Tabby Wonder Cat Wilson July 22, 1996 – April 24, 2012

Tabby – Summer, 2011
We Almost Got a Dog Instead…

I’ll never forget the day my ex and I adopted Tabby and her “brother” Taz. We just moved in together a few months before and he decided he wanted a dog, so looked in the paper and found a beautiful older Alaskan Malamute. She had to be re-homed because her owner was moving into a nursing home.

We did a meet and greet with this beautiful, ginormous white gentle giant and I fell in love. She reminded me of a bigger version of my Siberian Husky I had growing up, Dipsey. Her owner was ready to adopt her to us ASAP.

I got home and really thought about it. We had a small one-bedroom apartment at the time and she was a BIG dog. I was a bank manager and since we had one car, I had to drive us both to and from work. We were gone most weekdays from 7am to at least 5pm, if not later.

Dipsey and Robyn 1977
Dipsey as a puppy and me in 1977. I was five years old.

Dipsey had her own doggie door and a fenced yard that she could go out and relieve herself anytime she wanted. This poor pooch would have been stuck in that apartment crossing her legs for over ten hours per day. That was no kind of life for a pooch. I had to call her owner and explain why our home was not the best fit for her.

To this day I hope and pray she found a great home to live out her Golden Years.

The Best $5 I EVER Spent!

We decided a cat would be a much better fit for our home. We saw an ad in the paper selling kittens for $10 each. Labor Day Weekend, 1996, we drove out to meet these kittens.

When we arrived at this private home, they brought out two carriers full of kittens. One was full of Siamese kittens and one was full of regular domestic short hair kittens. I’m writing this 22 years later and I don’t really remember all of the other cats besides Taz and Tabby! Of course, once I met Tabby I KNEW we belonged together and I didn’t really even bother meeting the other kittens.

I didn’t ask too many questions but I imagine these kittens were the product of two unspayed pet cats and the people just wanted rid of them. At least they were charging an adoption fee for the kittens!

My ex immediately fell in love with Taz. I thought he was adorable…but I was distracted by this little tabby thing who just came right up to me and sat on my right side like she had always known me. It was almost as if she was saying, “Okay, Mommy…we can go home now.”

Tabby's First Christmas
Tabby’s First Christmas, 1996. Watching the train under the tree. I wish I took better pictures back then!

Here’s the problem. We only had enough money to adopt one of the kittens. We argued back and forth for probably 20 minutes. But, thankfully, she got tired of hearing us argue and let us have both kittens for $10.

It was the best $10 I EVER spent!

We had no carriers, no litter box or litter, no food bowls or food…nothing. Nelson (ex) held them in the car while I stopped at the store on the way home to pick up litter, a litter box, food and bowls for them.

I think back now and realize how LUCKY we were that neither one of them got out of the car or got away while we carried them into our apartment!  We got them safely home and they promptly hid under the TV stand.

My Apartment Was Finally a “Home”

I set up their stuff and was so excited I called Mom to come over to meet them! I’m reliving that moment right now. I remember this as being one of THE HAPPIEST days of my life. I’ve always had pets. I couldn’t bring my cat Smidgen with me when I moved out of my folks’ house because Smidgen was an indoor/outdoor cat and I knew she would NOT be happy as an indoor-only cat in an apartment. Smidgen was very bonded to her land, and I couldn’t take that away from her. For many cats, their bond with their territory is stronger than ANYTHING, including their bond with their humans.

After we adopted Taz and Tabby, our apartment felt like HOME. Finally!

Those poor cats hid under the TV stand their first three days with us. Tabby wanted to creep out, but I believe she was responding to Taz’s fear and wanted to stay with him. I’m not sure if that lady had them together before we adopted them, but they were bonded from the very beginning of their life with us.

They were not blood related. I believe they were two weeks apart in age. Their birth dates were guestimates by me going by how old they looked when I adopted them. Tabby was only about 6 weeks old and Taz was 8 weeks old when we brought them home.

Taz and Tabby Christmas 1999
Taz and Tabby – Christmas, 1999
Miss Congeniality

As a kitten, Tabby was pretty independent and low maintenance. Honestly, she was low maintenance her entire life. She never demanded much attention and was a pretty healthy cat until her senior years.

And she never complained about anything.

Even when I had a frying pan full of hot canola oil in my hands and tripped over her and spilled it on her, she didn’t complain. I’ll never forget that night. Nelson grabbed a towel and put cold water on it and threw it on her to stop her from running like a maniac. We wrapped her in that cold towel and rushed her right to the emergency vet. Luckily, my quick thinking worked! She had no permanent injury from that oil, although she was oily when we got home. The vet felt it best that we wait a day or two before bathing her since her skin was tender.

After we got home from the vet and settled in for the night, she came over to lie on my lap. Taz jumped up and proceeded to clean her for at least two hours that night.

Her first 10 years, Tabby had to take a back seat to her much needier and not-as-healthy brother. Taz suffered with health issues his entire life. He was a super affectionate cat and hogged all of the attention, but he was also a very shy and skittish cat.

But, again, she never, ever complained. And she loved Taz as much as we did!

My Rock

Tabby saw me through some of my most trying times…active alcoholism and constant fighting with the ex, recovery, marriage, divorce, several moves. After my divorce I was gone even longer hours between work and a hellish commute and just my general need to run away from the house where I had so many bad memories with the ex.

Tabby and Me – Christmas, 1999

Yet she STILL never complained.

When Taz died in 2007, I didn’t adopt another cat. Tabby was 10 by then and I wasn’t sure how she would be with another cat in the house. And I felt it was finally a chance for me to make it all about her. And I did, believe me! She was my daughter and I DOTED on her.

Tabby lived indoor-only but when we moved to a house in the woods, we would take her and Taz outside for supervised outdoor time. In the beginning, she would scratch and protest when I picked her up to carry her inside when it was time to go in. But by the time we moved back to my folks’ house in 2008, she was very well trained. She would stay by my side and even stop, wait, turn around and meow for me in her quiet little way when I was lagging behind.

I had to move back home in 2008 when I was laid off and was one paycheck away from homelessness. By then, my folks were pet-less so it was a very easy transition for Tabby.

And it was actually a very good thing. Tabby liked people and I think she missed living with other people besides just me. Dad was a cat person and she knew it. She and Dad took to each other right away and he doted on her maybe even more than I ever did!

I always say Tabby turned cat haters into believers. My mom was always more of a dog person. Cats don’t like my mom very much..probably because she just doesn’t understand them and treats them like dogs. But Tabby was different. She was just SO good-natured and she LOVED my mom.

She showed Mom what the hype was all about!!

Her Brush With Death

Tabby was getting up there in age and she wasn’t on the best diet because I didn’t know back then how bad most commercial kibbles were for cats. I always fed half kibble, half wet food, but Tabby never really liked wet cat food all that much. She started having problems with chronic constipation when she was 12-13 years old.

In 2011, she had a bout of constipation that almost killed her. I didn’t catch it early like I would have now because I didn’t have much experience with feline health problems and honestly wasn’t paying attention all that much. Up until that point, Tabby was a very healthy cat.

But, she stopped eating and was very lethargic. I took her to the vet and we had complete blood work and a chem panel done. Her blood work showed full-blown fatty liver disease, which will happen when an older, overweight cat stops eating for over 24-48 hours. The vet did an ultrasound and felt strongly that it was liver cancer or possibly an infection.

The vet gave her a Convenia shot that day in case there was an infection. They sent me home with Denamarin, fluids to give her, and an appetite stimulant.

Great! But at the time, I was NO GOOD at medicating cats!

I took her back two weeks later. She still wasn’t eating and now was very weak. She also had some pretty bad jaundice.

Tabby while sick with fatty liver
Tabby – Spring, 2011. See how bad her jaundice is?

I was afraid it was the end. I thought maybe they should admit her. However, my vet is not a 24-hour vet and it was a Saturday morning, so there was a chance she could die in a cage alone. I couldn’t let that be her end. NO WAY. Instead, they had the vet tech show me how to give her fluids and syringe feed her. They gave her another Convenia shot and we brought home a bunch of supplies to save her life.

I was able to force feed her to a point with Mom’s assistance. As for the meds and sub q fluids? Forget it. Wasn’t happening. Remember, I was NO GOOD at medicating cats at that time.

Penny taught me how to become a pro at that stuff a few years later!!

I couldn’t shake the fact that the vets were missing something. This wasn’t denial. My gut was SCREAMING at me that this was NOT her end and we were missing something.

This is when I learned to play Dr Google and taught myself everything I could about fatty liver disease.

I took her back to the vet later that week and INSISTED they check her to see if she was constipated. She wasn’t well enough to have anesthesia, so I had to allow them to attempt a fecal extraction with just lube and a finger.

