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

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I Am a Feral Cat Caregiver

Oreo (left) and Domino (right) keeping warm during a record cold streak in NJ.

 

And I am exhausted.

People constantly ask why I do what I do when I have so many other priorities. When it costs money out of my own pocket. When I have my own indoor cats to tend to.

My answer?

Because somewhere down the line, a human let them down. Either they were dumped off, their parents were dumped off, or their great-grandparents, etc etc.

Because people may have been feeding them, but nobody bothered to neuter them so that they wouldn’t keep giving birth to kittens who would potentially suffer and die out there. So that feral kittens would no longer be dropped off at shelters and healthy shelter cats who had been waiting for homes would be euthanized to “make room”. So that Toms would never have to fight for territory or mates anymore. So that they could live healthier, happier lives.

We are just coming out of a period of extended record-breaking cold weather in NJ and many parts of the US & Canada. And feral cat caregivers are exhausted and over-extended trying to help our kitties survive it.

We are out there in sub-zero temperatures trying to feed them wet food before their food freezes and scheming ways to keep water from freezing so that our kitties don’t dehydrate. We are trying to figure out HOW we can get them to use the shelters we have set up for them to weather the elements.

We are worrying ourselves sick when our babies don’t show up after the snow storm. When they get sick because of the rough conditions out there. When one goes missing to hunker down somewhere til conditions improve.

Big Orange enjoying his heated shelter during the January Thaw

We look at untouched food bowls and hope that TODAY will be the day they are able to come out and eat.

We look at the pictures we took of them before the storm and HOPE we get to see them soon…alive and healthy.

Shadow before the New Jersey Blizzard 2018. It’s been six days and he still has not returned.

We spend time on social media talking to other caregivers because our families and friends JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND.

We pray to God, St Francis, and/or the Universe to help our babies survive the harsh weather.

We spend money we don’t have on heating pads, heated bowls, straw, shelters, food, medication and supplements…hell, some of us build additions on to our houses or sacrifice our basements, garages and porches for our babies.

We dig our feral cat shelters out of the snow before we even dig ourselves out.

We scheme ways to treat sick ferals who cannot be handled or touched or just put into a carrier to take to the vet.

Fluffy, who is currently dealing with a bout of diarrhea and is too feral for me to help her much.

We look helplessly at our babies who can’t be handled while they deal with a mess on their bum from diarrhea and think “if she would JUST let me scruff her and wipe, she will feel SO much better!”.

Then we get a little break in the weather. And they come back or come out of their shelters. And enjoy the thaw right along with us.

They follow us around and try to trip us as we walk in the snow and ice and mooch treats and love.

They even roll around and play in the snow!

Oreo enjoying the January Thaw while Domino looks on and wonders what is wrong with him!

Those are the moments us caregivers LIVE for. Those are the moments that make it ALL worth it. When they look at us with love and gratitude in their eyes because they KNOW that all we do makes their lives THAT much more bearable.

Feral Cat Caregivers are unsung and often misunderstood heroes!

We may “think” that we aren’t making a difference in the world because we haven’t won a Nobel Peace Prize or saved children from sex trafficking or aren’t making six-figure incomes.

But to that feral cat, we have changed THEIR entire world.

And that’s ALWAYS enough!

***For more info on some of the products shown in the pictures, click Here ***

***For pictures of all of the shelters I have out for the Yard Cats, click Feral & Yard Cat Shelter Pics***

 

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.

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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

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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

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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

 

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!**

 

Meet the (Former Feral) Kits!

 

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Mischief (L) & Rascal (R)-4 months old just after I rescued them.

UNTIL I saw two little 1-month old orange and white kittens in my shed around June 21, 2015. When I walked into the shed, they were so frightened they nearly killed themselves scrambling out!

RASCAL & MISCHIEF

Rascal is the friendly one. I never planned on ever petting or rescuing any feral cats. My theory was that they were too wild to be tamed, too bonded with their land to be brought inside, and should be left alone. Until I met Rascal.

He was the first to rub against my leg at feeding time… even with his mama in the shed with us…and I was so terrified that she would attack me because he was chumming up to me! He would stay behind after breakfast, after his mama and siblings left and went about their day, and would wait for me to come out to mooch seconds, get some free cuddles from me and to play with me.

He was a TRUE mama’s boy and wherever you saw Fluffy, he wouldn’t be far behind.

When his mama got pregnant again, she started to avoid her kits. One day, just after Weeny passed away and I had already been toying with the idea of rescuing him, he ran up to his mama and she FLAT OUT rejected him and ran away. That’s when I made my move because I was SO heartbroken for him.

So, I went inside, got the carrier, set it down in the shed and he immediately walked into the carrier and into his New Life!

Rascal’s Nicknames: Captain Friendly, Captain Freckles, Moochie, Rascally Rascal

Rascal’s Song: “Let the Sunshine In” – Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm, The Flintstones

MISCHIEF is definitely the most “feral” of all the kits. He’s Rascal’s partner in crime and bonded brother. What I figured out later was that Rascal is the ringleader and Mischief is just his innocent follower. I played with the idea of renaming him but he knows his name. I often call him “Chet” (after the clumsy Reindeer on “The Santa Clause II”).

