I am an animal lover...and I say that completely without apology. Four of my five cats can be considered rescue cats. Actually, perhaps all of them could be considered rescue cats...if you consider that it was really myself that was better for knowing them.
Written in April 2006, this blog tells the story of Foxy and how she came to live with me.
When searching for a topic to write about, sometimes it helps to consult my camera. I'm terrible when it comes to actually downloading digital images, so there were over 100 images to look through which translated to about four or five different topics I could have explored this month. However, this is the one that really caught my eye...
Ed thought it would be great fun to capture a typical morning at our house. The only feline in residence not in this picture is Zuma. He's a pretty smart little guy so it wouldn't surprise me if he was taking full advantage by monopolizing toys or the food dishes.
My vet, a true country type that I adore, teases me and says I'm definitely on my way to becoming "The Little Old Cat Lady of Danbury." But trust me on this...I did not set out intentionaly to live with five cats. I've read different articles that point out that homes where more than two cats reside results in overly-stressed animals. *looks at the picture* Umm...yeah. The tension is palpable....
Like children, and make no mistake about it, these are my children...each has their own personality and unique history.
January 1st, 2005:
It was proving to be a rather brutal winter in New England. By the time the data had been gathered and winter had passed, my little corner of the state would have recieved over 110" of snow for the season. With Ed in Iraq complaining about the heat and dust, it was up to me to keep things running at home. We had a snowblower but since I didn't know how to operate it, most of the snow was cleared away by a neighbor I hired to take care of the driveway and the rest with a standard snow shovel by myself. A lot of time was spent indoors all warm and cozy with Molly (a golden retriever puppy) and my "boys" (the four cats). I wouldn't say life was dull...but it had a comfortable routine to it.
It's funny, when you think about a natural disaster occurring, you never envision it arriving at your doorstep in the form of an emaciated and frightened stray cat.
Living in the middle of nowhere has its perks. Housebreaking Molly involved just opening the door and turning her loose. She never went too far (usually) and I didn't have to follow her around exhorting her to do her business. She did have one quirk however. Which door she would actualy exit the house by was determined by her unfathomable moods. On this particular night, she steadfastly ignored the front door despite several attempts. This left me no choice but to try the back door.
My back was half-turned as I yanked it open, calling Molly's name, so I didn't see her until Molly was at my heels and I'd reached for the latch on the storm door. There, stuck to the screen of the storm door was a splayed creature, it's mouth working in a plaintive half-heard "meow." In that split second I got the impression that something had chased her to my door and it was lurking out there in the woods...
A lot of things ran through my mind rapidly...thoughts of things like rabies, feline leukemia...where the hell had this "thing" come from? There were cow farms to either side of my house on opposite ends of the road, but they didn't have cats that looked like this. Those were barn cats...sturdy, short-haired, well-fed and content. This mess of white, orange and black fur would not be at home on a cow farm.
It was dark and bitter cold outside...and as far as I could figure we'd just have to take our chances. I opened the door a few inches, slipped my hand outside through the opening prepared to withdraw it at the first sign of vicious behavior, snagged the creature by the scruff of it's neck and hauled it indoors. Immediately it latched onto my chest with all four legs and I could feel its heart beating a rapid tattoo against me. That's all it took..
She weighed next to nothing and with my left hand supporting her, my right hand was free to explore her back. I could feel every knob of her spine with my fingertips. "Oh god, you poor thing!" was all I could say. I immediately walked over to the fridge and pulled out some leftover turkey that I'd brought home from the recent Christmas celebration and sat down at the kitchen table with her in my lap. Ever try to feed a starving animal that you are unfamiliar with? It's a bit inimidating. They growl hungrily, voraciously gobbling down the offered food so that you worry about the fingers you have holding it. I sat with her until she seemed too tired to gorge herself further. I'm sure she was still hungry...but exhaustion was winning out.