I bought some Wellness pouch food at Pet Smart later that day and tried feeding her.

And for the first time in six very LONG and stressful weeks, she ate on her own. She didn’t eat the food but she did lick all of the broth up! I ran back to Pet Smart and must have purchased 50 of those packets. Pretty much their entire stock. And I fed her as much broth as she would drink by squeezing the broth out of the packets. She was starting to blow through at least 8 packets per day.

I didn’t care about the cost. WE HAD HOPE!!

She Made a FULL Recovery!

It was a few days later that Tabby started to eat her regular food on her own again. She was becoming more active. Gaining weight and looking less jaundiced as each day passed.

Three weeks later we took her to the vet for a follow up and did another chem panel to check her liver values. When the vet called me the next day, he was AMAZED! He told me that her liver values were almost completely back to normal. Her bilirubin went from “off the charts” to “mildly elevated”.

She was on the road to a FULL recovery! And earned her new nickname…Tabby Wonder Cat Wilson.

I will get more into this with another post, but I did switch her to better quality, all natural food after that. Knowing what I know now, it still wasn’t the BEST diet for a feline, but it was progress and it did make a difference! I also added Miralax to her wet food every day. I gave her 1/8 tsp once per day but if she went longer than 24 hours to defecate, I increased her to 1/8 tsp twice per day. And I PRAISED her every time she pooped!

It worked like a charm.

Tabby Spring 2011
Tabby on one of our walks together shortly after she recovered from fatty liver disease – Spring, 2011
Our Last Year Together

She had another great, quality year after that. I remember her last Christmas was her best one yet. She was playing with all of the ribbons, bows, tissue paper, and had a blast with her new toys. It was like she was a kitten again. She must have known it would be her last Christmas.

The following Spring, she developed some really bad breathing problems. I had her checked by her regular vet and my current vet (who was my 2nd opinion vet at that time). We tried steroids and an asthma inhaler with a spacer, hoping against hope that it was only asthma and not something terminal.

But it was something terminal. We found it was a tumor pressing on her trachea. Likely lymphoma. The steroids worked temporarily but I didn’t want her on long-term steroids to put her at risk for Feline Diabetes (go figure, right?). Knowing what I know now, steroids would have only worked for so long, anyway.

The weekend before she passed, I knew it was time. She wasn’t really eating. She would only lick water off of my fingers so I spent the better part of that weekend dipping my fingers into water for her to lick off. The poor girl couldn’t breath to be able to drink or eat. I had her litter box up on the bed with her because she couldn’t make it to the box and kept having accidents. I slept on the floor since it was a twin bed. To this very day, I wish I could have made room on that bed to sleep with her on her last night.

Her Final Good-Bye

About an hour before the vet arrived to put her to sleep, she actually got off of the bed for the first time in four days. Dad and I were like, “Omg..what do we do NOW? Maybe it’s not time?” Remember, Tabby was the Comeback Kid! She was a fighter!

Tabby used the litter box in the other bedroom and walked around the entire house. By the time she got back to my room, she had such trouble breathing that she collapsed on her side and it took her 10 minutes to catch her breath. That’s when I knew for sure it was “time”.

The vet arrived a few minutes later. This vet, who has since passed on, had a bedside manner like no other vet I ever met. He went in to my room where I put her back on my bed and I knew by the way she reacted to him that she was ready to go. She just wanted her suffering to end. And so did I.

She passed very peacefully, although it took him some time to stop her heart. That last little part of my strong daughter was holding on. But I know in my heart of hearts that I could not have let her suffering go on for one more minute than I already did.

After the vet left, I was BROKEN. Inconsolable. So was Dad. There were many, many tears that week.

Her Last Gift To Me

I went into the bedroom where her litter box was in the corner.

Remember I said that I always praised her when she pooped? When I looked in her litter box, I realized she left me her last little gift. I totally lost it when I saw that. I know now that when she got up to walk around the house that last time, she wasn’t rallying. She was doing one last check of her home before she crossed the Bridge.

She took a large chunk of my heart that day. There’s always that one Special One. And that was my Tabby.

Tabby wrapping gifts
Tabby – Wrapping gifts with me in 2009

July 22, 2012 would have been her Sweet 16th Birthday. Tabby sent a stray balloon to my side yard. None of my immediate neighbors had any graduation parties or BBQs that previous weekend. I know that Tabby sent that balloon to let me know she was okay, flying free, yet still with me. And celebrating up at the Bridge with her beloved brother, Taz.

Keep flying free Tabby. Til we are together again… I love you!

SONGS:

“You Are the Sunshine of My Life” – Stevie Wonder

“Pretty Little Angel Eyes” – Sha Na Na

“If You Only Knew” – Shinedown

**This post contains affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in!**

Any treatments, food and supplements I mention in this post are the result of my own research and experience. Please consult with your vet as necessary.

 

 

 

Fluffy’s Sudden and Unplanned Rescue from Feral Life

Fluffy…INSIDE! April 2018

Did you notice that Fluffy is listed as an “Innie” (indoor cat) rather than a “Yard Cat”?

She Was Stuck Outside in the Sleet

February 17, 2018, started out like any other day. I noticed a couple of days previously that Fluffy wasn’t hanging out on her Queenie Throne in the shed as often as usual. It was a nice morning, but by evening we were getting heavy sleet and snow. The first of four Nor’Easters were forecasted to hit NJ later that week.

I was still outside getting the Yard Cats situated for the night when the heavy sleet started. Fluffy couldn’t use her heated Queenie Throne because Domino was on it and wouldn’t stay off no matter how many times I moved him. He can be very passive aggressive and he had his mind set on using her heating pad that week.

Fluffy is a creature of habit and would not use the two unoccupied heating pads in the shed. She FINALLY went into the shed after a lot of coaxing and treats.

There was a loud bang in the shed while I was in Charlie’s Corner waiting for him to finish eating. I looked over to the shed area and Fluffy ran out of there and across the yard like a cat out of Hell.

I ran to the shed and saw Trouble and Domino standing there with their fur bristled as if they were about to fight or something spooked them. To this day, I have no clue what caused the bang. My guess is that Fluffy tried to jump up to her Queenie Throne and saw Domino there. The heated food bowl was flipped over and kibble was spilled on the shed floor. I’m thinking that when she jumped back down, she knocked it over.

I called and called her and finally found her under a large tree in the driving sleet. After a particularly dramatic week with the Yard Cats not getting along, this was the climax. I was fed UP.

Fluffy’s Rescue

I was NOT going to have Fluffy, who raised her Kits so amazingly and risked her life to protect them, out there in the driving sleet storm afraid to use her shelter.

I ran into the house, grabbed a cat carrier, ran back outside, and used food to coax her in.

Then I questioned my sanity. I planned on rescuing Fluffy at some point in the future since I worked intently the past year to tame her. However, she still routinely turned around to swat at me with her claws out when I attempted to pet her. Up until that point, I could only pet her while she was eating, and she often would position herself in front of the food bowl and pretend to eat so I could stroke her back. Only for a few seconds. Then she turned around and swatted.

I also have Mischief and Patchy still living separate lives inside the house since they don’t get along. Something I still have to blog about.

That first night, she hid inside the closet most of the evening. She woke me up at 2am sitting in her window, squeaking her little heart out. The next couple of days she would squeak whenever she saw Trouble or Oreo out front. I came VERY close to putting her back outside, especially since the weather got really nice that week.

Fluffy sitting on the windowsill
Fluffy-Sitting on the windowsill trying to figure out how to get outside the morning after her rescue.

But the weather was about to change with an impending Nor’Easter. I had an opportunity to save her. I couldn’t lose the thought that if I put her back outside and something happened to her in the future, I would never forgive myself.

Her Health is at Stake!

I took her to the vet that Monday (the night I rescued her was a Saturday night) and she did very well for a feral cat. She weighed in at 12lb, which confirmed my fears about her weight. She, at most, should weigh 10lbs since she’s such a tiny little thing. Siberian, Maine Coon and Norwegian Forest Cats have a higher risk of Feline Diabetes than other breeds, and Fluffy is a mix of one of those breeds, for sure.

And I knew. I looked at Fluffy the past two years and knew she was at high risk. That’s why she was on “the list” to begin with.

I knew to get the excess weight off of her, I had to remove the high carb kibble from her diet and feed her Young Again Zero (Carb), a food she flat out refused to eat while she was outside. Since there are other feeders on my block, I feed the Cat Chow out there so my Yard Cats won’t cross the street to get to the junk food. But once she’s inside and has no choice, she will eat it!

Fluffy playing with a feather
Fluffy loves play time every night before bed!
She Adjusted to Indoor Life Beautifully!

