A Tale of Two Cats
In this tale I share how to capture an escaped cat and how to introduce a stray cat into a household of pets. For us it was the best of times and the worst of times. On October 9th our young cat Darcy who had been with us couple years dashed out the front door. He had been semi-feral and no one wanted to adopt him. We kept him and slowly and carefully socialized him to the point were he was a relaxed pet.
Darcy, the Runaway
We let our Chihuahua out the front door directly into the pen. We try to be careful that no cats get anywhere near us when we go to put the dog out. In two plus years, Darcy showed no interest in the great outdoors. After all, he had been attacked when he was a twelve-week- old kitten by a tom cat or coyote outside and sustained a terrible head injury. The local cat rescue paid for the vet and then he was quarantined a month. After that horrible experience, It was no surprise to us that he never tried to follow us out the front or back door. We figured the outdoors meant danger to him.
Darcy had made so much progress in the two plus years with us. When we first brought him home, he hid under the bed and we had to put food for him under there for him. After about three weeks, we moved the bowl out from under the bed and Darcy would stick his head out from under the bed to eat. Then after another four weeks, he let us pet his head when he stuck his head out to eat. After a couple more months passed, Darcy came out from under the bed and sat on top of a high cat tree joining any other cat that was up there. At that height, he felt safe enough to let us eventually pet his whole body. The next big step was when he came out of the bedroom to the adjoining living room.
In the living room, he started showing another side of himself. Darcy always got along with the other cats but now he started playing right in front of us with the other males. Remembering back, it was most of the way into year two when he finally came up on the couch with me and I could pet him there. I wrote about the patience it takes to socialize a semi-feral cat.(See this hub http://hildaspann.hubpages.com/hub/Socializing-Cats-Two-Semi-Feral-Cats).
So it was only about six months before he dashed out the door that Darcy had begun sitting on the couch with us and enjoying not only being petted but getting a full body massage. So what went through his head that day; we will never know. There were no loud sounds or anything unusual, that we know of, that could have startled him.
Pearl, Found Cat
How many strays have you rescued?
October 10 Found Skinny Wet Cat
We had tried and tried calling Darcy back into the house. We notified all the neighbors but said if you see a black cat, phone us, because he won't come to you. We were heart broken and afraid that after all our work and his progress, we might lose Darcy. Plus we knew Darcy probably had some brain damage and worried he wouldn't cope outside that well. We were afraid of the road in front of our house because it had plenty of traffic. We immediately got out our live trap and borrowed a second one. We baited the traps with food and put a trail of food leading to the traps.
On the afternoon of October 10th (one day after Darcy's run), my husband came back from the neighbor's in the cold rain and following him was a wet very skinny white cat. It had been at the neighbor's and followed him home. There was no way I could ignore this pitiful cat nor did the local rescue have room for it. It also seemed to be someone's pet. So I dried it off, determined it was a she, and segregated her into a separate room away from out other pets. She was really hungry but I didn't want her to overeat and get sick. So I fed her little bits at a time but fed her often. She was so happy to be indoors. She was easy to handle and loved affection and was a great talker and purrer.
Pearl, Stray White Cat; How to Bring a Stray into the House
I looked the white kitty over and she had a few fleas which I treated. Then I wormed her with the help of a woman from the rescue. I didn't see any ear mites. Using a baby scale, I weighed her and she was a tiny 6 1/2 lbs. Even thought she was very thin, I thought she might be a small boned cat. I was wrong.
I was broke so I contacted a friend and she agreed to pay for a vet visit. I asked her to name the cat something dignified and she picked out the name "Pearl." "Perfect," I thought..
First thing we did at the vet, was test her for FIV or FeLeuk. Fortunately. the tests were negative. Besides infections, these two diseases are one reason to never immediately expose you own animals to a stray. I had a big surprise at the vet. Pearl was declawed and he told me to assume she was spayed. Declawed! No wonder she was starving - she couldn't hunt! He said she had some age on her. At first I decided this explained how inactive and content she seemed. But after watching her, I have concluded that another reason for her inactivity is that she doesn't like to walk. Her declawed front feet bother her as do so many declawed cats' feet. It is a horrible thing to do to a cat. From the beginning she was extremely gentle and easy to handle but she doesn't like her feet touched.
