in a less-than-desirable neighborhood.  My then-husband and I found them on a Friday night and brought htem inside, intending to take them to the shelter in the morning.  We already had two cats, after all, and couldn't afford any more.  Naturally the three year old walked in the door the next day, took one look at them and said MY KITTENS.  And then there were four.  (E.T. got his name because he had extra toes.  His brother Plush got his name because Jenn was three and we let her pick it out.  Sorry, Plush.)  As is the way of such things, they turned out to be two of the best cats we ever had.

The five I have now are all former shelter cats.  Minerva and her son Mystic and daughter Magic (aka Magic the Cat, Queen of the Universe, who co-authored a few of my books for Llewellyn) all came from one local shelter, where I went in looing for one kitten and came out with two and their under-aged, sick, terrified (and probably abused) mother.  It took two years to get her to trust me enough to sit on my lap.  Now she won't get off!  The shelter folks, when they were trying to convince me to take her, offered to throw her in for no charge as a "bonus." (They knew she was pretty much unadoptable because she was so scared and sickly.)  So I call her my bonus kitty.  I'm pretty sure they saw the neon "sucker" sign on my forehead when I walked in...

One of the others is a boy named Angus, who looks a lot like Karen's cat Lance.  I suppose that's what prompted me to comment in the first place--how much they looked alike.  I adopted him at the same time as I brought home Samhain, a girl cat who was in the same room at the shelter.  She was 4 or 5 probably when I adopted them (a stray, so they didn't know for sure), and developed chronic renal failure a couple years after I brought her home.  Five and a half years in, I'm still giving her subQ fluids every day and we're fighting the good fight.
Mystic and Minerva

Ironically, I adopted those two in the name of a stray who showed up in my driveway one cold upstate NY February night.  That cat, who I eventually named Melisande, was skittish, but had clearly once had been close to people.  I caught her in a trap so I could have her spayed and then adopted.  As I sat with her int he mudroom, waiting for my friend to pick her up, she started to purr.  Needless to say, she never went anywhere.  Six months later, she suddenly got very sick and the vet said she was in renal failure--had probably been dying the entire time she'd been with me.  My vet as much as said that she thought the cat had been sent to me so she would have love and a safe place to spend her last days.  Lance, Karen's rescue, was lucky enough to find the same thing.

"People think that I have rescued all the cats who have shared my life.  But it might be more accurate to say that they have rescued me."

When I went to get Angus from a different local shelter (having found him on the Petfinder website), I was torn between him and tiny 7 lb. calico Samhain (so called because that is the Celtic holiday they got Halloween from and she is black and orange.)  I was so determined to only get ONE more cat, I went back 3 times, trying to decide between them.  Finally I said "Whichever cat sits on my lap is the one that goes home with me."  I went into the room they lived in--which probably had a least 20 cats loose in it--and sat on the floor.  Buff-colored shy Angus immediately came and sat on my lap and purred like a maniac.  "Well, there you go," I said.  "He's the one I came for in the first place."  Then he got up and Samhain came over and sat down on me, and also purred like a maniac.  None of the other cats even gave me a second look.  I rolled my eyes in the general direction of the gods and gave up.  So now I have five cats.  And don't go anywhere near shelters.

Still, the one thing that has been true of me and cats all my life is that for the most part, I didn't pick them, they picked me.  Cats have been with me through some of the darkest days of my life; through illness and loss, loneliness and fear.  People think that I have rescued all the cats who have shared my life.  But it might be more accurate to say that they have rescued me.  I hope they continue to do so.  Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go feed my Feline Overlords, and I believe there is a catnip mouse that someone need to retrieve from under the sofa.

Angus and Samhain

Deborah's latest releases:
Wickedly Dangerous (Berkley Sept ‘14) and Wickedly Wonderful (Berkley Dec ‘14)
The Witch’s Broom (Llewellyn, April ‘14)

Karen's sleuth, Caprice De Luca--in her endeavor to solve murders--takes in strays, too!


Deborah Blake said...

Thanks for letting me and the Furball Gang come by for a visit, Karen!

Liv said...

What lovely stories, Deborah. My favorite kitty ever, Woody, recently passed away after six months of trying to cope with heart failure. The current family vibe supports finding a dog to replace him, but I don't know. We might end up with a new dog AND a cat...

KRS said...

Deborah--thanks so much for sharing.

KRS said...

Liv--I'm sorry for your loss. Loving them through the end is tough. I think a dog and a cat sound good!

Deborah Blake said...

So sorry, Liv. It never gets easier, does it. I think you should get a dog and TWO cats. It's only fair.

And you are very welcome, KRS!

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit late posting, but I just came across this and wanted to comment on a particular issue I have with the current prevailing wisdom when it comes to taking in the older stray. A lot of the sources I've read say that these animals are a lost cause, and many people are afraid to try to work with the older, more rough-around-the-edges strays that they encounter even though they want to help. But they hear you can't tame them unless they're young when you take them in, they'll never adjust, they'll have all kinds of filthy habits, they won't be happy, they'll bring disease into your home. We're told they're "wild animals", and always will be. By 6 months they say, animals are locked-in to a mindset that puts them forever out of reach to any of our attempts to interact. They've crossed some Rubicon, "wildness" is set. The best expectation you have for all your efforts is described as a shaky truce where the animal agrees not to attack you while you are refilling the outside food bowl that you put out because you feel sorry for the poor thing. And sometimes you're made to feel vaguely guilty about feeding them in the first place, as if by doing so you have upset some Rule of the Universe. "You ENCOURAGED them!"...

You are told how to trap, neuter and release, and hopefully you can, as every little bit helps. But reaching out to that cat and trying to welcome it into your home instead of under the subfloor of your garden shed where it satisfies its yearly production quota of 12 kittens, is never really considered. The KITTENS are salvageable, it is said, but the mother is "feral", and beyond hope. So, the best-case scenario is the kitties are homed, and Momma cat is 'fixed' and set free to return to her spot under the garden shed, now left to get old alone. But in reality she is frequently euthanized, as she is considered unadoptable and a pest to the homeowner.

Despite what so-called experts say, it is not "difficult" to bring an old stray cat into a human home. It requires different techniques and approaches, but different is not difficult, and success is very, very possible. And my experience has shown me that you can end up with a really, REALLY great cat by extending your hand and giving it a try, despite the unpromising appearances at those first few meetings...:-)