I will get more into that later, but the change in Fluffy this past six weeks has been remarkable. She is in SUCH better spirits and was so good when I brought Oreo, who was dying, into her room with her. Fluffy LOVES to play and I’m able to pet and handle her more and more each day. I’ve made more progress with taming her the past six weeks than in the entire previous year! I am now training her so I can pick her up and fully handle her. We have to go MUCH than Mischief and I did, but we will get there.

I honestly never believed that she would transition to indoor life as well as she has. We haven’t officially started introductions with her Kits yet, but so far the entire process has gone much more smoothly than I ever imagined it would with her!

I got a very strong feeling when Fluffy and I left the vet that day that Penny played a part in her rescue. It wasn’t something I planned or even wanted at this time, but I firmly believe that everything happens for a REASON.

She’s a completely different cat, and I get the sense that she’s enjoying the kitten-hood she never had a chance to enjoy. I’m pretty sure she was maybe just six months old when she got pregnant with The Kits.

Hence, after 3 1/2 years of being a Yard Cat, Fluffy graduated to an Inside Cat!

Welcome home, Fluffy!

Fluffy relaxing with me.
Fluffy shortly after her rescue. Relaxing after a play session.

**We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in! Your support is crucial to us as it helps us to continue to advocate for special needs and community cats!**

Any treatments, food and supplements I mention in this post are the result of my own research and experience. Please consult with your vet as necessary.

Oreo Crossed the Rainbow Bridge-Surrounded By Love-With Me By His Side

Oreo and Trouble 11.1.17
Oreo and his protege, Trouble-November 2017
Too Soon After Penny Passed

I think I mentioned in Oreo’s Introduction about a thousand times that if Oreo were to become terminally ill and unable to care for himself out there, I hoped I would be able to take him in so he wouldn’t have to die alone under a bush somewhere.

That time came March 1, 2018. His official “Gotcha Day”. I noticed weight loss in February, which is much too early for the Yard Cats to start their “Spring Shed”, especially with harsh Winter we had here in New Jersey. He then started refusing food. I knew right away it was the beginning of the end, but the eternal optimist in me decided to try a few things to help him out. Especially since it was too soon after losing Penny.

I first tried Revolution for fleas and Drontal for any worms he may have had, especially since I saw that he had diarrhea. Oreo was chewed up by ticks in the Spring of 2017, and he had fur mats in the areas where I pulled the biggest ticks out of him.

Once he got Revolution, he was able to pull those fur mats off. He had one on his side that he got off, and I noticed he ripped off a small piece of skin. He developed an abscess that burst, so I started giving him 125mg amoxicillin once per day, which was a challenge since I couldn’t pill him outside without him running away from me. We managed to get six days worth of antibiotics into him and he appeared to be doing better on Days 5 and 6. He started to get back to his old self again…eating, running to greet me, hanging out in my neighbor’s yard during the day…but he wasn’t playing as much as he had been this past year.

Oreo’s Rescue

In hindsight, I realize that was his last rally before his final decline. He started refusing just about anything I tried to feed him. In an attempt to separate himself from the others, he moved out of the shed and started using the heated shelter I have under our back steps. That one isn’t as wind-proof or waterproof as the shed shelters.

They were forecasting the second of four Nor’Easters (in less than a month) to hit NJ. They were calling for 10″ of heavy, wet snow, 60mph winds, and widespread downed trees/power outages. I was REALLY worried that he would run off into the woods and die during those conditions . And if he didn’t, it still would have been rough out there for him since he was so sick. so I brought him in.

I got him the evening the storm was starting to hit. He was TERRIFIED. He would not calm down even with his carrier covered with a sheet. My vet came to see him right after he came inside and we found he was in full blown late stage liver disease. I didn’t want to put him through extensive testing and treatments and break the trust I worked SO hard to earn. Especially since I knew it the back of my mind that there was a good chance it wouldn’t help.

After the vet left, I put him in the room with is pal, Fluffy, who I rescued just two weeks prior. He was sound asleep in his carrier and even when I opened the door, he stayed asleep for the first 15 minutes. This, after all of the excitement and fear. That’s when it really hit home how sick he was.

I REALLY Wanted to do More!

He didn’t want to be inside. I knew that. I didn’t really have a choice. After that bad storm, during which we lost power and heat for 30 hours, we had two more Nor’Easters in the following two weeks. I wasn’t even able to entertain the thought of trying to put him back outside. My heart broke every time he sat in the window and cried when he saw his pal Trouble.

I resisted the urge to break his trust completely by giving him supplements, sub q fluids, B12 injections, appetite stimulants, etc. For his sake and the sake of our relationship, I had to go with the minimal treatment of antibiotics only.

He did allow me to cuddle him and even played with a peacock feather from time to time. My poor boy held his pee for the first two days until I got the idea to go outside where he usually went to the bathroom and get a leaf from that area to put inside his litter box. Once I did that, he used the litter box maybe an hour later and used it faithfully throughout his time inside. I must say…he was remarkably easy to pill for a feral cat!

It Was Time…

Unfortunately, it didn’t help. He was at least 13-14 years old, FIV +, with extensive dental disease. After two weeks on antibiotics and one week of him flat out refusing ANY food, I had to make the gut-wrenching decision to let him go.

It was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. I really hoped that I could get him healthy and return him back outside. Or at least give him a good year or two inside with the cats he protected and played a big part in saving.

Trouble, Oreo and Rascal
(Outside) L-R: Trouble and Oreo
(Inside) Rascal. this is where Oreo took his last breaths.

When the vet came, I was clinging to the false hope that maybe we could try something else. I know Dr Matt very well. If he truly thought there was anything else we could try that would help, he would tell me. He felt that there was nothing more we could do.

And I knew it, too. I was just living in Denial Aisle to get me through the heartbreak.

His Final Moments

They administered a sedative so that I could take him out on the back step where he used to nap in the sun. I wanted his last moments to be where he considered “home”. Dr Matt and his assistant stayed inside while I sat with Oreo on the step. I called Trouble over to us to say “goodbye” to him. That was important to me and I’m sure important to Oreo. They had a very weird and special friendship. Oreo didn’t react to Trouble because of the sedative, but I have to believe that he knew Trouble was there.

Once Trouble left us, Dr Matt came outside. We sent him to the Bridge, with me by his side, petting him, and telling him how loved he was.

Just like I hoped, he passed surrounded by love, not alone under a bush.

For the past two years since he moved here, I always told him that this was his forever home.

And it is. We buried him in our backyard with his flag overlooking his colony.

RIP Papa Oreo. Thank you for making a profound impact on our lives, Fluffy and The Kits’ lives, and the Yard Cats’ lives.

You will always be here protecting us. We love you!

Oreo's Final Resting Place
Oreo’s Final Resting Place overlooking his colony.

**This post contains affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in!**

Any treatments, food and supplements I mention in this post are the result of my own research and experience. Please consult with your vet as necessary.

Meet Charlie (The Cat Formerly Known as Hitler) – Fluffy and The Kits’ Rescuer!

Charlie eating in the shed 2015
Charlie – Winter, 2015
My First Feral

I started feeding feral cats “by accident” in 2014 when my neighbor’s indoor cat got out during one of the coldest nights of the year and I put food out in the shed to help him. Their cat returned the next day, but I noticed that someone or something ate the food I put out.

That’s where it ALL began!

Charlie, Oreo, and Tiggy (the only REAL feral of the bunch) were my first feral cats and the only cats who came by to eat during 2014. We originally named him “Hitler” because my dad referred to him as “the Hitler cat”. I keep that in his name now because it’s a reminder of my dad and his unique and highly politically incorrect way of thinking (he was a cop, after all). My dad passed away in 2014.

Charlie and Oreo had many territorial shouting matches with each other back then. It didn’t even occur to me that neutering them would stop most of the aggression between the boys. Honestly, I thought Oreo was a girl that first year that I knew him!

I knew nothing about TNR and feral cat care yet. My Crash Course in TNR didn’t happen until 2015 when I met Fluffy and The Kits.

Charlie Rescues Fluffy and The Kits

Charlie is the cat who “rescued” a pregnant Fluffy in April, 2015. If it wasn’t for him, who knows if Fluffy would have ever found us…if her kits would have had been so healthy when I rescued them…if they all would have eventually been rescued?

He’s a very special little guy!

Up until 2015, Charlie would only stop by here once or twice per day to eat. He was a wanderer and there was no rhyme or reason to how often he showed up. The only thing he was consistent with was his “meal time”…which was between 10a-12 noon. He would eat here every day for five days and then take off up to a week at a time. I couldn’t pet him, but he would hang around at a safe distance and talk to me and he would eat inside the shed while I was in there with him. I couldn’t walk toward him or else he would run away. Although I had a heated shelter set up for him inside the shed, he never used it.