At my feet, the boys had gathered around to peer at the curiosity. Bear, always willing to make a new friend, is used to my accumulation of other animals. The others, well they weren't too sure about the new arrival, even if it's status was undetermined at this moment. It became obvious that trying to find a nice quiet place for this cat to rest was going to be an issue. I gently gathered her up and headed down to the finished basement and set up a cozy little nook for her on a shelf beneath the stairs. Fresh towels were placed for her to sleep on.
A few hours later I went to check on our guest and discovered that she was missing. Wonderful! Somewhere in my house was a sick and frightened animal and now I'd have to find it. I looked beneath furniture, in closets....every type of place I imagined a scared creature would hide. Nothing. I'd just about given up when I noticed a ball of something furry on my bed that had not been there before. Curled up in the middle of my expensive comforter with one eye exposed over it's bushy tail, the filthy little bone-bag lazily opened one yellow & lime green eye and then closed it again sleepily. I just stood there in the doorway and shook my head, "Well, Foxy, if you plan on staying you are going to the vet's first thing Monday morning." Once you name them...it's all over.
January 2nd, 2005:
My expensive comforter suffered. I can't tell you how many times I had to change the sheets because what went in one end came out the other end in a nasty way. Still at the end of the day when I crawled into bed and she curled up to me for warmth, laying her cheek on mine...she could have covered my entire house in diarrhea and I would have forgiven her.
The more I examined her, the angrier I became as my imagination invented a person that must have simply dumped her off in the area. Her hip bones jutted out like the fins of a 1950's chevrolet. The pads of her feet were chafed raw and bleeding and the tip of one of her ears was ragged and blackened by frostbite. I didn't have a scale, but she couldn't have weighed two pounds. What type of person would abandon an animal to the elements like that? To be honest, I have no clue how she ended up on my doorstep that night...it's a mystery I'll never solve.
January 3, 2005
By the time Foxy was extracted from the box at the vet's office, she was covered in diarrhea. The vet took one look at her and shook his head in a grave fashion before turning to me and saying, "So...what are your intentions?" Of all the questions in the world, I had not expected that one. I stammered a bit. "Well...I was thinking if...well, maybe...I'd like to keep her...unless she's got a disease...is she going to die?" I didn't realize just how much that thought bothered me...that after all I'd been through in less than 48 hours, she might not make it. I was pretty close to tears.
I must have said the right thing because the vet smiled and his demeanor changed instantly. "Well, then...let's see what we can do for her shall we? You get the special rate for people that save animals. I just hate working hard only to find that a person wants to put an animal down." He hustled Foxy into the back room, leaving me to worry like a parent in the waiting room.
They cleaned her up, pumped her with fluids, tested her for diseases and came back to tell me she had neither FIV or rabies. Thank god. My relief was short lived however...
"Laurie," the vet said gently, "we've done what we could...but she probably won't make it. She's so emaciated that she's in danger of going into kidney or liver failure."
"What should I do?" I wasn't going to give up...not on this cat.
The fact that she was eating voraciously was a good sign...however, working 8 hours a day was not going to be a help since this cat would need constant food and attention. I couldn't give up my job to nurse a cat...but I was sure I could manage...somehow.
The vet and I made a deal that if Foxy survived for two months...she'd be back for shots.
The present -
Foxy did survive as you can see. The first weeks were rough only because I basically had to take stock in Fancy Feast gourmet cat food. She went through about 5 - 6 cans a day. Gradually she put on weight, her paws healed and she lost the tip of left ear. It's somewhere in the house I'm sure. :)
During that entire recuperative period, I kept looking for undesirable traits that would make somebody think their only choice was to abandon her. Except for her possessive nature, territorial behavior and aggressive attitude....I've found nothing to indicate that she is anything other than the perfect cat for me. Sure, the other animals lived in fear of their lives for a while and still make sure the coast is clear before crossing a room...but as she has found her niche in this family, her behavior has started to mellow. Ed still calls her the spawn of Satan, but that's only because she is a one-person cat and that person is me.
Some of our friends call her "Mini-me" and to be honest, I'm flattered by the comparison. Foxy is a tough little lady who managed to survive the elements and then overcome the odds against her. I just got lucky that it was my doorstep she chose.