After giving her vaccines, the vet gave her a clean bill of health. To begin with I took her out of isolation and into my bedroom with one other cat, Cio Cio. For the most part they got along. They were good about taking turns laying on top of me on cold nights.
We Did the Right Things
We did a lot of publicity. First, trying to see if anyone had seen Darcy. We discontinued that after we realized he was staying in our yard. We also publicized finding Pearl to see if she belonged to someone. When no one claimed her, we assumed she had been abandoned. In this economy that happens more than you would think. For example, people are forced to downsize to an apartment and can't take their pets.
Darcy, The Prodigal Son
Meanwhile, with Pearl settling in at our house, we were constantly worrying about Darcy. The food outside the traps was always gone and at least we had seen him with a mouse and knew he was eating some wild food. Then about week three, we began to see him almost daily. One day, my husband and I had just pulled in the driveway to park. We got out of the car and suddenly Darcy ran in front of us only about a yard away. He ran away from the driveway and into the deck area where we most often saw him.
We were getting discouraged and were thinking that his brain damage was preventing him from coming to us. He would be really close but stay hidden when i would sit out by the deck with a can of cat food and call his name. As far as the trap goes, we tried stinkier and stinkier food leading into and inside the trap. We resorted to sardines.
Pearl and Darcy
Darcy started showing himself more and more to us in the side yard. We thought we were seeing things one day. There was Darcy with two deer near the edge of the back woods.
The deer are regular visitors and had gotten used to him obviously. But Darcy still would not come to us when we saw him and called. I would sit outside on nice days quietly hoping he would come to me.
Meanwhile it seemed Pearl and Cio Cio were getting on each other's nerves. So we brought Pearl into the main part of the house with the other animals. She was gaining weight at a rapid rate. I was wrong about her being petite. She was turning into an average size cat. We added wet food to her diet and she seemed more satisfied longer. She was quite a talker if she was hungry! We gave Pearl her own feeding station on a kitchen chair. She didn't like my Chihuahua much but he quickly learned to give her a wide berth. She left all the other cats alone and after they had checked her out and got hissed at, they also gave her a wide berth.
It was a hard thing for us to do but it was the right thing to do. We decided we could not leave a trail of food outside the trap and that Darcy was just going to have to get hungry enough to go in the trap.
If you ever have to capture an escaped cat, I recommend you put food in the trap and in the trap only sooner than we did because it finally worked. Almost exactly a month after his escape, November 5th, my husband checked the trap and was thrilled. "We got him!" he exclaimed. Darcy was quite a bit thinner but not bad. My husband brought the live trap in the bedroom where Darcy was used to eating and I petted him in the trap. I wanted to see if he would allow me to touch him and hoped it would reassure him.
He didn't like that the other cats were gathering to figure this out so when we let him out of the trap he hid under the bed. "Oh no," I thought. "We aren't going back to day one are we?"
But in no time at all he came out and back into the living room.
Afterwards with Darcy and Pearl
Darcy not only quickly got back his original tameness (like overnight), but he had gained confidence from his escapade. He acts like he owns the house venturing into new territory and doesn't shy away from any of the other cats. Just as a note, he is back to showing no interest in the outdoors.
We tried for awhile to find a home for Pearl with a quiet senior citizen, but when that didn't work out we decided she should finish out her old age with us. She gets along with everybody and is no trouble at all.
Darcy is buds with only some of the cats and Pearl is not one so I did not attempt to get a picture of them together. Pearl has chosen my husband as her best buddy.
Darcy continues to be a wonderful member of our family We Pearl and here she is at 8 1/2 pounds (we are watching her weight now!)
The Tale of Two Cats
Darcy dashes out front door, is seen once dashing under our outside deck, does not come when called, no luck catching him with live trap in our yard or neighbors'
Small very thin wet white cat follows my husband home from neighbor's. I bring her in and care for her but keep her isolated from other animals
Darcy is hanging around our house but won't come to us and so far the live traps haven't worked.
Pearl with clear bill of health begins to integrate into our general population of pets
We capture Darcy in live trap and bring him back indoors. He has lost weight but is happy to be home.
Weighs 8 1/2 pound and is healthy, vaccinated, and integrated into the household