When Fluffy had The Kits tucked under the barn next door, Charlie was here more consistently. He would guard the shed while she was in there cleaning me out of six or more cans of Fancy Feast per day. At the time, naive little Robyn thought that he was just being kind and taking this kitten under his wing…because Fluffy was only a kitten herself!

Well, I was HALF right, anyway!

Once The Kits made themselves known to me, they would all hang out here like one big happy family.

It Wouldn’t Last…

I remember one day in August, 2015, a six-week-old Rascal running up to Charlie, tail up in greeting, and Charlie hissed at Rascal and ran off.

Charlie and Rascal September 2015
Charlie and his suspected son, Rascal, Summer 2015.

He didn’t return until November. By then, Fluffy was spayed, Oreo was neutered, and The Kits were living inside. Since it was still mild here in NJ, I knew that I had to grab him and get him neutered before he took off again! I quickly got appointments at the clinic and set out to trap him.

I’ll never forget when I trapped him. He decided to eat at the other feeding station, where I didn’t have a trap set, rather than where I had the trap. The trash truck was out front making all kinds of noise picking up our trash. I had about two minutes left to trap him before it would be too late to get him to the clinic since they had to be dropped off by a certain time. I remember running across the back yard, set trap in hand, yelling “Hitler! Hitler!” (I hadn’t renamed him yet). I plopped that trap down and IN he went right away!

That was SHEER LUCK!

When I released him the next day, he didn’t dart off like the others. He spent a good half hour cleaning himself, eating, and re-acclimating to the area before he left. I took a bunch of pictures of him just in case he went MIA again. He actually came back every day for a few weeks before he took off, yet again, in December.

Charlie after I released him in 2015
Charlie just after his TNR release – November 2015
And He Takes Off… AGAIN!

This time, Charlie didn’t return for MONTHS. By the time he did return, Trouble, Oreo, Fluffy and Orange had established our yard as their permanent home and Junior was working his way into the colony. Charlie tried to come back to eat quite a few times and Trouble would run him off despite my best efforts to stop him. One time, poor Charlie was crying his little heart out to me and I couldn’t stop Trouble from chasing him off. I was HEARTBROKEN for him and ready to ship Trouble off to a farm somewhere.

I later found out that Charlie had been eating at another feeder’s house about 3/4 of a mile away. He would bounce back and forth between our houses through the woods that run behind our houses. I felt relieved knowing that at least he was eating somewhere else and still okay.

I have worried more about Charlie in the past four years than any of the others because he just never wants to stick around!

In the Fall of 2017, Carol (The Other Woman) reported to me that she hadn’t seen “the Hitler cat” (that’s what she named him, too) in six weeks and she feared him dead. It had been quite some time since the last time I saw Charlie, maybe six months or so? I knew that if Charlie was alive, he would try to come back here, and I prayed HARD to God and St Francis to help him find his way back home and I called for him at each feeding time. I decided to set up a new feeding station in an area of our property where Trouble NEVER hangs out, thinking that he won’t perceive that as “his” territory and then maybe poor Charlie would have a chance here.

He’s Back!

Charlie returned two days after I set that station up…starving and sick. He cried his little heart out when he saw me! He ate three entire bowls of food while I stood there, guarding him. When he left, I BEGGED him to come back the next day.

And he did. I posted on our Facebook page about his return, and my friend Marlene was kind enough to donate a house for him, so I bought a heating pad to go inside of it. We created “Charlie’s Corner”, complete with the heated house, his heated bowls, and a feeding shelter.

I sprinkled powdered catnip in his new house to get his curiosity piqued, and then watched while Trouble and Blacky (neighbor’s cat) checked it out. I was beside myself because if either one of them claimed it, Charlie wouldn’t have had a chance during the Winter. He has evidence of past frostbite because I noticed his ear tips are white now, even though his ears are black. I REALLY needed him to take to this house, so every time Trouble or Blacky went inside, I would knock on the back to scare them out. They had their shelters already. They didn’t need his!

It worked. Charlie returned the next day. Ate. Checked out his new snazzy heated house. AND STAYED. He also got the nerve up to rub against my shins one day, so I tried to lightly pet him while he was eating. He was all over me within five minutes. After FOUR YEARS, this feral cat allows me to pet him.

Charlie and Orange standing guard March 2018
Charlie (on his house) and Orange on high alert after they spotted a new cat back in the woods – March 2018

As of this writing, Charlie has been living here for five months. Knock on wood. I say that because I learned that the only thing I can count on with Charlie is that he never does what I want him to do! Trouble still gives him a hard time, but he is slowly becoming more tolerant and accepting of Charlie living here. Again, knock on wood because Trouble never does what I want him to do, either!

My hope is that Charlie moves into the back yard so I can move Charlie’s Corner closer to the house. Right now he’s about 100′ away from the house towards the woods. We just got slammed with four Nor’Easters in a month here in New Jersey. There are a lot of tall trees and we have several down around Charlie’s Corner as a result. It’s not as safe as the clearing in our back yard. I cannot rush the move and risk upsetting Trouble. They will show me when the time is right.

I have to stand outside with Charlie every day, no matter the weather, while he eats. Rain. Snow. Nor’Easters. He’s fussy. I typically have to rotate foods to keep him happy. But after worrying about him for almost four years, I will do what it takes to keep him coming around!

Stay Tuned…

As for Charlie and Fluffy, either she doesn’t remember him or she just don’t care now that she has no use for him. He kept trying to make friends with Fluffy before I rescued her and brought her inside. He JUST figured out where her room is inside the house, though.  Join Us on Facebook to follow the ongoing saga of “The Young and the Neutered”!

Charlie in the background looking for Fluffy
Fluffy rejecting Charlie while he attempts to catch a glimpse of his baby mama.

Nicknames: Hitler, Charlie Boy, My Char-Wee, Fusspot, Mr Charlie, Papa Charlie

Songs: “The Wanderer” – Dion

**We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in! Your support is crucial to us as it helps us to continue to advocate for special needs and community cats!**

 

 

Meet Big Orange – The Feral Who was Already Fixed!

Big Orange came out of the woods and joined our family one day shortly after the Blizzard of 2016 and decided this was his home.

Before he decided that my yard was “home”, he would sit under the camper at my neighbor’s and wait for me to do the dusk feeding, sneak in, get his food, and leave.

Orange inked under camper

Orange perches on the trailer hitch of the neighbor’s camper watching me put out food.

A timid guy, he was constantly being bullied by Trouble and a sometime feral (Blondie) who was trying to break in here last Spring before Trouble and Oreo chased him out once and for all. I found out later that this same cat was bullying Big Orange about 1/4 mile away at another feeder’s house.

Orange quickly took over the heating pad and feeding station out front of the house that was left vacant by Blacky when Blacky became sick and his mama was holding him inside the house to recover. When Blacky was allowed to come out again, his mom had it set up so that he could come and go as he pleases, so it wasn’t much of a problem for Blacky that Orange had taken over “his” area.

But, Orange is definitely a feral. He quickly moved over to Blacky’s second vacant station under our back steps because he would get scared and run off whenever Mom would go out front to smoke. It’s been about a year now and he still runs away from me but is social enough to come out to greet me. I can actually see him trying to work up the nerve to rub against my legs but he hasn’t quite gotten there yet!

 

OJ4

One of many pics I took of Orange when he first came around to try to see if he was already ear-tipped.

Orange didn’t act like all the other Toms out here. I assumed he was a Tom because female orange tabbies are rare-ish and he just was NOT acting like an intact Tom. He was NICE!  I’ll never forget the first day he got close enough for me to see, for sure. I was out by the back feeding station at the far end of my yard putting out food and he got the nerve up to come closer to me. And guess what? I was RIGHT! He was already ear-tipped!! Which is the BEST kind of new feral cat a girl can have!! So when I saw I had an ear-tipped feral on my hands, I remember saying to him, “Welcome to the family, Orange!!”

He’s been living under my back steps and in my back yard for about a year and a half now. And, like I said, he’s trying REALLY hard to trust me. He will dance in front of me at a distance as if he wants to rub against my legs and he does come out to greet me with a squeak at feeding times. He sounds just like my Spunky. He’s also trying to break into the Shed Clique (Fluffy, Oreo, and Trouble). Trouble terrorized him for their first six months here. Every time Orange would work up the nerve to hang out in the back yard, Trouble would chase him back to his “allowed” area under the steps. I even had to set up a litter box there so that Orange could do his business without fear of being ambushed. The poor guy had to live like that for a LONG time. Knock wood, they have gotten better recently. Trouble now “lets” him hang out in the yard. He will come hang out with Oreo when Trouble is not around. Fluffy sometimes chases him back to his area but in the past couple of weeks she’s growing more tolerant of him, as well.