I had no intentions of rescuing Mischief because I just felt he would be better off living his feral life. I was BARELY able to pet him before I rescued him. And he was SO skittish around me! But two days after I rescued Rascal, Mischief was out there with their sisters trying to play with them and they wanted NO parts of playing with him. He started to play by himself with wet leaves under our picnic table and just looked SO forlorn I figured I just HAD to give him a shot and get him back with his brother.

So OUT came the carrier again! I set it down in the shed with some food in it and within seconds I had Mischief in the carrier and inside to Rascal’s room!

Mischief was FLIPPING OUT when I let him out of the carrier. He ran around the room in a COMPLETE PANIC and Rascal went chasing after him. When Rascal finally caught him, he nipped Mischief on the scruff of his neck, on his back, and then on the scruff of his neck again, and Mischief IMMEDIATELY calmed down and started to purr. That’s when I KNEW I did the right thing by bringing these two back together! It would have been a shame to keep these bonded brothers separated, for sure!

Mischief’s Nicknames: Captain Cuddles, Mischievous Mischy, Chet

Mischief’s Song: “I’m Not a Bad Cat” – Jackson Galaxy, My Cat from Hell theme song

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Double Trouble at about 1 year old.

PATCHY & SPUNKY

Patchy & Spunky were supposed to be TNR’ed (Trap-Neuter-Return) because I had JUST started petting them two days before I caught them for their spay surgeries. And I could ONLY pet them while they were eating. They were definitely more “shy” than their brothers and didn’t even really start to seek me out until after I rescued their brothers.

I trapped them 10 days after I brought in Mischief. They were trapped together in the same trap and taken to Animal Welfare Association for their “Feral Fix It”, where they would be spayed, ear tipped, and rabies vaxxed. I also had them give the girls their distemper vaxes…I guess maybe I knew in the back of my mind I wasn’t going to release them back outside, after all. I felt I was already “over my cat limit” inside with three indoor cats.

BUT God, St Francis, and the girlies had OTHER ideas. While they were being spayed, I was watching the weather and found out that a coastal storm was supposed to arrive the day before they were due to be released after their recovery. This storm was forecast to sit and spin over us for FIVE TO SEVEN DAYS. Now, anybody who lives on the East Coast can tell you that our coastal storms and Nor’Easters can be as bad as tropical storms and even hurricanes sometimes.

So how was I to release two 4- month old kittens who just had total hysterectomies into THOSE conditions?

So I set up a LARGE dog pen in my bedroom, fully equipped with a “feral cat den”, litter box, bed/blankets..everything they would need for an “extended stay”.

I picked them up from AWA, got them home, got Patchy into the pen, but Spunky got out when I was trying to transfer her from the carrier to the pen. She ran and hid behind my TV in the corner. Poor Patchy was LITERALLY climbing the walls to the pen, so I let her out to go be scared with Spunky.

I closed the door to my bedroom after getting everything set up, and proceeded to go outside and call my friend Dana, who was teaching me all about TNR and feral cats (I was a newbie at this point). I was in a COMPLETE PANIC because I had two feral cats “loose” in my bedroom and was afraid they would attack me if I went back in there!

Later than night, I went to check on them and see if they had eaten before I went to bed. The poor things were STILL huddled behind my TV together! I decided to sit on the floor and see if they would feel more at ease and come out to me.

Within five minutes of sitting on the floor, I kid you not, I had TWO PURRING KITTENS in my lap.

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Patchy & Spunky at 1 1/2 yrs old…because Patchy does not care that she is CRUSHING her sister!

My next thought was to post on Facebook and ask people how many indoor cats could I have before people would consider me a “hoarder”! By the next day, Mom and I had decided we could NOT let these babies back outside. And we became a five-cat family.

It has taken some time for them to adjust. In the beginning, I was worried they would never be completely at ease as indoor cats. And although Spunky is VERY shy around people she doesn’t know (she basically runs and hides), they have adjusted quite well to indoor spoiled cat life and are the most affectionate little things with SO much personality!

It’s hard to tell in some of the pics but they are both long-haired with raccoon-like tails…just like their mama. And both little beauties!

PATCHY’S Nicknames: Erica Kane (because she likes to slap all and sundry at feeding time just like her soap-opera twin, Susan Lucci), Itty Bitty, Stinklett, Patchy Watchy, Hop Along Betty, Pinky Tuscedero

SPUNKY’S Nicknames: Squeakers, Hop Along Sally, Spunk-A-Monk, Spunky Little Monkey, Spunkster, Fluffy Jr, Little Bosslady

Still working on a song for the little ladies…Stay Tuned!

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Patchy (L) & Spunky (R) at 4 months old the day after I decided they were not returning outside!

**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!**