 

Orange March 2017

Orange, just trying SO hard to trust me!

He’s scared of us humans but craves feline companionship. I’m not sure if he’s related to my kittens at all, but whenever he’s at the glass sliding door in the kitchen and I say really loud “Hi Mr Orange!!”, Mischief and Rascal will drop whatever they are doing to come say “hi”. I would LOVE to talk to an animal communicator and see if The Kits knew Orange when they were living outside!

orange and Mischief March 2017

Mischief and Orange during one of their daily love fests.

My hope one day is that when there is an “opening” that he can come inside. But, he has to get used to me first. The last thing I want is a former feral who will be terrified of us and of living indoors.

But, until then, he lives a pretty happy life under my steps and in my backyard helping to protect the property. I recently figured out that Orange is a “lookout” for Trouble and Oreo. Maybe that’s why Trouble “lets” Orange live here now!

NICKNAMES: Mr. Orange, Captain Pumpkin, Pumpkin Face, Squeaks

ORANGE’S SONG: “He’s So Shy” – The Pointer Sisters

UPDATE 8.22.17: He is now officially part of the Shed Clique along with my new boy, Domino. He and Trouble sometimes greet each other nose to nose. We have made slow progress, but progress nevertheless! He has bumped my hand with his head and allowed for a few pets for time to time. He no longer totally runs away from me when I walk towards him. He will now allow me to put treats right in front of him without him getting totally freaked out. He still swats when I put my hand in front of him with treats, but I’m noticing that sometimes his claws aren’t even out when he swats me.

UPDATE 2.3.18: For a while last Fall, Orange would head butt my hand while I was feeding him. Something must have spooked him one day and he wouldn’t go near my hand for months until yesterday! When I put his wet food down in front of him yesterday morning, not only did he bump my hand, but he pressed his cheek against it so I could pet him! I’m hoping this time we can progress to “full on petting”. I think this is because he is using a new heated house that a friend donated and it’s easier for me to put treats in front of him. He swatted at me the first few days, but most of the time I can now put treats right under his nose and he doesn’t swat. He must be finally creating a positive association with my hands.

Also, when I go outside to feed them, he has taken to head butting Trouble in greeting. At first, Trouble would swat at him, but for the past few days Trouble actually head butt him back. I tell Orange that I have NO idea WHY he likes Trouble so much after all Trouble put him through.

Orange also likes walk with me to the two other feeding stations at the back of my yard to see what everybody is eating! He often greets Shadow when he comes by and has taken to visiting Charlie with me at the other end of my yard. I’m hoping this is the beginning of a friendship between the two!

And, last month I saw something I never thought I would see. We had a very cold and windy day with below-zero wind chills and he was hanging out with the Shed Crew and using one of the heated shelters INSIDE the shed for a full 24 hours! Now he’s using a new heated house I set up, but it’s nice to know that he will go into the shed when he feels like he needs to!

Orange in the shed with Trouble and Domino
The night Orange got the nerve up to hand in the shed with the Shed Crew!!

The more I know this little guy, the more I see his little personality sparkle through and the more I ADORE him! It has been SUCH a joy to watch him come out of his shell, both with me and with the other Yard Cats!

Checkers-The Sick Stray Cat Who Broke Our Hearts

 

checkers

Checky-The night he found us…March 9, 2015

And I want to honor him today as today is his Gotcha Day. This post was originally written on March 9, 2017.

He Showed Up on My Doorstep One Rainy Night

The first time I saw Checky, he was in my back window and I thought he was my old guy, Oreo. But, back then, Oreo wasn’t as social as he is now. And this cat was awfully thin to be Oreo. We had just gotten out of one of the coldest Februaries on record and it was raining this particular evening. I usually don’t feed my feral cats after dark but I went out there to feed him.

As soon as I went outside, I KNEW it wasn’t Oreo. He was all over me like stink on poo and VERY VERY hungry. I fed him and tried to coax him to stay on the heating pad in the shed, but he just followed me to the back door. I snapped this pic to post on social media in case somebody local had lost their cat.

But, I live in the woods. So I know what happened. This poor baby was dumped. His ass was kicked. He was rail thin and sicker than ANY cat I had ever seen.

I found out the next day that he had been staying in neighbor’s garage and living on their covered porch. But they were feeding him table scraps and didn’t vet him or anything. As kind as they were to him, I knew he needed more.

So I SCRAMBLED… contacting the local rescues and NO luck. I finally got a local rescue to agree to help him. It was the ONLY rescue in our area who stepped up! So we set up an emergency vet appointment for the next day and I set out to trap him.

Checky’s Rescue

The neighbor called me when they saw him on the porch the following morning, so I went over and got him to take him to his NEW life.

We took him to the initial vet appointment. By the time we got him there, he was covered in diarrhea. The vet tested him for FIV/FeLV… everything negative…initially looked okay but just malnourished and everybody chalked up the diarrhea to worms or a parasite, so he was given all the meds for those problems. I took him over to the rescue. When the director put him in that cage, he looked ABSOLUTELY heartbroken. He didn’t want me to leave. I wasn’t sure what to do because we didn’t know what was wrong with him, and I had Penny, who was diabetic and therefore immune compromised, and Weeny, who had MAJOR “cat issues”.

But I couldn’t get his heartbroken little face out of my mind and heart that night.

Welcome Home, Checky

When the rescue called me two days later to tell me that she couldn’t keep him, he was just too sick and she was going away and didn’t want to put his care in a volunteer’s hands, I knew I just HAD to take him. He trusted me and I couldn’t let him down.

So Checky became our pet that day. He just didn’t know it yet. And I was excited. I couldn’t wait for that moment that I would return to the rescue and pick him up to bring him home later that week!

checky sleeping

Checky sleeping on his favorite blanket in Mom’s laundry basket.

She agreed to care for him for a few more days to try and get him stable before he came home. She was making little progress. No matter what she did, she could NOT slow down his diarrhea. She bathed him multiple times, which was hard because he was so bony and frail, and she would go check on him in the morning just to find him covered again.

So we took him to the emergency vet. And spent $500 to find out that nothing was wrong in his blood work. We even got him 2nd and a 3rd opinion.

Poor Checky visited the vet FIVE times in four weeks.

Nothing Was Helping..

I did manage to slow down his diarrhea but we could not get him hydrated or gaining weight (and I used Young Again Zero, Nature’s Variety Instinct, Fancy Feast…anything high protein/low carb/high quality that he would eat). Then he started peeing over 12 times per day. Yet, his kidney and thyroid values and blood glucose were fine. No matter WHAT I did, I just could NOT get him stable.

And then I made a decision. I could not torture this poor cat any longer with vet visits and medications. I’m not a big fan of over-medicating cats. Enough was enough. I stopped all meds except for the B12 injections and probiotics to try to slow his diarrhea down, kept him well-fed and well-hydrated … the rest was between him and God.

He lived in Mom’s room because we didn’t want to bring him out with Penny and Weeny until we were sure he didn’t have something contagious. He snuggled Mom every night…ALL night. He would go up to her while she was sleeping multiple times and just tap her arm so she would pet him. Every time he saw us he would start “making biscuits”. And he had this sweet little meow that reminded me SO much of my late Tabby.

Then he stopped eating. He wasn’t able to eat because of a mass or infection in his mouth. We spent his last days spoon feeding him baby food, bone broth … I even made him homemade pureed chicken with bone broth. It would take the poor little guy a half hour to finish maybe 1/4 cup of cat food.

I knew he would not survive a dental. No way. Not in the condition he was in. My vet agreed. To this very day I don’t know if it was oral cancer or just an abscess, but since he took several courses of antibiotics, including two courses of Convenia that was still in his system, I knew it likely wasn’t an abscess.

God Bless the Broken Road

So we made The Decision. And it was the hardest one for me to make. Checky deserved better than getting dumped off and getting his ass kicked by the other cats out there. Then he finally found us and his forever home… only to die. That’s why today is SUCH a difficult day for me.

So, on April 13th I called the vet to come out and help him cross. While we were waiting for the vet appointment, I went into his room to spend some time with him and let him know just how loved he was. We had a radio playing country music (that was the only station we could get on the radio).

While I was spending time with him, “Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts came on. I’m not a Country music fan but I think the entire world knows this song. And I just cried and held him and told him how much I loved him. I know God sent him to us to know love and comfort and good eats before he died. And I’m grateful God chose us to love him and make him a member of our family, if only for a short time.

Checky passed peacefully, surrounded by love. Even our vet cried when he gave him the injection. Hundreds of people on Facebook, who had been following Checky’s story, cried along with us.

This little cat doesn’t even know the impact he made on this world in his short time in our family.

We buried him in our backyard with all of our other family pets. We promised him that this was his forever home. And that’s exactly what it became.

Fly free, Checky. You left HUGE pawprints on our hearts and we will never forget you. We love you!

Checky April 2015

Checky, as he realized this was his forever home.

Checky’s Official Song: “Bless the Broken Road” – Rascal Flatts

Nicknames: Checky.

**This post contains affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in!**

Any treatments, food and supplements I mention in this post are the result of my own research and experience. Please consult with your vet as necessary.

Meet Trouble – Fake Feral Cat #2!

 

trouble-in-heating-pad

Trouble, March 2017 waiting for a snack on his heating pad.

To see my definition of a “fake” feral cat vs a “real” feral cat, see Meet Oreo.

Trouble came to me JUST before the Blizzard of 2016, when we got pounded by 2′ of snow. The night before the blizzard, just as the first flakes were falling and our new snow thrower was being delivered,  I saw him running around in my back field. I didn’t have time to worry about it as we were feverishly trying to figure out where to put this monster of a snow thrower while it was already snowing at a good clip.

For three days after the blizzard, he was the ONLY cat showing up to eat! I guessed him to be about 4-6 months old at that time, and he was social, but DEFINITELY a loose cannon and DEFINITELY wild.

And I was afraid of him. Especially because he immediately took to head-butting my hand while I was feeding him, but he was a wild one and I didn’t trust him one bit!

He was a holy terror, fighting EVERY cat he could find, including my neighbor’s outdoor cat, Blacky, and literally terrorizing Big Orange, a docile orange tabby cat who showed up here shortly after Trouble did.

On St Patty’s Day 2016, he even sent me to the ER when he bit me. He hadn’t had his rabies vaccination yet, so I figured why not blow $13,000 to get the rabies series? It’s not like I had anything BETTER to do that day and OF COURSE I had thousands of dollars of disposable income to throw around to get sick and feverish from the rabies series!

Trouble’s indiscretions definitely cost him! He would scrap CONSTANTLY with another new young feral tom, Junior. But Trouble is a SMART guy and aligned himself with the Alpha Big Man on Campus, Oreo, for protection and to ensure that our property became HIS!

I finally started to train him to eat out of the humane trap that I use to trap the feral cats to get them neutered and vaccinated, but he was NOT having it AT ALL. This cat would NOT enter that trap no matter HOW hungry he was! I was 8 for 8 with trapping feral cats at this point, and Trouble was going to BLOW my 100% capture record!

But I’m just a LITTLE BIT smarter than Trouble! Just a little… I had my friend Dana’s trap, which has a “back door”, so I started to feed him on the door of that trap in the shed in his usual spot, with a towel over the back of the trap. I figured if I could JUST get him halfway in, I could gently close that back door behind him while he was eating and get him that way!

And it worked! After two LONG months of “training”, I got Trouble in that trap and off we were for his Castration Day! And I didn’t blow my PERFECT record! 9 for 9! HA!

He was actually my most well-behaved feral cat during recovery. Didn’t make a peep. And didn’t growl or hiss or spit at me that next morning once the anesthesia wore off. And he’s VERY forgiving! Because not ONE hour after I released him, was he BACK looking for more food and rubbing up against my legs!

It took this little pistol quite some time to calm down. But, alas, he did. FINALLY. But he IS territorial, bossy, whiny, and still a bit of a loose cannon. But I finally started to fall in love with the little turkey. He just has this way about him that just when you get REALLY MAD at him, he does something super cute and gets all submissive and you just CAN’T stay mad at him!

He assists Oreo with protecting the property. Hence, he has earned the position of Trooper Trouble, again, in honor of my dad, a retired NJ State Trooper. He still scraps, but has FINALLY, for the most part, stopped terrorizing the resident ferals and just focuses his attention on terrorizing any newcomers or anybody who is not in the Core Four (Fluffy, Oreo, Trouble and Big Orange).

trouble-day-of-fight-fall-2016

Trouble, the day I found the scratch and resulting abscess on his face.

In October 2016, I found him with a scratch on his face and the side of his face swollen up like the Elephant Man. I managed to lure him into a cat carrier and take him to my vet. I have to say, for a cat named Trouble who has EARNED that name, he was better behaved at the vet than my indoor Maine Coon, Penny! And when we got home, he was scared for about a hot second and then enjoyed the special sardine treat I gave him for being such a good boy.

And he’s been thanking me ever since.  Our relationship changed that day. I’m not sure if it’s just because I REALLY became endeared to him that day or what, but I cannot believe that at one point I had secretly hoped he would find somewhere else to hang out than here. I love him as much as all the others, and honestly, he is my mom’s favorite out there!

When he had a pretty nasty URI in January, I learned he gets rather submissive when I scruff him. I was able to pill this cat for 10 days and I syringe him Lysine powder mixed in with broth cat food (Fancy Feast) twice per day, which he actually LOVES. He will still swat, nip and scratch if you pet him the wrong way and is sensitive about his tail being touched for some reason, but he really has become the official Baby Cat out there!

I don’t believe he’s a candidate to be adopted out. He’s one of those cats who is very bonded with his land. He loves his life out there. He’s bonded to Oreo, too. And he’s extremely territorial. Still marks out there even though he’s neutered.

To bring him inside with my males is out of the question. And to adopt him out and have it not work out, and have him lose his territory, is just not a chance I want to take. So I hope and pray he stays out of the the street and he gets to live a long, happy life on HIS terms. Which is how it must be with him. On HIS terms.

Like Red says about Andy Dufresne in Shawshenk Redemption, “I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright.” That’s Trouble.

trouble-belly

Just when I get REALLY ticked off at him, he pulls one of these little acts!

NICKNAMES: Troubley-Poo, Trubbs, Chubbs, Chubble, Weeny Jr, Trooper Trouble

SONG: “I’m Not a Bad Cat…I’m just Misunderstood” – My Cat From Hell Theme Song

**This post contains affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in!**

Meet Oreo – “Fake Feral” Cat Numero Uno

From hardened feral cat to lovable mush!

And then there are the “fake” ferals. The ones who came to me, feral, or at least out on their own long enough that they WERE afraid of me, till they realized that the more they get used to me, the more they get the perks of being a Wilson cat!

Oreo is one of my “original” feral cats. When I first started feeding ferals in 2014, he was one of the three cats who came around once per day to eat, usually at dusk. He lived under my neighbor’s large barn across the street.

I remember my dad talking about a black and white cat who he would see running around when he went on his 2-mile walks. He would remark how FAST Oreo ran and was blown away by how stealth he was!

Oreo learned to talk to me, but would NOT eat in the shed until I walked out. And, of course, he would run away if I walked toward him.

In the Summer of 2015, when Fluffy was around and pregnant with the kits, Oreo would show up for his usual nightly feedings when Hitler wasn’t around. Or they would be out there arguing and eventually Oreo, the Big Man on Campus, would win. A few weeks after Fluffy gave birth, and after Hitler decided family life was not for him and he went on his way, Oreo was spending MUCH more time here.

Oreo, Summer 2015 with my kit Spunky just before I rescued her.

He would patrol here DAY AND NIGHT and would come eat with Fluffy and the kits, often allowing them to steal his food and I would have to bring another plate to him outside of the shed. As much as he was Alpha King and the bully out there, he was gentle as could be with Fluffy and the kits.

That’s when I started to fall in love with him. And after I rescued the girls, he spent day and night looking for them for a few days and my heart BROKE. I felt so bad for him because up until Fluffy and the kits, he was a loner…at least that I know of.

He went back to living across the street and coming over once daily to eat. I never gave much thought to neutering him because I thought he was a SHE until I saw him walk out of the shed one day and saw his “family jewels”.

I had been HAD. Again!

He was pretty old by the time I went on a castrating spree so he was one of my last thoughts; I honestly felt that he was “too old” to reproduce. But then I did my research. And after two years of feeding Oreo, I managed to trap him and get him neutered and vaccinated in October, 2015. The vet guestimated him to be over 10 years old at the time of his neuter.

And boy…does neutering CALM THEM DOWN!

In Spring, 2016, after Fake Feral #2, Trouble, showed up and started having major problems with another feral cat. Oreo took it upon himself to be Trouble’s “protector”. They became thick as thieves and Oreo would follow Trouble EVERYWHERE. Trouble would challenge Oreo, but when push came to shove, he would roll over submissively and gaze at Oreo upside down and all sweet and whatnot.. lol.

Then, after two years of only coming once per day to eat, despite my best efforts to make my yard Disney World North for these clowns, he FINALLY decided to live here full time! I have all the amenities out there and he FINALLY figured out that he would have it MUCH better here than where he was living! By then, he REALLY looked worse for wear. I, as well as a couple of my neighbors who know Oreo as he truly is our “community cat”, didn’t think he had much time left. I remember asking St Francis to please let him allow me to care for him if he ever got to the point that he couldn’t care for himself.

Not long after that, Oreo would start eating in the shed WHILE I was in there and would dance around in front of my feet….just TRYING to get the nerve up to rub against my legs.

And then he did! And then he would rub against me when I crouched down. He’s so strong that he practically knocks me OVER when he head butts me! I remember him really sniffing my hand when I put his food down so I would let my hand linger so that he would associate good things with my scent. And then I would feed him treats.

Today, we cuddle ALL THE TIME. He loves chin rubs and “noogies”. I even hand-feed him cheesy snacks with Dasquin wrapped in them for his limp. I still can’t scruff him but I keep trying to “train” him for that in the event I ever have to pill him. Oreo runs to greet me when he hears the back door open and follows me ALL around! I know now that if Oreo ever became debilitated, I would be able to handle him enough to care for him and bring him inside. If Oreo doesn’t take off to be alone, that is.

I owe him that much. He protected Fluffy and the kits, he protects any young lad who he deems a candidate for our colony, and he even protects Mom when she’s sitting outside.

This once feral cat has now become my outdoor pet. He has a home, a family, and knows the love he so rightly deserves after caring for everybody else for SO long. He protects our property and the other feral cats and takes his “job” very seriously. We are bonded now. My hope is that when his “time” comes, that I will be able to be with him and make sure he knows LOVE in his final moments. And God be willing, if he doesn’t go off on his own to pass, I will bury him out back and REALLY make this his “forever” home.

NICKNAMES: Mr Oreo, Bubba Booey, Lion King, Lieutenant Oreo (of the Hooven Estate Police in honor of my dad, who was a retired NJ State Trooper)

OREO’S SONG: “Circle of Life” (theme from Lion King) – Elton John

oreo-summer-2016-2

Oreo, Summer 2016, hoping to grab a free treat or pet from me!

April, 2018 Update-Oreo Crossed the Bridge

**This post contains affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in!**

Any treatments, food and supplements I mention in this post are the result of my own research and experience. Please consult with your vet as necessary.

A Day in the Life of a Cat Servant

 

servant-to-rascal

Serving Rascal treats on a Silver Platter.

I can relate.

How is it that I have LESS personal time NOW than I did when I was married with joint custody of two step kids, two cats, and managed a staff of 25 at Commerce Bank?

Oh, that’s right…I have a hell of a lot more than two cats now.

And it’s a good thing I work from home. Or, rather, I get brief “power hours” to squeeze in work in between cat servantry.

Here’s what a typical day at the Penny & The Kits Compound looks like!

I cannot sleep in. Although my cats “let” me to a point, if I’m not up by 7am, Patchy comes to “visit”. And my eyes will peep open. And I roll over to go back to sleep but I think of the STARVING orphans outside whose food was stolen overnight by the Creatures of the Night that GUILT prevents me from snoozing for more than a few minutes.

So I get up, and after explaining to Penny, who is a social eater so will starve all night rather than eat when I’m not sitting RIGHT there next to her, that I have to “pee like a racehorse”, I do my business and then go sit on the floor next to her so that she can eat her crunchies.

servant-to-penny2

This is my view every morning while impatiently longing for the coffee that just brewed.

After she’s done, I am now “allowed” to pour myself a cup of coffee.

But…

Oh wait! Princess Penny wants water out of the bathtub now! Even though she has a ceramic cat fountain and five, yes count them, FIVE, other water bowls in the house, she MUST have bathtub water! And because she’s stage 4 kidney disease, she pretty much gets what she wants.

Then I finish preparing my cup of coffee. And I start to prep the food to take outside to the feral cats.

But…

Oh wait! Penny wants crunchies again! Because she can only eat four pieces at a time! She convinces me that “grazing” is good for weight management. Which is why she’s STILL slightly overweight despite being stage 4 kidney disease!

After greeting the other indoor kits, and making sure Penny is squared away with food and water to “hold her over” till breakfast, I make a quick escape outside as soon as little Bossy Poo isn’t paying attention.

And I’m greeted by Trouble, Oreo, Fluffy, Big Orange, Domino, and Blacky, the neighbor’s outdoor cat, waiting outside with hungry eyes, while Shadow lurks at the back of the yard, patiently waiting for his meal.

After tripping over Trouble zig-zagging between my feet for the 25′ walk from my back steps to the shed door, I finally make it in there in one piece and silently thank Tony Horton for incredible balance from doing P90X Yoga.

I prepare their food. Then I take care of Orange, the feeding station at the back of my yard for the more shy ferals, and back to the shed to syringe Trouble his L-Lysine supplement in a tasty base of Fancy Feast broths. Which are NOT cheap. But he enjoys it and I do realize a feral cat is ALLOWING me to squirt medicine in his mouth via syringe, after all!

I finally get back inside to the Indoor Masters…after spending a half hour with the Outdoor Masters because Miss Fluffy is ALSO a social eater so I must stand out in that shed regardless of the weather so that she can finish eating…MUST cuddle Oreo exactly 2 1/2 minutes and I’d BETTER have some treats for him…and change the water bowl in the shed since the raccoons like to use their water bowl as a dipping bowl overnight.

me-n-fluffy-selfie

Feeding Her Magestette ON her heating pad so she doesn’t have to eat on the cold floor.

So, now to feed the Innies their wet food. Which means watering down Penny’s food and sprinkling the kits’ wet food with freeze dried raw or else they won’t eat it. And they will look at me with sad, sad, sappy eyes if I don’t feed them EXACTLY what they want the way they want it!

Once they are finally done, I am now allowed to wash their food bowls and prepare Penny’s AM blood pressure pill and supplements for her kidney disease. Which means MORE Fancy Feast broth (yes, I realize I should buy stocks in Purina) as a treat after her pill because that is the ONLY way Penny will allow me to shove a pill down her throat!

Oh, and Penny wants more crunchies again!

After she is done with me for the moment, I must prepare “cheesy snacks”. Which is actually Mischief’s Prozac (more on that to come) wrapped in the cheese so that pilling Mischief is a TREAT and not a tragedy…for ME, that is. Once he gets his cheesy snacks and I give Penny extra cheese off my fingers because she has been in her ‘last days’ for the past 17 months and I will do whatever she wants, I go outside to change the rest of the water bowls for the ferals, give out more free treats (in case anybody is wondering why I have the fattest feral cats in town), cuddle Oreo and Trouble some more and I MUST sing to Fluffy or else she will not let me leave without taking a chunk out of my ankles.

So, finally, after coming inside to scoop the litter boxes…

But, wait! Patchy wants to cuddle, climb me like a jungle gym and lick my pants first!

So, after REALLY FINALLY scooping the litter boxes, I have to weigh Penny and see if it’s okay to give her sub q fluids (again, the kidney disease), warm her fluids, change the five water bowls throughout the house, top off the five crunchy bowls throughout the house, and THEN, after singing The Penelope Song to Penny while she gets her fluids, the next couple of hours are mine.

Unless Spunky, Rascal or Mischief want to help me work out. Or if it’s the day I have to test Penny’s blood glucose (more on her diabetes and remission to come…). But only AFTER Rascal sits in my lap for 5-10 minutes while I sing to HIM. And I must be careful not to scare Mischief while I’m exercising since he likes to sit on my bed and watch. Which means not jumping too much and OMG NO I CANNOT drop the weights!

I get a little time to feed myself and work…

So, it’s now 4-5pm and it’s time for their next wet meal! I don’t overfeed my cats. They get several mini-meals throughout the day to keep Penny’s blood glucose levels stable even though she is currently in remission from her diabetes. But, God forbid I feed Penny and NOT feed the others! So mini-meals it is!

Then it’s BACK OUTSIDE to the feral cats for their evening meal. Which they hardly eat anything because they had been free-fed all day, but since the Creatures of the Night will come steal their food overnight, I must make sure. And NO MATTER THE WEATHER, I must play with Trouble and Fluffy (and sometimes Orange). Although, he’s SOL if there’s lightning around.

Then it’s back inside to REALLY bang out some work for two hours. But ONLY AFTER Penny has some crunchies again…and then I MUST sit on the couch in the living room on my laptop to work so that Penny can take a nap next to me. And if I don’t, you ask?

She will take one of her fuzzy balls in her mouth and wander around the house howling loudly until I do what she wants me to do.

In the evening, when I’m done my “to do” list for work, I SNEAK into the shower while all the cats are passed out…but if they CATCH me, I have to distract them with toys so I can lock myself into the bathroom and shower, unsupervised.

Then it’s time for more Fancy Feast broth and Penny’s Pepcid (kidney disease). Which she BEGS for because the broths are “forbidden food”.

8pm meal time is usually pretty quick because by now, they are ready for evening play time. And if I have more work to do, or just tired or, God forbid, sick, it doesn’t matter. They will hover UNDER FOOT while I’m scooping their litter boxes once more until they ALL get some interactive play time with Mommy, and sometimes Grandmom. Even though they have EACH OTHER to play with! And even though they often blatantly YAWN in my face or Mom’s face while we knock ourselves out to entertain them!

Then, and only then, after they are spent, I’m “allowed” to eat. Although, Penny usually wants water or crunchies or attention JUST when I’m fixin’ to sit down to eat. Hence the quote at the beginning of this post.

Bedtime is time for Penny to have one more wet meal (again, the kidney disease…I will get into her regimen). After I hook Penny up with some tuna water and prepare her Snuggie next to my bed, and if Penny is not in one of her attention-hogging moods, I’m allowed to settle down and do some reading or watch “The King of Queens” before retiring for the night.

I doze off while listening to Rascal run around for NO GOOD reason chatting it up, hoping to get one of the girls to play with him.

Or Spunky chirping and giggling and squeaking while she tries in vain to drag her favorite wand toy up the basement steps. Or…

Oh! Gotta go! I’m LATE for Penny’s pill and she’s practically doing cartwheels at my feet to get my attention! I’d better snap to it!

Spunky holding my lap hostage before bed.

**This post contains affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in!**

All treatments, foods and supplements mentioned in this blog are based on my own research, experience and done with my vet’s knowledge and consent. Consult with your vet as necessary.

Meet Fluffy-The Kits’ Mama and My Crash Course in TNR

From hardened feral cat to spoiled princess on her heating pad in my shed.

I was warned.

By lots of people.

Actually SCOLDED on Facebook.

Why?

Because I was feeding feral cats and not doing TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return).

And I ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS, and my folks ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS…spayed or neutered our pets as soon as they were “old enough”.

The first time I saw Fluffy, she was eating under my back steps and my feral cat, Tiggy, chased her out and a fight ensued.

I praised Tiggy for chasing the “stranger cat” away (even though Tiggy is a TRUE feral and to this very day, three years later, is still afraid of me!)

Now, knowing what I know, and loving Fluffy AND the kittens she was pregnant with at the time, I feel REALLY bad about that!

fluffy-and-hitler-5-20-15

Fluffy with one of the ‘suspect’ kit Daddy Cats, Hitler.

The next time I saw Fluffy, she was with one of my regular feral cats, Hitler, who was “showing her around”. He would bring her to eat, show her how to drink out of the bird bath, and would protect her while she was eating.

Me, having NO idea she was pregnant because I ALWAYS spayed my pet cats, thought, “Awww…how sweet. He’s taken this kitten under his wing!”

HA! #sillygirl

She WAS just a kitten then. Maybe only 6-9 months old? And she was blowing through SIX cans of Fancy Feast per day, so I figured she was “still growing”.

Well…yeah! I was right about THAT, at least!

They chummed around every day and left together. Every morning he would wait for her to arrive so she could eat me out of house and home!

Imagine MY surprise when I saw two orange and white, 1-month old kittens, in my shed around June 21st?

The next day, we had a thunderstorm blow through that was SO bad, it took three days for the National Weather Service to determine that it was actually NOT a tornado, but a micro burst. This storm knocked out power in MOST of South Jersey for 5-8 days.

During that time, I had brought my cat Penny’s insulin to my neighbors, because they were running a generator out of their garage and it needed to be refrigerated. That’s when I found out that Fluffy and Hitler had kittens. Four, to be exact. Two orange and white kittens, one who looked like Fluffy, and one who looked like Hitler.

I had been HAD. #chump

The neighbors told me that the kittens and Fluffy were living in their barn, and even though they weren’t “cat people”, they thought it was cute watching the kittens frolic in their backyard and watching her teach the kittens how to hunt.

My next thought was that I HAD to find rescue for these kittens. I just HAD to give them a chance. But it was at the height of a VERY bad kitten season. I must have contacted over TEN rescues in my area and nobody could help. And I knew that dropping those kits off at a shelter would likely be a death sentence.

Luckily, my neighbors were totally cool about the kittens living there and eventually the kittens ended up moving over here. I did assure them that I was going to try to find homes for the kittens and neuter everybody else, because the neighbor did mention she wasn’t sure what she was going to do yet but maybe she would take the kittens to a shelter. So I took over to make sure that wouldn’t happen.

In the meantime, I could not find them homes. And my baby cat, Weeny, who was coming up on her 4th birthday, was diagnosed with a rare (for cats) malignant mast cell cancer. We figured it out AFTER it had already spread to her lymph nodes.

After Weeny passed in September, I ended up rescuing the kittens. (Meet the Kits here! Meet the (Former Feral) Kits!

In the meantime, Fluffy and her kits had gone missing in mid-August for three days, at which time my mom and I went into a panic and decided to go for a hike in the ACRES of woods behind our house to try and find them. We didn’t find the kits, but we DID end up with the absolute WORST case of chiggers known to man. Rule #1: Never go hiking in mid-August in the woods in the Wharton State Forest!

Fluffy and the kits came back that evening. AFTER we got chiggers!

Soon after they returned, Fluffy started to distance herself from the kittens. She would eat and hang out in alternate places. I had to put food in other places besides the regular feeding stations I had set up outside. And she was eating enough to choke a horse again..

UH OH…Now I’m smarter. I KNEW what THAT meant.

I was SO terrified of TNR because I was afraid someone would get hurt, or they’d never return again, or someone would die at my hands. But I had to do SOMETHING.

So I made the appointment, talked to my friend Dana, who lent me her humane trap and came over to show me the ropes. I caught Fluffy five days after I rescued her boys.

I was a NERVOUS WRECK. I knew a spay/abort was risky. But it was the end of September. Winter was coming. And I was out of resources to help her new litter. It was a VERY tough decision for me so please don’t judge. I prayed to God and St Francis to forgive me. I talked to MANY people and looked up lots of advice from the experts. And while I was driving Fluffy to AWA, I was apologizing to her and begging for her forgiveness.

From what I understand, cats are not bonded to their unborn kittens. They only become bonded once they give birth. And I could not allow those four kittens to be born and have to tough out Winter while I had no more resources to help them.

We set up Fluffy’s recovery area in my friend Dana’s secure garage, in a secure dog pen, with a little feral cat den, somewhere for her to go to the bathroom, and eat. We had planned on keeping her for at least three days to recover.

fluffy-day-of-surgery

Fluffy, the day of her surgery, when Dana first found blood.

But, Dana called me later that night. She found blood. LOTS of it. And more the next day.

So, I had to bring her back for a second surgery. When I went to Dana’s to pick her up, even though she was hissing and spitting, as soon as she heard my voice, she went from growling to squeaking because she recognized me. That just BROKE my heart. What if she died? I could never live with myself…

I spoke with the doctor at AWA that day and she was further along in her pregnancy than originally thought, and they didn’t suture something inside correctly because there was a lot of blood. They fixed her up, gave her an antibiotic injection, pain injection, and instructed me to hold her at least five days because she lost a lot of blood and was slightly anemic.

I was beside myself with guilt and heartbreak. My very first TNR and I almost killed this precious baby…

BUT…she recovered BEAUTIFULLY. And once I released her, she returned five days later like nothing had happened.

And, after another nine months of her only coming to eat and living somewhere else, and sometimes going missing for up to four days at a time, she decided that she liked it here and would live in my shed and backyard “full time”.

And after another couple of months, she started to rub against my legs. Now, she lets me pet her, but ONLY while she’s eating. And, sometimes she still scratches me when I give her treats.

But, she will also sit on my foot when I’m ready to leave the shed because she does not want me to leave her. And she’s a “social eater”, so I have to stand there, NO MATTER THE WEATHER, while she eats her crunchies.

fluffy-on-my-foot-feb-2017

And you thought I was lying about her sitting on my foot so I wouldn’t leave!

She is happy, healthy, and LOVED today. I hope to one day bring her inside, when she is ready, and when her bonded protector, Oreo, passes on. But, she’s living a better life than she probably EVER imagined, and she never has to worry about taking care of anybody else besides herself EVER again!

NICKNAMES: Fluffaluffacus, Pretty Little Princess, Witchy-Poo, Bitch (when she swats at me lol), Boss Lady, Bossy Paws, Squeaks

FLUFFY’S SONG: “Bitch” by Meredith Brooks

**This post contains affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in!**